Home Inuit Forum Defining an Inuit Nunangat Policy for Canada

Defining an Inuit Nunangat Policy for Canada

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Inuit Nunangat is a distinct geographic, cultural and political region defined by our comprehensive land claims agreements. © ITK

 In his first single, “Inuit Nunangat,” Terry Uyarak thanks our ancestors for this land that gives us strength and connects us to our history. He sings in Inuktut: “Please don’t forget the words/of our parents/ of our grandparents/Go accomplish greater things/for our culture/ for our lives.” His uplifting melody reminds us that there is nothing like our homeland. 

Inuit Nunangat connects us not only with our ancestors, and with each other — but also with a Canada borne of colonization, and with a system of governance designed to divide us along the lines of political jurisdictions. Through the process of reconciliation, and the momentum of the Inuit Crown Partnership Committee, we are breaking down the barriers that perpetuate inequity, and creating new systems to support Inuit prosperity and self‐determination. 

Inuit Nunangat is a distinct geographic, cultural and political region defined by our comprehensive land claims agreements. Together with the Government of Canada, Inuit are developing an Inuit Nunangat approach to policy development that would situate the design, delivery and evaluation of federal programs within a relationship informed by the principles, the legal obligations and the intent of our land claims agreements. 

It would address existing gaps in federal policy and set the terms for new policy concerning Inuit and Inuit Nunangat. The primary objective of an Inuit Nunagat Policy would be to ensure that federal initiatives intended to benefit Inuit actually do benefit Inuit. It would do this by requiring federal departments and agencies to specifically define the potential application within Inuit Nunangat of any new policy or program. 

An Inuit Nunangat policy would address the fiscal relationship between Canada and Inuit through a distinctions‐based approach to the allocation of federal resources. It would promote economic development by advancing support for Inuit‐owned businesses that seek to procure federal contracts. And it would recognize the important links between research and policy by supporting Inuit self‐determination in research and enhancing the coordination of research and science conducted in our homeland. 

It would also recognize Inuit populations living outside of Inuit Nunangat by providing guidance to federal departments and agencies seeking to implement programs and services that primarily serve Inuit living outside of our homeland. 

Inuit in Nunavik and Nunatsiavut are often ineligible for federal programs designed to serve “Northerners”. An Inuit Nunangat Policy would ensure that initiatives that benefit two or more Inuit regions of Inuit Nunangat would be accessible to all four Inuit land claims organizations and their beneficiaries. 

Many federal departments coordinate programming for Inuit across multiple administrative regions. An Inuit Nunangat Policy would streamline federal administration and create equity in the application of government programming by creating an Inuit Nunangat administrative region similar to the new Arctic region currently in development by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard. 

The federal government continues to announce funding programs intended for Indigenous Peoples, with no clear picture of how Inuit might benefit. Federal budgets still announce “Indigenous” pots of funding that are clearly designed for First Nations on reserve. An Inuit Nunangat policy would prioritize distinctions‐based allocations that identify Inuit land claims organizations as recipients to ensure that funds earmarked for Inuit are delivered to Inuit and not reallocated as they pass through provincial and territorial governments with responsibilities to serve large non‐Inuit populations. 

The purpose of this policy is to help create prosperity and support community and individual well‐being throughout Inuit Nunangat by promoting respect and support for Inuit self‐determination consistent with the priorities, goals and principles identified in the 2017 Inuit Nunangat Declaration on Inuit‐Crown Partnership. This is what systemic change looks like. 

Natan Obed 
President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami