Governor general uses Nunavik trip to highlight importance of self-government

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon says she wants to see Indigenous communities bring back power they held pre-colonialization

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon shakes hands with Aquujaq Nutara, who is being held by his father, Jaaji Kasudluak, after receiving a cheerful welcome to Inukjuak, Thursday morning. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon wasted no time this week on her first trip to Nunavik in three years, using the visit to encourage leaders to press ahead on self-government negotiations.

Simon, who hails from Kuujjuaq and is a former president of Makivik Corp., has her own experience as senior negotiator in Nunavik’s self-determination process.

On her first day in the region, she spoke about the issue at a meeting with Makivik Corp. and other Nunavik Inuit organization representatives, emphasizing the need to negotiate a new agreement with the Quebec government.

She’s also been working the other side of the table, pushing Quebec Premier Francois Legault to appoint a negotiator. During briefings with Makivik leaders Monday, she made assurances that work has borne fruit.

“[Legault] made a commitment at the meeting with me that he would appoint a negotiator,” she said. “I asked him to say it twice, so he’s on record saying that.”

Simon sat down with Nunatsiaq News during her five-day tour of Nunavik this week, to discuss why the quest for self-governance in Nunavik is so important to her.

“The objective of negotiating self-determination or self-government agreements in, I think, all parts of Canada, Indigenous communities, is to bring back the power that we had prior to colonization,” she said.

Simon said one of her visions for Inuit self-determination is that infrastructure and social development in the Arctic should match some of the development that has occurred in the rest of Canada.

However, she said, development in Nunavik must be led by and controlled by Inuit in the region.

“For Inuit that’s important, that there is a meshing of ways of looking at how infrastructure is developed, and that infrastructure supports different things like education, health, municipal service,” she said.

“All these different services that are in the communities are going to be encompassed by this self-government arrangement, you have to look at how these things evolve as you negotiate self-government.”

There are areas where Nunavimmiut are leading the charge when it comes to social issues, through the Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre in Kuujjuaq and Unaaq Men’s Association in Inukjuak.

“I’m really happy to be listening to the challenges that people are having in their communities, I’m also really happy to be listening to the success stories, so I hope to be able to bring that to a larger audience in Canada,” Simon said, after meeting with representatives from those groups.

“Communities, on the one hand, have a lot of social issues, but on the other hand they’re thriving as well, they’re speaking their language, they’re practising their culture, and in some of the schools we’ve been to, people that work there speak to the students in Inuktitut.”

Simon’s tour of Nunavik included stops in Kuujjuaq, Kangiqsualujjuaq and Inukjuak. A scheduled visit to Kangiqsujuaq was cancelled Wednesday due to poor flying conditions, with Simon calling representatives of the community to apologize and promising to come back in the future.

She called her Nunavik visit “heartwarming” and “rewarding.”

Governors general usually serve a five-year term. In the four years that remain in Simon’s term, she said she hopes she can visit every Nunavik community, and see as much of Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon as she can.

“I have a lot of travelling to do,” she said.

Whenever Simon makes it back to Nunavik, she’ll be welcomed with open arms, said Mary Johannes, Kuujjuaq’s mayor and a friend of Simon’s family.

“This was a special moment for us, and for our community, our town, and to welcome her home,” Johannes said. “It is a special week for us and we hope to see her again.”

Simon’s tour of Nunavik wrapped up Friday.

Next, she’s heading to Toronto for the Juno Awards, where she will be presenting the Humanitarian Award to Inuk singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark.


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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Division on

    This myth that there was some self government utopia before contact strikes again. What pre colonial powers is it that Inuit in Nunavik are seeking? I ask knowing there is no answer, nor does anyone want there to be. If there was actually a goal post, it would me there was an end to the “game”.
    What this all boils down to is another angle to negotiate for funding independent of the land claim. We know there is no basis or capacity for this Inuit land claims org or really any to actually govern in the place of a Province or Territory. They can barely manage affairs internally. Will they levy taxes to pay for government? Of course not, they require federal government transfer payments for 100% funding.
    To me it is all a game, using big and undefined concepts like reconciliation and self government to pull more money from the Canadian taxpayer. It will never end so long as you have undefined objectives and goals without clear and unambiguous ends. But the status quo is for those like Mary the ultimate goal because why be definitive when you stand to perpetually gain from these things.

    • Posted by iWonder on

      Origin myths are always grounded in an embellished, often distorted mythology. This isn’t new, but it is interesting to see it unfold in the present, when understandings of history are more robust and untruths more easily falsified than they once were.

      These stories don’t function to transmit an accurate history through the generations, but to reinforce exceptionalism, shared suffering and triumph over adversity. To be part of the group is to accept inheritance of its story from the dead and assume temporary stewardship over it for the unborn.

      As outsiders it is much easier to sort these useful fictions from the truths they use for traction.

      I’m more interested in and discouraged by the lack of dissenting voices and heterodoxy from within the community itself. Where are the Inuit intellectuals, unafraid to challenge and transgress the noble lies passed to them through time?

      Will we ever hear from you?

  2. Posted by Reality on

    The total cost to the tax payer for this trip is…………………

  3. Posted by Stephen C on

    Unaaq M.A. can’t say enough about the group. It is A model to be adopted in each of the villages, the sooner the better. Keep it going Inukjuak. Nunavik with its orgs has the possibility to do well with the self determination self gov. It is far beyond the duties of the GG to bring it up during her visit and it shows it is and can be more than a ceremonial role. We in Nunavik need to join in the effort with interest for ourselves and the coming generation.

