In the Northwest Territories, official languages fall under the responsibility of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment. The Minister of Education, Culture and Employment is R.J. Simpson. He is also the Minister of Justice.

The Francophone Affairs Secretariat was created in 2012[1]. The Secretariat assumes various responsibilities, such as managing the French single service window for government services, Services TNO, acting as liaison between the government and the Francophone community and supporting the government departments and agencies in terms of French services. The Secretariat also develops tools for French services coordinators within the government and coordinates the French translation services (except for acts and regulations).

The Northwest Territories Languages Commissioner is Brenda Gauthier[2]. The Commissioner is not a member of the public service. As part of her mandate, she takes “[…]  all actions and measures within the authority of the Languages Commissioner with a view to ensuring recognition of the rights, status and privileges of each of the Official Languages and compliance with the spirit and intent of this Act in the administration of the affairs of government institutions.”[3] In this role, she receives complaints, conducts investigations, writes reports, issues recommendations and every year submits a report to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

The Official Languages Act stipulates the creation of an Official Languages Board and an Aboriginal Languages Revitalization Board to examine the provisions, application and effectiveness of the Act and advise the Minister. The first includes a representative from each linguistic community and the second includes a representative from each Aboriginal linguistic community.

[1] Government of the Northwest Territories, Francophone Affairs Secretariat. Page consulted online on 28 février 2021.

[2] Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories,Appointment of the Official Languages Commissioner. Page consulted online on February 28, 2021.

[3] Government of the Northwest Territories, Official Languages Act. Page consulted online on November 2, 2016.

Overview of the Laws, Policies and Regulations

The Northwest Territories Official Languages Act recognizes eleven (11) official languages: English, French and nine (9) Aboriginal languages (Chipewyan, Cree, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey and Tåîchô). Under the Act any official language can be used in the Legislative Assembly. The acts and documents produced by the Legislative Assembly, such as the records and journals, must be published in English and French. English and French can be used “in any pleading in or process issuing from, any court established by the Legislature.”[1] The nine (9) official Aboriginal languages can be used before the courts established by the Legislature.

Any member of the public has the right to communicate with, and to receive available services from, any head or central office of a government institution in English or French. English and/or French can also be used in the other offices of an institution when there is a significant demand or it is reasonable given the nature of the office. Any member of the public has the right to communicate with, and to receive available services from, any regional, area or community office of a government institution in an Official Language other than English or French spoken in that region or community where there is significant demand or it is reasonable, given the nature of the office (such as collective rights of Aboriginal peoples regarding Aboriginal languages within their traditional homelands).

The Act must be reviewed every five (5) years.

The Government Institution Regulations set out that government institutions are subject to the Official Languages Act, the four regions where there is a significant demand as well as the circumstances under which the nature of the office justifies the use of English and French.

The Policy – Official Languages (1998) foresees reasonable access for citizens to government programs in the official languages.

[1] Ibid.