Who are the Inuit?
The majority of our population lives in 51 communities spread across Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland encompassing 35 percent of Canada’s landmass and 50 percent of its coastline. We have lived in our homeland since time immemorial. Our communities are among the most culturally resilient in North America. Roughly 60 percent of Inuit report an ability to conduct a conversation in Inuktut (the Inuit language), and our people harvest country foods such as seal, narwhal and caribou to feed our families and communities.
This vast region is called Inuit Nunangat. It encompasses roughly 35 percent of Canada’s landmass and 50 percent of its coastline.
Where is the traditional Inuit territory?
There are four Inuit regions in Canada, collectively known as Inuit Nunangat. The term “Inuit Nunangat” is a Canadian Inuit term that includes land, water, and ice. Inuit consider the land, water, and ice, of our homeland to be integral to our culture and our way of life.
- Inuvialuit Settlement Region (Northwest Territories),
- Nunavut (Our Land)
- Nunavik (Northern Quebec)
- Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador).
What happened with the Qikiqtani Truth Commission?
The Qikiqtani Truth Commission released its “Final Report: Achieving Saimaqatigiingniq” in April, 2014. More than five years later, on August 15, 2019 Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown – Indigenous Relations, finally delivered an official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada to the Qikiqtani Inuit for the Government’s actions in the Qikiqtani region between 1950 and 1975. “During this period, Government policies included:
- forced relocation and family separation of Qikiqtani Inuit
- the killing of qimmiit (sled dogs), who were key to culture, survival and community health since time immemorial, and
- other assimilative actions.
These actions have resulted in deep and lasting effects on Qikiqtani Inuit.” To move forward, Minister Bennett announced that Canada and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) have established a Memorandum of Understanding to work in partnership to build a long-term and sustainable response to the Qikiqtani Truth Commission’s findings. This includes identified funding to implement programming for Qikiqtani Inuit to promote Inuit culture, healing and well-being for current and future generations.
The QTC was established by the QIA to create a more accurate and balanced history of the decisions and events that affected Inuit living in the Qikiqtani region in the decades following 1950, and to document the impacts on Inuit life. Some of the changes imposed on Inuit in these years were:
- relocations from ilagiit nunagivaktangat to permanent settlements;
- the deaths of qimmiit, which reduced their ability to hunt and support their families;
- the removal of Inuit children from families for extended periods of time; and
- the tragic separation of families due to the lack of medical services in the North.
The QTC’s mandate specifically excluded the High Arctic relocations and residential schools issues. The relocations were examined by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the schools are the subject of the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
In addition to the historical component of its mandate, the Commission was charged to begin a broader truth and reconciliation process that will promote healing for those who suffered historic wrongs, and heal relations between Inuit and governments by providing an opportunity for acknowledgement and forgiveness. Qikiqtani Inuit are seeking saimaqatigiingniq, which means a new relationship “when past opponents get back together, meet in the middle, and are at peace.”
Who Speaks for the Inuit?
Inuit Tapariit Kanatami
Inuit Tapariit Kanatami (ITK), formerly the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, is the national voice for Canada’s 65,000 Inuit, ITK was founded at a meeting in Toronto in February 1971 by seven Inuit community leaders. The impetus to form a national Inuit organization evolved from shared concern among Inuit leaders about the status of land and resource ownership in Inuit Nunangat. Industrial encroachment into Inuit Nunangat from projects such as the then proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline in the Northwest Territories and the James Bay Project in Northern Québec, spurred community leaders to action.
They agreed that forming a national Inuit organization was necessary to voice their concerns about these and related issues, choosing the name Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (“Inuit will be united”) for the new organization. The first ITC conference was held in Ottawa later that year.
ITK’s early leadership envisioned a blanket land claim to Inuit lands in the Northwest Territories and Nunavik given the immediate pressures facing these regions while Nunatsiavut’s land claim would come later. However the acceleration of activity in the Mackenzie Delta region and Nunavik made work on a single claim impractical. ITK remained active in land claims by leading land claims negotiations for Nunavut between 1976 and 1982, through coordination of research documenting traditional Inuit land use and occupancy in the Northwest Territories, and by making preparations to manage the assets of a future settlement.
In addition to land claims, ITK has played a leading role in the broader recognition of Indigenous rights in Canada. ITK oversaw the Inuit Committee on National Issues (ICNI) which was organized in 1979 in order to represent Inuit views on Canada’s Constitution. ICNI was part of the Aboriginal Rights Coalition that successfully lobbied the federal and provincial governments to reinstate Section 35 of the Constitution after its removal during the 1981 First Ministers Constitutional Conference. Section 35 elevates Inuit land claims to the status of treaty rights and protects them within the Constitution.
In 2001, ITC changed its name to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which means “Inuit are united in Canada.” The name was changed to reflect the settlement of land claims agreements in all Inuit regions following the Labrador Inuit Association’s signing of an Agreement-in-Principal for the Labrador land claims agreement.
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
Pauktuutit is the national representative organization of Inuit women in Canada and is governed by a 14-member Board of Directors from across Canada. It fosters greater awareness of the needs of Inuit women, advocates for equality and social improvements, and encourages their participation in the community, regional and national life of Canada.
Pauktuutit is active in a wide range of areas including health, gender equality, abuse prevention, protection of cultural and traditional knowledge and economic development. Pauktuutit’s input is regularly solicited on issues including the environment and climate change, children and youth, and a range of international processes and forums
Pauktuutit signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Canada on June 15, 2017 to establish a whole-of-government relationship to address issues of common concern that directly affect the well-being and safety of Inuit women and children across Canada.
Inuvialuit Regional Corporation
Established in 1984 to manage the settlement outlined in the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA), Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) represents the collective Inuvialuit interests in dealings with governments and the world at large. IRC’s goal is to continually improve the economic, social and cultural well-being of the Inuvialuit through implementation of the IFA and by all other available means.
Inuvialuit beneficiaries directly control IRC and its subsidiaries through a democratic process of elected directors from each of the six Community Corporations.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) ensures that promises made under the Nunavut Agreement are carried out. Inuit exchanged Aboriginal title to all their traditional land in the Nunavut Settlement Area for the rights and benefits set out in the Nunavut Agreement. The management of land, water and wildlife is very important to Inuit. NTI coordinates and manages Inuit responsibilities set out in the Nunavut Agreement and ensures that the federal and territorial governments fulfill their obligations.
Qikiqtani Inuit Association
Qikiqtani is one of three regions in Nunavut that encompasses 10 per cent of Canada’s land mass – larger than British Columbia and more than twice the size of California.
Nunavut lies above the northern limit of the treeline. Tundra covers almost all of the Qikiqtani Region except for the multitude of rivers and lakes and permanent ice caps at higher elevations on Baffin Island, Devon Island, and Ellesmere Island. Climate change is impacting the Qikiqtani and other Arctic Regions at an accelerated rate. We are observing changes first-hand in the migration patterns, and abundance of Arctic animals.