Nungak: I’m not a federalist


Your reporter Dwane Wilkin did an adequate job of reflecting the purpose of my trip to Europe. But his description of me as “the outspoken federalist” is stretching it a bit too far. Here’s why:

In my understanding of English, a federalist is one who vigorously asserts, defends, and promotes federalism. One who practices his craft vividly, unambiguously, confidently, with principled backbone.

Either my English is failing me, or I am out of touch with how words in that language fade or transform from their original meaning over time and usage. Maybe the word federalist has become a pale shadow of its former self, made so by the insanity and surrealism of the separatism debate.

I am an Inuk with the burden of defending my people’s right to define where they want to be. Having said No to separatism, though, should not have us automatically labelled something.

I cannot join the federalist rank and file for two reasons: Those steeped in colonial history, and those dictated by the behaviour of today’s so-called federalists.

Let’s take a quick look at the man-made political earthquakes which have been visited upon our particular stretch of tundra:

In 1670, King Charles ll of England declared a vast stretch of North America the private property of the Hudson’s Bay Company and called it Rupertsland.

Included in there was our ancestral homeland, Nunavik, coloured something on the map for the first time. In 1870, this property was transferred to the Dominion of Canada and designated the Northwest Territories.

By this time, my great grandfather, Patsauraaluk, is living, having been born prior to 1870 a Rupertslander. And he was a Territorial Eskimo for the next 42 years.

Then one morning in 1912, he became a newly minted citizen of la belle province. The Federal government had passed legislation to extend New France/Lower Canada/ Quebec’s boundaries to our territory.

My great grandfather died post-1912, an involuntary and totally uninformed Quebecer. He had, in his lifetime, been subjected to three arbitrary changes of citizenship status All by strokes of pen or acts of legislative fiat by colonial powers. He and his contemporaries were never consulted or notified…You are now a citizen of…….

Here I am, the great grandson, facing the stark prospect of waking up one fine morning, a citizen of la Republique du Quebec. As was my great grandfather, I am not expected to have any say or influence in how that destination is reached. But unlike Patsauraaluk, I have been given the means to make the position of my people known to those who hold these ambitions.

And can federalists gallop to our rescue? And just who are these “federalists”? Let’s take a quick look:

Liberal Party of Canada (Governing in Canada)- An entity that cannot find, let alone assert, its political masculinity and stand up to the separatists. Seems to be devoid of what one agitated MP recently called “fortitude and gonads” in case they rub separatists the wrong way and trigger one of their “humiliations”.

Passive to the extent that some of its ministers have said in public that if Quebecers vote Yes in the majority on a clear question to separate, they would respect such a decision.

Once in an accidental while, a minister states that aboriginals in Quebec do have the right to remain in Canada even if Quebec separates. But such steel-fisted statements show themselves to be attached to the arm of a 97-pound weakling. Flashes of tentative and halting shows of strength couched in political anemia.

The federal Liberals think that granting distinct society status, constitutional veto, and transfer of more federal powers to Quebec will somehow appease the unappeasable, or make content the incontentable.

They do not seem to grasp that such overtures are genuinely unappreciated and dismissed repeatedly as never enough by the very people they are meant to satisfy.

But they still try to figure ways to satiate the insatiable. They more than likely pray that this whole problem would just go away and evaporate. (This is sometimes referred to as “Plan C” by pundits.)

This forces me as an aboriginal trapped in Quebec to ask, “is this where our political salvation lays?” The answer is obvious to me.

Quebec Liberal Party (opposition in Quebec) ­ If the Parti Quebecois (PQ) is grade A separatist, the Quebec Liberal Party is grade A nationalist whose essentials of policy are identical to the PQ.

Take territorial integrity, sanctity of the French language laws, and transfer of more federal powers to provinces. Which is the federalist and which is the separatist? Can you tell the difference? I can’t.

If anglophones (pop. 700,000+) cannot feel secure in the bosom of this party how are we Inuit (8,300) to find refuge in it? Our Great Political Hope the Quebec Liberal Party is not.

With federalists like these, it is prudent to say, as I have, that we are not volunteers for federalism. We Inuit of Nunavik have staked out our position, and maintained it, in our own right. To advance our own self-preservation. Not simply to oppose one side and endear ourselves to the other.

It is doubtful that a brilliant plan (recall Plan A/Plan B ?) exists somewhere within federalism’s so-called defenders which will save the day for the country.

Given this weak and wimpy behaviour by them, it is not impossible to think that we might have to fight Canada for our desire to remain in it. Just imagine such a spectacle! (Eskimos battle Canada for the right to remain……)

But we have had it.

My generation is quite determined not to have this millstone inherited by our children’s necks. I don’t want my grandchildren preordained to fight Lucien Bouchard’s grandchildren in a battle that never gets resolved, where losers are winners and winners are losers and where separatists have free reign to define the rules and are not stood up to.

With federalists like these, it is no wonder that separatists have played the issues, arguments, and debate with such effectiveness for their side!

Zebedee Nungak,
President, Makivik Corporation.

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