Low Inuit staffing in government hurts Nunavut: NTI report
“We need a radical shift in political attention and will”
The underrepresentation of Inuit in the territory’s government workforce remains a major barrier to Nunavut’s economic success, a new report has found.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. released the new report Sept. 12, called “The cost of not successfully implementing Article 23: representative employment for Inuit within the government,” prepared by the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Article 23 is the section of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, first signed in 1993, that stipulates government jobs for Inuit at a level should eventually reflect the territory’s population.
Currently, about 84 per cent of Nunavut’s population is Inuit, though the report notes that Inuit hold only 51 per cent of Nunavut-based jobs in the territorial and federal governments.
And there are costs associated with that: the report estimates that lost wages to Nunavut Inuit will amount to about $1.2 billion over the next six-year period, from 2017 to 2023.
The report also estimates the unnecessary costs to the government over the same period at $519 million.
“The lack of Inuit representation in government work forces is arguably the single biggest impairment to the ongoing economic well-being of Nunavut Inuit,” said NTI’s president Aluki Kotierk in a Sept. 12 release.
“This is unacceptable. We need a radical shift in political attention and will.”
Not only are Inuit underrepresented within the government workforce, but so is Inuit leadership; about 79 per cent of Inuit staffers work as administrative support, creating a noticeable wage gap between Inuit and non-Inuit employees.
And then there are the indirect benefits Inuit miss out on, such as improved health outcomes, better public services and greater control over policy, the report noted.
The new report is essentially an updated version of Annaumaniq, a similar analysis NTI did in 2003, when the Inuit birthright organization found Nunavut Inuit lost about $123 million in wages and housing subsidies due to a lack of Inuit government workers.
At that point, Inuit made up about 45 per cent of all government employees in the territory.
That initial report helped lay part of the groundwork for a $1 billion lawsuit that NTI launched against the federal government in 2006.
It was finally settled out of court in 2015 when the federal government paid out $255 million in compensation, the majority of which was directed towards employment training for Inuit.
But the GN hasn’t done enough, NTI said.
To better implement Article 23, both the territorial and federal governments would have to change their approach, by asking not only for the schooling required for certain job postings, but also by putting a higher value on Inuit skills and culture, and by including Inuit in the hiring process, NTI has said.
Each part of government should draft its own Inuit Employment Plan to increase staff, NTI has said, a document that should be revisited every five years.
As debate over Bill 37, proposed amendments to Nunavut’s Education Act, heated up last spring, NTI urged the GN to tap into a separate $50 million fund related to the lawsuit, which is also earmarked for Inuit employment development.
NTI has urged the territorial government to launch an Inuit Employment Plan for educators to increase the number of Inuktut-speaking teachers in Nunavut.
“No other part of Canada would accept a situation where, for example, 70 per cent of our teachers have to be recruited from outside of Nunavut, and are not expected to have Inuit language skills, values and community insights,” Kotierk said in the Sept. 12 release.
“The absence of Inuit representation in government undermines the underlying Nunavut vision of enhanced Inuit self-determination, and the building of government programs and services fully attuned to Inuit language and culture.”
You can read the complete report at www.anufuture.ca.