Thursday, June 11, 2009

NAT: Canadian Indigenous Nationhood

Languages key to Nationhood: Beaucage

MONTREAL, June 10 /CNW/ - John Beaucage, candidate for the office of
National Chief, has challenged all First Nations and leaders to make language
a priority, stating that languages are the key to indigenous Nationhood. In
addressing the Chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador,
former Grand Council Chief Beaucage made further commitments to enhance French
language services at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). "As Nations we are
people who have distinct cultures. As such, it is our languages that define
us. Language is key to Nationhood," said Beaucage, a citizen of Wasauksing
First Nation in Ontario. "Our languages are sacred, and protecting and
restoring them should be a priority for our Chiefs and citizens."

"It is my vision and the vision of our people that we will once again
think in our language, and ensure that our languages are once again used in
our ceremonies, our gatherings and in our working life."

In his election platform, Beaucage states his commitment to supporting
Nation Building by revitalizing First Nations languages and culture, restoring
identity and instilling pride in First Nations people. He advocates the
implementation of a national language strategy and restoration of funding
commitments that have been eliminated by the current Conservative government.

"We want to see language programs that will succeed and that are
practical. This isn't about restoring ancient languages for the sake of
posterity. This is about defining our own official language policy, doing
business and educating our children in our official languages," said Beaucage.

According to the Atlas of Canada, only three of 50 indigenous languages
in Canada (Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut) have large enough populations of users
to be considered secure from the threat of extinction. During the past 100
years, nearly 10 flourishing languages have become extinct and at least a
dozen are on the brink of extinction.

"We must work with government to develop policy and secure the necessary
resources to protect our endangered languages to ensure that they are saved
from extinction," said Beaucage.

Beaucage also made a commitment to the Chiefs of Quebec and Labrador to
ensure the use of the French language at AFN assemblies and within the First
Nations public service. "It is important that we begin to do work in both
official languages and in our indigenous languages. Immediately, I will
introduce measures to enable those working at the AFN to take up French
language training as well as require that all new employees hired by the AFN
commit to French language training."

"We will not only continue translation at the AFN, we will ensure that
translation of both proceedings and documents are accepted practice. Over the
years, we have heard you loud and clear. Today, someone is here who will
listen," added Beaucage.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the National organization
representing First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation
communities in Canada. The elected Chiefs from each First Nation will cast
their vote to elect the National Chief in Calgary, Alberta on July 22, 2009.

John Beaucage is a citizen of Wasauksing First Nation, and has led the 42
member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario since 2004. He
received an honourary doctorate of letters from Nipissing University June 5,

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