National Indigenous Languages Day
National Indigenous Languages Day on March 31 is an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada to recognize and celebrate the very rich and diverse heritage of Indigenous languages.
It also allows us to acknowledge and understand the ongoing efforts of those who continue to protect, educate, and preserve Indigenous languages and cultures to support the well-being and resilience of our Indigenous languages and People.
Indigenous peoples have historically spoken a wide variety of Indigenous languages. As a means of assimilating Indigenous peoples, restrictive colonial policies like the Indian Act put Indigenous languages at threat of endangerment and extinction. One of the largest impacts on Indigenous languages was the Residential school system in Canada.
Statistics Canada released data from the 2021 census that shows about 243,000 people reported being able to speak an Indigenous language, which is a decline from the 2016 census when that figure was around 251,000. While the number of people with an Indigenous mother tongue has been in decline, there has been growth in the number of Indigenous second language speakers.
In 2019, the Indigenous Languages Act was signed into law to support and promote the use of Indigenous languages. The Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages was established with a mandate to support the efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain, and strengthen Indigenous languages.