Inuit Nunangat now recognized as ‘distinct region’

Trudeau, Obed say new policy will enhance Arctic sovereignty, give Inuit stronger voice in decisions that affect the North

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, left, listens in as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters about his government’s new Inuit Nunangat policy at a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday. (Photo by Corey Larocque)

By Meral Jamal

A new federal policy recognizing Inuit Nunangat as a distinct region means Inuit will have a greater say in developments that happen in the North, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau and Inuit Tapariit Kanatami president Natan Obed announced the new policy in Ottawa Thursday.

“There are some days when the government stands up and talks about reconciliation through an apology. There are some days when the government stands up and talks about reconciliation through significant investments of massive funds to close equity gaps,” Trudeau told reporters.

“Today, this announcement is about transforming the systemic inequities that happen within government, where decisions get taken about the North without including the Inuit in those decisions.”

With $25 million over five years, the new policy will direct the federal government on the rights, interests and circumstances of the Inuit. 

It will also serve as an outline to design policies, programs and services that affect the Inuit homeland or benefit Inuit, according to a government news release. 

In his announcement, Trudeau said the policy means it will no longer be solely the departments of Crown-Indigenous relations, Northern Affairs or Indigenous Services that engage with Inuit leadership.

Instead, all levels of government involved in development in the region will now be required to consult and involve Inuit in decision-making.

“It will be every single department across the government, that when it wants to build a wharf in the North, put in a new airport, move forward on a mental health policy, look to support something around fishers — it will do so in partnership, in consultation with the Inuit,” Trudeau said. 

“It is the change that is going to unlock so much, not just for the coming years, but for the coming decades.”

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, speaks Thursday at a press conference in Ottawa, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens. Trudeau and Obed announced the Inuit Nunangat Policy, which will guide the federal government’s relationship with Inuit. (Photo by Corey Larocque)

According to Obed, the Inuit Nunangat policy is significant because it will guide the federal government on how to engage with the Inuit, especially given they are not part of the federal Indian Act. 

“We are citizens of provinces and territories, we have a very particular way in which we interact with the Crown, which is distinct from Métis and from First Nations,” he said.

“The necessity of a policy like this is that it instructs government on how to engage with Inuit, and how to respect Inuit self-determination.”

The policy also recognizes Inuit Nunangat as a distinct geographic, cultural and political region, encompassing the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut. 

Obed said that recognition is important due to geopolitical changes and threats to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty from other countries. 

”Inuit are the foundation of Arctic sovereignty in Canada,” he said. 

According to Trudeau, previous governments approached Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic through a military lens.

With the new policy, however, the current federal government is ensuring “sovereignty in the North passes through people who live there and who have lived there for millennia.” 

“Even as we do move forward on North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) modernization and investments in defence in the North … it needs to be done not just in consultation and partnership with Inuit, but with the mind to say, ‘If we’re building a new airstrip here, is that going to fit with Inuit priorities and economic development?,’” he said. 

“How can we make investments that strengthen and value the people who have always defended and that have always lived on that land?”

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Optics and fluff on

    ‘If we’re building a new airstrip here, is that going to fit with Inuit priorities and economic development?’

    Wow. This is so revolutionary…

  2. Posted by Jay Arnakak on

    Natan Obed, ajunngii!!

    Qujannamiik. You made 32 work!

    • Posted by Pushing Nunavut Ways on Others – Shame. on

      Which has no meaning in Quebec, but whatever.

      • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

        so, you blame the people engaged in the running of government? Mr. whats-he’s-name! said so? bleat, bleat!!!

        • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

          Obed has done something historical:

          he has opened the aboriginal-crown wide open

  3. Posted by Jay Arnakak on

    Justice Berger’s voice (aboriginal, and especially Inuit voice) come to fruition

    • Posted by Yousef on

      How so?

  4. Posted by Shawn of the North on

    Same old news, just recycled. No matter what the government says, it is the same thing. Until changes actually happen, nothing will change.

  5. Posted by delbert on

    This is great news. The more anatomy that Nunavut is given, means the GN will have to be more responsible. For there own well being. Fewer federal dollars coming in to be wasted . Once Nunavut starts to sit at the table were the decisions are made. The game changes. Now you have to bring your own money to put in collective pot. Be for asking for a hand out.

  6. Posted by Curious Cat on

    I don’t understand what is being said or implemented here that will change things? Can anyone shed light on this? All I can discern are added layers of complexity which will bog our processes down and make them less efficient.

  7. Posted by Frankly on

    We regular inuit have fallen into poverty since Nunavut became a territory ,
    With the current government we will continue to be even poorer and only rely on food vouchers or welfare. Where are the jobs in our community? our government only hire outsiders from out of territory.

  8. Posted by Tooma on

    North has a densly population. Canada also densly country. Much needed work to be done.

  9. Posted by Only paper on

    Women in particular should start leading our country. Women pm, Inuit women leading itk.

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