    • Posted by It starts with getting out of bed in the morning on

      You have to have discipline, dedication, motivation, education, etc. There are far too many people not getting up early enough to start the business day in Nunavik. Those who do get up, can’t fully do their job, due to the ones that refuse to get up. If it wasn’t for a few southerners, getting gas in the morning would be impossible. Opening up a store would have unpredictable hours, case in point Coop stores, and gas station, but look out at 4 when it’s beer sales. How can there be a self government? The ones doing the government jobs will also have to do the business, service jobs as well. But wait, it will continue to depend on the south. Yes depending on the south, there you have it. Self government depends on people getting up to work. If you can’t get up to work, hire someone who will, southern again.

    • Posted by Self serving on

      Would it count as a self government if the ones running the government were from outside Nunavik? It’s just a thought. If you look at the Nunavik police, it’s suppose to be Nunavik police , for the people by the people, but what is it really? So, if the government, self government went the same way as the Nunavik police service, that is managed by outsiders, manned by outsiders, need I say more? Self government, with the selves from outside. It’s like saying Chinese government, managed by Japan or USA. Inuit government, manned by the non Inuit.

  4. Posted by Southerner on

    As i watch the reverse descrimination about inuit calling others southernors, i wonder where all the teaching about not being racist went.
    I see jobs advertized for inuit only
    how can this be canada. It may as well be two countries, but the people up north like the money,,and security from our military,,,that my taxes supported all my life.
    I contend this will make racism stronger.

  5. Posted by It’s a myth on

    Yes I agree this self government story is as far it goes, it’s the impossible ending. It keeps the funding coming in all the while from the belief that there something in that story that warrants more looking into, give funding in mean time, while looking. For anyone living and breathing a reality in this area of Nunavik, it appears a joke that stays funny , no matter how many times you hear it. You look around the ruins and waste from ingesting the benefits of government and then, you can see clearly, the self in the government around Nunavik is already made, and it’s going nowhere other then have not , gets from the have some. Nunavik is more or less dysfunctional, kept above by the Quebec and Canadian purse from tax payers not from Nunavik. How do a self government form in Nunavik?

  6. Posted by Mark M. Koroi on

    Nunavut is a lot like Puerto Rico.
    Puerto Rico has commonwealth status with limited self-government and does not want independence from the U.S. because of the infusion of funds from U.S. taxpayers for vast social programs it would never be able to support on its own.
    The inhabitants of Nunavut financially benefit from their relationship to Canada.
    A very, very few Inuit call for independence with an Inuit nation to be declared alongside Greenland much like a small minority of Puerto Ricans clamor for independence. Neither shall happen.

  7. Posted by Tulugaq on

    There is no myth about self determination – it’s part of the rights of Indigenous people based on the fact that they were here way before European colonizers and had their own laws and legal traditions. This is a fact well documented but non Indigenous people do not want to know in part because they love their stereotypes and white supremacy.

    There is a difference between self determination and self government, the latter being a subset of the former. Self government is delegated by a colonial government while self determination is a legal right recognized in national and international laws. Self determination is not delegated, it’s inherent to being an Indigenous people. Resurgence of Indigenous nations stems from the communities and is based on self determination and does not have to get permission or delegation from a government.

    For those who repeat ad nauseam the myth of funding by generous governments, it’s important to remember that Canada’s standard of living and wealth is based on theft of Indigenous territories that government have stolen with some fraudulent ancient treaties (number treaties with a written version that doesn’t inclue verbal promises made to the Indigenous parties) or without treaties. Government are only returning peanuts compared to the wealth that Indigenous lands have generated for them.

    • Posted by iThink on

      Tulugaq, I’m curious, how traditional Inuit law would address the invasion of a neighboring tribe to cannibalize its members? Similarly, it is hard not to wonder what the ethics around a common practice like female infanticide might have been, from the perspective of Inuit legal traditions?

      Of course, it makes no sense to apply modern ethics here. Those were circumstances we cannot easily understand, if at all. Yet you seem eager to do that, implying that life in the past was a kind of Eden for Inuit, that the laws in place in the past represent not only a parallel to modern ones, but are preferable in some way. But is that really true?

      Your statement that the “resurgence of Indigenous nations stems from the communities and is based on self-determination” describes a situation that wouldn’t be possible without the long development of western legal traditions and philosophies grounded in liberalism–which is to say individual and collective rights.

      The rights based legal approach barely existed in the past and where something that looked like it did, it was a benefit exclusive to members of an ‘in-group’ only. Rights were slow to appear in universalist terms (usually within multi-ethnic cities where trade thrived, or inside an Empire). They certainly did not feature in Thule conceptions of law when they met the Sivullirmiut, appropriated their technologies and pushed them off their land.

      Consider the situation of colonized peoples in non-western states; Tibet for example, or how about Ukraine? If you lived in either of those places you would really have something to complain about (not that you appear to need it).

      It is true that European settlers and their descendants created wealth through the exploitation of land and resources, humans do this everywhere around the globe, yet their ability to create unprecedented wealth cannot be understood without reference to features of their culture like science, technology, industrialism and capitalism. Today those are available to anyone in the world today, including Inuit.

    • Posted by Tired Myth on

      White supremacy and theft of lands all in one. Another polarized comment that does not address anything raised: so what is the ultimate end of self determination? When do we know it is fulfilled? Unanswered, as usual.
      It is interesting that you seem to leave out of your comment modern treaties like the James Bay Agreement, it’s almost as if you are intending to guide readers to think the subject of this article, Nunavik, was “stolen”. As for self determination or self government, all I can say is that if it was not negotiated when Nunavik Inuit signed off saying they agree all other rights and entitlements are extinguished, then there is a problem that it isn’t up for bargaining.


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