Federal government invests nearly $7M in Indigenous language revitalization in B.C.

Indigenous language revitalization in B.C. has received a boost from the federal government, which has just invested $6.86 million in First Nations language programs through the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC).

The latest funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage brings the total investment from the federal government to $14.6 million this year, according to the FPCC.

Earlier this year, the B.C. government confirmed there would be no provincial funding for Indigenous language revitalization this year. It spent $50 million on language revitalization projects over three years starting in 2018. That funding was not renewed.

“In April, we really felt that there was going to be a shortfall,” said FPCC CEO Tracey Herbert.  

“But because the Department of Canadian Heritage has come forward with additional resources, we’re actually going to be looking at giving out almost the same amount of grants as we did last year.”

Herbert said they were able to support about 700 grants last year.

The FPCC, a provincial Crown corporation, is dedicated to helping First Nations in B.C. revitalize their languages, arts and cultures.

It says funding will go toward immersion strategies, language planning, resource development and more to support the preservation and revitalization of 34 First Nations languages in the province. In fact, the FPCC says the funding has already been distributed to communities that previously submitted grant applications.

“The design of the programs [is] really about the unique needs of each community. So there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of what each community will implement,” Herbert said. 

Herbert said the organization is looking to secure sustainable funding, and more of it for years to come. Ideally, she said, they’d like to operate with a $59 million budget each year. 

“In B.C., we have severely endangered languages,” she said. 

“Many of our languages have very few fluent speakers.”

Herbert said community-based programs allow Indigenous language speakers to document the language, teach it to others and pass the torch to new generations as elders age and become unable to run those programs.  

She added that a combination of both face-to-face lessons and the use of technology are important when it comes to revitalizing language. 

“You have to have multiple strategies and multiple domains to make any progress. If you just invest in a single thing, you’re not going to revitalize the languages.”

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