A committee of Parliamentarians have heard that Indigenous language revitalization needs to focus more on immersion and at-home learning opportunities.
Dr. Melanie Griffith Brice, an Associate Professor at the University of Regina and Research Chair in Michif/Metis Education spoke to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, explaining that one-off Michif instruction days, do little to help promote retention of the Language, suggesting mentorship programs are needed.
“The issues come in, is when the language isn’t being supported at home and in the communities. We’re getting a lot of great things happening in schools, but, we have to do more so our children are immersed in this language,” said Brice. “Mentor apprenticeship program has been a proven method of Indigenous language transmission.”
Brice recommends that if someone is interested in becoming fluent in Michif, financial support should be given to take time away from work to learn.
Figures from Statistics Canada (2017) indicates there are 1170 Michif speakers in Canada. The language is considered severely endangered as it is not widely spoken by children and adults, but rather Elders. Yet getting Elders to teach or mentor new students is proving difficult. Many Elders are receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement or other federal pension assistance. Stipends or honorariums are considered income and would greatly impact Elders benefits.
For Brice, this is a hindrance to revitalizing, but can be easily fixed, in adjusting federal income regulations. She recommends that if a fluent Indigenous language speaker is paid for language activities, that income is exempt. “Rather than being paid for their knowledge, they are penalized financially,” Brice said.
While the Metis National Council has declared Michif as the official language, Brice warned the federal government against only funding programs for Michif, as Metis also speak Cree, Dene and Saulteaux, which all should receive funding.