Government policies and programs and the funding attached to them impact our lives. Federal budgets are not only political statements about the vision and values of the government of the day, but can make or break our ability as Inuit to make progress on day-to-day challenges such as housing, food security, and suicide prevention.
Canada’s ignorance about Inuit and the limited visibility we have as a people continue to be the main barriers we face to ensure that these and other priorities even enter the minds of federal cabinet ministers as they identify their federal budget priorities; Inuit leaders work hard to see that regional priorities make it onto their radar.
One of the ways ITK does this is by developing a pre-budget submission that we share with the department of finance, detailing national Inuit priorities for possible federal investment.
Priorities are identified through our Board of Directors, as well as during meetings of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee.
The 2019 federal budget includes an Inuit-specific section that makes it easier to identify Inuit-specific investments in the budget and enables us to more rapidly secure federal budget allocations. Under previous governments, budget allocations impacting Inuit were often grouped in with First Nations and Metis, or larger funding envelopes.
Budget 2019 proposes Inuit-specific investments totalling $395.5 million, including the following:
- $50 million over 10 years for continued implementation of the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy and $5 million per year ongoing;
- $125.5 million over 10 years for an Inuit-led post-secondary education strategy and $21.8 million per year ongoing; and
- $220 million over five years to provide important health and social services to Inuit children.
Proposed investments in the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy (NISPS) and Inuit-led post-secondary education reflect priorities identified in ITK’s 2019 pre-budget submission. However, many of the infrastructure-focused priorities identified in the submission are not included in the budget.
Implementation of the NISPS will continue to be guided by the NISPS working group, a sub-committee of the National Inuit Committee on Health, whose members include representatives from the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Nunatsiavut Government, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Kativik Regional Government, Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.
ITK’s Board of Directors will determine how NISPS implementation funds are allocated between regions.
Implementation of the proposed allocation for an Inuit-led post-secondary education strategy is being overseen by ITK’s Board of Directors, with guidance from the National Inuit Committee on Education, whose members include representatives from the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, Nunatsiavut Government, National Inuit Youth Council, Pauktuutit, and Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada.
The proposed investment in health and social services for Inuit children is a direct outcome of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee decision to include Inuit children within the Child First Initiative (CFI) and develop an Inuit-specific equivalent to Jordan’s Principle. A Child First Initiative sub-committee making recommendations to the National Inuit Committee on Health will continue to guide the implementation of CFI, with the Board of Directors determining how funds are allocated between regions for this crucial work.
Other proposed investments in the budget, such as $1.7 billion over 13 years to support implementation of high speed internet access throughout the country by 2030, represent opportunities for Inuit to advance our infrastructure priorities.
These are important investments that wouldn’t happen without the collaborative work of Inuit leaders. However, the continued, limited investment in infrastructure throughout Inuit Nunangat shows that we still have a lot of work to do. For too long, Inuit Nunangat has been effectively left out of Canada.
With limited representation in Parliament and far from population centres crowding the Canada-U.S. border, our people and communities are still often out of sight and out of mind for most Members of Parliament and most federal cabinet ministers. This can and must change. As international interest and activity in our homeland surges, Canada must move rapidly to invest in the people — our people — who have called the region home for millennia, not only for our interest, but for the national interest as well.
President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami