A good decision by NTI
In deciding to dissolve the Nunavut Social Development Council and to have its functions performed directly by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., newly-elected NTI president Cathy Towtongie has launched her presidency with a bold and decisive move.
As for whether or not this is a good development for Nunavut beneficiaries, only time will tell. But so far it looks like a good decision.
It’s not surprising that Towtongie and the rest of NTI’s board were compelled to do something about the NSDC, whose responsiblities are set out in Article 32 of the Nunavut land claims agreement.
Although the NSDC appears to have done some things aimed at meeting the relevant provisions of Article 32, there is little evidence that it is accomplishing what appears to be its most important job: helping Inuit define their social and cultural development goals.
Another Article 32 requirement that they have rarely met is to produce an annual report on the state of Inuit culture and society. Since 1996, the NSDC has managed to do that only once, in a report issued in 2000.
Another problem with the NSDC is that, as an appointed body, its board was not subject to any form of democratic accountability to the beneficiaries. Nowadays, most thoughtful beneficiaries would consider this to be unnacceptable for an organization handling increasingly large amounts of money and responsiblity.
Having the NSDC’s functions performed by NTI’s board, on the other hand, means the provisions of Article 32 will now be carried out by people who need to face the voters from time to time in order to keep their jobs. The electoral system under which NTI leaders are chosen by beneficiaries may be deeply flawed, but it’s still better than an arbitrary appointment process.
As Towtongie pointed out, and as many of us know only too well, the Inuit of Nunavut are suffering from a long list of social dysfunctions, most of which have grown worse since the proclamation of the Nunavut land claim agreement in 1993. In her election campaign, Towtongie told voters that, if elected, she would have NTI do more to address these issues.
Seizing control of the NSDC and having it folded into a new social development department within NTI ought to give Towtongie and her colleagues a new tool for making the organization relevant to the lives of ordinary Inuit.
We’re sure that everyone in Nunavut, Inuit and non-Inuit, will wish them well in these efforts.