Pipeline Hearings Disrespectful to Indigenous Languages

Lorraine Rekmans, Aboriginal Affairs Critic for the Green Party of Canada, is appalled at the treatment being given to Indigenous language speakers at the Joint Review Panel hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.  “There is a critical need to respect and accommodate Indigenous participation in hearings on pipeline development.  The pipeline has grave potential for negative impact on First Nations land and their voice is essential.”

While many First Nations have presented at the hearings, their voices are not properly materializing in the official published transcript.  Instead, translators are inserting placeholders indicating ‘native word’, an inaccurate and disrespectful label.  This is despite the offer of several First Nations to provide translation assistance.

“The significance and legality of the right to present in your original language, as well as the need to preserve, and respect Indigenous languages, cannot be overstated,” said Rekmans.  “If the panel was sincere about including oral Aboriginal traditional knowledge, these gross mistranslations in the transcripts would not be allowed to occur.”

Presentations are not being recorded in the original language, such that translations have to suffice. 

“Translations are an inadequate manner to capture the concepts presented by Aboriginal speakers, especially about such complex issues as relationships to the land.  But, they are not even attempting a high quality translation.  Frankly, the level of apathy regarding the accuracy of the official transcript is alarming,” said Rekmans. “One wonders if the need for speed is becoming foremost.  How the panel can base their decision on these deficient transcripts is inconceivable—they won’t even know what was said.”

The official transcript is riddled with this placeholder ‘native word’ which, as rabble.ca writer Tyler McCreary points out, is not respectful of the different languages being used.  He says, “People do not speak “native” any more than they speak “European” or “Asian.” People speak unique languages. They speak English and French, which likely the panel would recognize, as well as Dakelh and Wet’suwet’en languages, which apparently the panel cannot even recognize as distinct languages.”

“The panel must rectify these defects in the transcripts and improve their efforts moving forward,” said Rekmans.