Language Rights as Aboriginal Rights: From Words to Action

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Kiera L Ladner & Myra J Tait, Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal (Winnipeg: ARP Books, 2017)


Aboriginal rights; Indigenous language rights; Reconciliation; Canada 150


Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada must include the revitalization of Indigenous languages. The fundamental purpose of section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 -- which provides constitutional protection to Aboriginal and treaty rights -- is reconciliation. This chapter argues that section 35(1), when understood in the light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's findings, protects a right to publicly funded immersion education in Indigenous languages. Canadian governments have not only a negative obligation not to stifle Indigenous languages, but also a positive obligation to provide the resources needed to revitalize those languages.