Well, well. June 24th. Bonne St-Jean for those of you in the Belle Province. Last night was poker night and let me tell you no one was celebrating the statutory holiday, except for the qalunaat (translates into “big eyes brows”, refers to the Scots from the early 1900s who worked for the Hudson’s Bay, and now commonly used for White). If Québec ever materialized its hopes to become a nation, I wonder how the Inuit of the province would react.
There’s always a feeling of second or third class citizen.
Clearly, there’s a rift between how Québec attempts to protect la langue de Molière (Bill 101) and the reality in Nunavik. This comes up over and over in my interviews, as concerns regarding language are omnipresent. One participant in particular was very vocal about this:
They know of the language barrier. It’s just Québec being “anal” about keeping the language laws… The oppressed becomes the oppressor.
I found that last segment to be particularly interesting. In my eyes, there would be no one better government than Québec to understand the struggles of keeping your language alive. Instead of providing services in Inuktitut, or at the very least in English, some government representatives apparently refuse to speak anything else than French. Language becomes yet another obstacle for local businesses or non-profit organizations to overcome.
According to another participant:
[…] The assimilation policies are still very strong. The programs are based on that. The education system: from kindergarten to grade 3, you have Inuktitut only. From grade 3 to grade 11 is either English or French. You have, I would say, 80% of the funding for education to fund a foreign language. You see, anybody younger than me, will have 25%-30% less fluency in Inuktitut.
This doesn’t stop Nunavik from being the single one region in Canada where fluency in Inuktitut is the highest. Nevertheless, according to locals, this is slowly fading.
My own standpoint towards the issue is paradoxical. Despite acknowledging the significance of local dialects, interviews I conducted were all in English, except for one in Inuktitut. This puts me in a relative position of power towards participants less at ease in Shakespeare’s tongue. As reported in Young & Temple’s Qualitative Research and Translation Dilemmas: “The interaction between languages is part of the establishment and maintenance of hierarchical relationships with English often used as the yardstick for meaning.” Language also acts as a non-negligible bias as it often filters out individuals of lower socio-economic status. I’m currently trying to collaborate with locals who would act as interpreters and would lead group discussions with women and elders in Inuktitut.
I would like to close this segment with an inspiring excerpt from an interview I conducted this week:
Many times we want to stay in one identity as Inuit. But we are many. We are living many identities. As long as you have your values as Inuk, you’re safe because you’re always going to change.
In other news, I ate some mattaq (beluga), caught a nice trout, and messed up my haircut so I now look like a skinhead.