Inuit living outside Nunavut rally for benefits from Inuit organizations

“Someone, somewhere, sometime ago, made a decision to deny an application based on residence and it became a norm”

Inuit who live outside Inuit Nunangat have started to lobby for more benefits from their Inuit organizations in Nunavut. Among them are the hundreds of Inuit who attended last year’s Christmas gathering for Inuit in Ottawa, said Manitok Thompson, who is pushing for more recognition and benefits for Nunavut Inuit outside the territory. Here, Nunavut Sivuniksavut students get the fun going at the 2019 Inuit holiday gathering in Ottawa. (File photo)

By Jane George

Nearly 700 Inuit living outside Nunavut have joined together to lobby for more recognition and benefits from their regional Inuit organizations and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

“It’s against our human right to be denied benefits given to those inside the territory of Nunavut…. We are tired of being forgotten and denied for funding based on where we live,” says the introduction on their new invitation-only Facebook page called “Inuit beneficiaries living outside Nunavut.”

They cite Article 35 of the Plain Language Guide to the Nunavut Agreement, which says, “A beneficiary of the Agreement does not need to live in the Nunavut Settlement Area.”

More than 150 of these Nunavut Inuit living across Canada, along with other supporters, have signed a petition that’s gone to the Nunavut Inuit organizations asking for access to benefits.

Jonathan Magaknak of Cambridge Bay, who now lives in Halifax, started the petition after he lost his job due to COVID-19 and wanted to tap into the help that others in western Nunavut were receiving from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

“We Inuit are still beneficiaries even though we live outside of Nunavut and most people have been laid off from work due to COVID-19 and this would help a lot with basic supplies and food during this time of hardship,” Magaknak said in a comment on the petition, which he shared with Nunatsiaq News.

Inuit organizations received money from the Indigenous Community Support Fund announced by the federal government on March 25.

NTI received $6 million, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, $6.1 million; Kivalliq Inuit Association, $4.3 million; and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, $3.5 million.

But this money hasn’t been easy to tap into for Inuit from Nunavut who now live in southern Canada, like Manitok Thompson, a former minister in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut governments, who has lived in the south for nearly 13 years, first in Alberta and now near Montreal.

After she lost contracts due to COVID-19, Thompson, an expert sewer, who originally comes from Coral Harbour in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region, applied to get sealskin from the Kivalliq Inuit Association.

The KIA had set up three new programs aimed at elders and traditional activities from its $4.3-million share of the Indigenous Community Support Fund.

But Thompson’s request was refused by the KIA, and then referred to NTI, and by NTI to the Nunavut government.

Thompson said, “There is no written policy that Nunavut Inuit living outside the territory can’t get support from their regional organizations, but it’s still happening.”

“Someone, somewhere, sometime ago, made a decision to deny an application based on residence and it became a norm. I don’t think there’s a written policy. I am looking for one,” she said.

When the Nunavut Agreement was negotiated, no one thought Inuit would start living down south, she said, but now roughly 18,000 Inuit are living across Canada, outside the Inuit Nunangat.

Although many of these Inuit who live outside the North receive nothing, the Nunavut Inuit organizations are wealthy, receiving, among other things, royalties from mines and land leases, Thompson said.

“They’re not like the government,” she said. “These guys have lots of revenue.”

Thompson finally went back to the KIA, citing the lack of any policy to deprive her of benefits and finally received a cheque.

“You should be commended for knowing your rights,” was the message she received.

But many don’t know those, so Thompson decided to get involved in the Facebook group, so “we can talk about being denied the programs.”

While there are Inuit community organizations for urban Inuit, like Tungasuvinngat Inuit in Ontario, they are mostly geared to providing services for those who need help in the city, she said.

Members of the new Facebook group live across Canada and as far away as Ireland: “Inuit are everywhere,” she said.

Every single one of them is attached to a community, she said. They’ve now been encouraged to reach out to their community representatives and make sure these representatives know where they are and what they need.

Thompson would also like Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed to step up, because ITK represents all Inuit “each and every one of us, and he meets with the presidents” of the Inuit organizations.

“He should be saying these beneficiaries who are living outside your land claims should be treated the same as the ones inside your land claim,” Thompson said.

Thompson said that she has still to register to vote in NTI elections.

“At that time they are recognizing us,” said Thompson, adding, “I will always be a beneficiary.”

She and the others on the Facebook page plan to keep raising their rights as beneficiaries.

That’s although NTI has said that it doesn’t even want to use the word beneficiary anymore, but wants to opt for the terms Inuit, Nunavut Inuit or person(s) enrolled under the Nunavut Agreement “to properly reflect the authority and rights of Inuit under the Nunavut Agreement, as well as domestic and international law.”

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(22) Comments:

  1. Posted by iWonder on

    “I will always be a beneficiary.”
    .
    I recall a push not so long ago to change, or lets say re-imagine, the term ‘beneficiary’ as some felt it bestowed a sense of entitlement on its holders that unintentionally held them back in life. I wonder what became of that, or if people are still thinking in this way?

    • Posted by Not Held Back on

      I don’t know whether it ‘holds people back’, but it certainly contributes to an unpleasant sense of superiority in some.

      • Posted by iWonder on

        Just to clarify what I meant by that; the ‘holding back’ here is a product of a persons own attitude (i have this status, therefore I am deserving of these benefits, i.e. jobs, etc…), not some external force placed on them. It could have been worded or explained better, I agree.

  2. Posted by Inu on

    I live in Nunavut . Due to history of my family I get treated differently . Been trying to get my ID for the past 4 years and the person who handles all these in my community happens to be my childhood bully . Everytime I try and get new id , it’s either lost in mail or never made it to the head office in Iqaluit . It’s been 4 years since I dealt with this and there are no other place here in my town to get ID or even a drivers licence . I need help to get Nunavut ID .

