'We need to come up with our own criteria.'
Makivik struggles with enrolment snafus
INUKJUAK – Although Nunavik now has full authority over decisions about who is a beneficiary of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, problems with managing the membership roll remain.
Power over the Inuit JBNQA beneficiaries list previously was in the hands of the Quebec government, but Complimentary Agreement No. 18 transferred responsibility over the list to the Nunavik Enrolment Office, now headquartered in Kuujjuaq.
Decisions over who can gain enrolment under the JBNQA rules have been devolved to local committees in each Nunavik community.
Yet questions remain about how quickly after marriage non-natives can get the full benefits of Inuit status, and how quickly after divorce these rights should be taken away.
Many Inuit object to non-native husbands who hunt and fish in Nunavik, sometimes even after their marriages fail.
"Non-Inuit men should not be given beneficiary status right away," said Makivik governor Jacob Oweetaluktuk. "I'm afraid of this."
Marriages between Nunavik Inuit and Quebec Cree can also lead to treaty status complications.
"You cannot be both," said Raymond Menarick of Chisasibi. "We need to stop people from acquiring dual status. There are people abusing the benefits system."
Cree rights include tax-free privileges, while Inuit status offers access to royalties from mining development.
The meeting in Inukjuak was told of fraudulent schemes to cash in on mining royalties.
Two enrolment officers in Kuujjuaq are trying to straighten out the situation while the local committees work towards determining policies that will work on the ground.
"We need to come up with our own criteria," Makivik president Pita Aatami said.
In addition, an inefficient computerized system has made it difficult to access and maintain the list as needed.
There are plans to move to a system of photo identification cards that could be recognized by governments as formal proof of a beneficiary's status.