Stopping the Destruction of Indigenous Languages in Canada: A Call for Revised Language Legislation and Amendments to the Copyright Act


  • Erin Chochla


This article argues that Canada has an ethical and a legal duty to protect Indigenous languages because those languages are vehicles for and integral to Indigenous cultures. Since Indigenous languages are intrinsically tied to Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Traditional Cultural Expression (TCE), the federal and provincial governments should ensure that legislation affecting Indigenous languages, including the Copyright Act and the Indigenous Languages Act, protect rather than harm Indigenous languages. This is especially important given the rapid pace at which Indigenous languages are disappearing and the destruction that the Copyright Act and the Indigenous Languages Act enable today. Put differently, this article argues that the duty of the state to protect Indigenous languages requires amendments to the Copyright Act and the Indigenous Languages Act and that, for those amendments to be effective, they must be guided by the voices of Indigenous scholars, governments, and traditions. This is because amendments to the Copyright Act and Indigenous Languages Act that are rooted in Indigenous cultures are more likely to reflect extant methods of Indigenous knowledge governance, to be responsive to the needs of those cultures, and, conversely, to avoid causing express or unintentional harm to Indigenous languages, cultures, and peoples.