New Brunswick education minister Dominic Cardy says the bill that would add Indigenous language teaching to the curriculum isn't controversial because it's only a small change.
The bill put forward by Green Party MLA Megan Mitton was introduced last month. On Monday, it got unanimous support from an all-party committee of MLAs.
"This is not going to change the education system in huge and dramatic ways," said Cardy in an interview Wednesday with Information Morning Fredericton.
While he thinks the bill is important, Cardy said it wouldn't be possible to teach all New Brunswick students Indigenous languages.
"Those languages are only spoken by a very small number of people in the province, including a small minority of folks from the First Nations communities themselves."
Cardy sees the bill adding language to the Indigenous teachings that are already happening in the public school system.
He said a goal for the younger students would be to have them learn simple songs in Indigenous languages.
"One of the easiest ways to really learn about another culture is to learn some part of the language."
Mitton said it's too soon to say what the addition of Indigenous language teachings will look like but she agrees the goal isn't to make every student fluent.
"It is to ensure that language is included in the curriculum to help foster an understanding of these Wabanaki languages and the history and culture. We can't disconnect language from history and culture."
"It's important that there be some basic exposure to these languages."
She said the Department of Education will have to work with Indigenous leaders to make sure the curriculum serves the needs of Indigenous students.
"The needs of First Nations students might be different and I think there is some work to be done there."
According to Mitton, one of the goals would be to eventually provide all Indigenous students the opportunity to be fluent in their languages. She wants to coordinate with courses that are offered in Indigenous communities to ensure all Indigenous students have access to that education.
"There is a lot lost when one loses their language or when a community loses their language, which also means there is a lot to be gained with the revitalization of these languages."
Mitton said Indigenous languages have been systematically excluded from the public school system for a long time and this is a chance to fix that.
"We have opportunities to right the wrongs of the past and present and change things going forward."