  3. Posted by Putuguk on

    Funny thing is, someone should tell the fellow in Halifax he is not missing any Covid 19 relief money by living outside of his home region.

    KIA has used the $3.5M it received from the federal government to fund support for Elders and an On The Land program to disperse people outside of the communities.

    Not one cent of the federal funds KIA administers have been set aside for Kitikmeot Inuit who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, whether they live in western Nunavut, or call anywhere else home for that matter.

    So if Kitikmeot Inuit lost their job and require support, the first thing to do is get KIA to recognize that this is as much of a problem as feeding Elders and getting people to live out at their cabins.

  4. Posted by Inuk on

    NTI & RIAs better start reviewing all the details (big & small) of the Nunavut Agreement and other agreement/policies they should follow.
    The rules doesn’t fall at the discretion of the Presidents, board members or administrators. Provide what has been promised to Inuit to the full extent.
    We don’t want the Inuit organizations to do what the Federal Governments are/have been doing- apologies and compensation for past wrongdoings to its citizens.

  5. Posted by Sam on

    Is this correct 18,000 Inuit living in the south,this says volumes about living in our homeland, a portion of these Inuit could fully staff gn,nti rias ,this cannot be right ,that’s 30 percent of all Inuit ,in Nunavut what is going on.

    • Posted by Mobility Is Us on

      That has been the often quoted number for sometime now, between 30 and 35% have permanently left. This is not unusual at all, and I don’t know why people feel it is.

      Canadians are highly mobile and move around the country for work, relationships, school, or a different lifestyle.

      Why would we expect Nunavummiut to be any different?
      I always find the ignorance of so many Nunavut residents to be entertaining when they express their displeasure at so many people from other parts of the country living in Nunavut (transients) when 30% of the population of Nunavut has left for other parts of the country. Certainly seems more than a little bit hypocritical.

      • Posted by Karen Baker-Anderson on

        There are also many Inuit who are now born and remain in the south.

  6. Posted by Many Reasons on

    There are many reasons why Inuit live out of territory. Lack of work, housing, medical services, higher education, specialized education, and then fleeing hostile situations are some of the reasons why many Inuit are out of Inuit Nungangat.
    Many of those have very strong Inuit identity and support other Inuit. There are also many, many Inuit down south living of the street. There are very real need for Inuit who are at a real disadvantage.

    • Posted by Ned Flanders on

      Many reasons is right. We tried moving back to Nunavut after a period of time but could get no housing although we had work and ended fleeing from hostility.
      Second year university funding was denied because we don’t live in Nunavut.
      Just wanted you to know I understand…💖

  7. Posted by Observer on

    How do you define what RIA someone claims to belong to if they don’t reside in that region?

  8. Posted by Martha on

    LoL. No one wanted to speak out when NTI we’re creating Nunavut territory . Making laws. LoL minilirautisijualuin kinaujarnni

    • Posted by Let’s set the record straight on

      NTI Didn’t create Nunavut, The people of Canada did bus Parliament.

  9. Posted by Hypocrites NTI on

    NTI claiming discrimination from federal government when it doesn’t even have its own house in order. What a disgrace, are there two classes of Inuit?

  10. Posted by Moe on

    If a Inuk signed Land Claim Agreement in promised Land Rights, Land Title, Language Protection, annual payouts of beneficiary money in exchange for extinguishing Aboriginal Title one should be able to access services regardless of residency with the fact one is still Inuk wherever you are and a Beneficiary.

    At this stage in 2020 TFN-NTI is just a purse for Inuit collecting Inuit Beneficiary Money in Nunavut Trust, while the GN and NTI toy with rule guidelines as to who is Inuk and which services provisions are accessible that are designed to help Inuit Inuit advance.

    However, If you are a Beneficiary but physically out of Nunavut you cannot access services from Nunavut due to Residency Clauses. This is discrimination against its own people. It limits those Inuit out of region or territory to advance without support of services for Inuit out of Territory.

    And because of residency out of Nunavut for various reasons (amelioration) Inuit get cast out by NTI and GN Residential address requirement to be in and from Nunavut for services. Inuit have to leave NU for housing, health, medical, education, relationships, etc and are penalized for residing elsewhere and all of a sudden they are Inuit with no support.

    Can a Inuk file a Class Action Suit against TFN-NTI, GN and Fed Government for loss of Aboriginal Title and lack of affiliation and access of services to Inuit. I extinguished my Aboriginal Title under Canadian Supreme Court Law in exchange for Nunavut Beneficiary and promised dreams and that I Only had to extinguish my Aboriginal Title that the Supreme Court of Canada has yet to define.

    Hmm

    • Posted by Why sue the feds? on

      Why would you sue the federal government, what do they have to do with it?

      Take it up with the Inuit orgs, they’re the ones who are denying beneficiaries their rights.

    • Posted by Observer on

      There was no promise of annual payments to beneficiaries in the Claim.

  11. Posted by bill tagalik on

    they need to review the rules so that its there in stone, that inuit who don’t live in the Nunavut settlement area shouldn’t qualify for anything that locals who live in Nunavut qualify for. plain and simple.

  12. Posted by Thomas Aggark on

    When you move to south you are accustomed to their laws and policies. You no longer are an Nunavut beneficiary but a citizen of theirs.

    • Posted by Thomas Aggark on

      Even as a college student or when you moved down south you are now their citizen not nunavummiut

      • Posted by Nlca on

        Where does it say that in the NLCA? Oh right, it doesn’t. That’s called discrimination based on residency and place of origin. These inuit should be suing NTI.

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