Inuit self-determination in funding: how it works

“This new model empowers Inuit. It is built on mutual trust and respect for Inuit rights”

ITK President Natan Obed (File photo)

By Natan Obed

Achieving Inuit self-determination has been the goal of Inuit representational organizations since their formation in the 1970s.

The Inuit leaders of that time envisioned a future of renewed Inuit self-determination, with the most notable advancement through signed land claim agreements which would set up structures where decisions about Inuit, and about Inuit Nunangat, would be made by Inuit.

Inuit across Inuit Nunangat have been successful in signing and implementing land claims, but there are many complementary steps still being undertaken to achieve Inuit self-determination.

Funding processes that respect self-determination

Another significant step is taking shape now, in the form of how federal funding allocations for Inuit-specific issues flow to Inuit. Inuit leadership has fought for decades to participate and control how Inuit-specific federal funds are administered and delivered to Inuit.

This infographic shows how federal money earmarked for Inuit is allocated by ITK’s board. (ITK graphic)

In the past, the federal government would either overlook Inuit completely, leaving Inuit ineligible for the majority of Indigenous allocations, or allocate Inuit-specific allocations through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories in which Inuit reside.

It has been only in the last few years that Inuit leadership has had success working with the Crown in creating and implementing innovative funding processes that respects self-determination in the way federal funds flow to Inuit.

ITK and Inuit representational organizations are working to operationalize and make permanent these new mechanisms that have Inuit leaders integrated into decision-making frameworks for joint federal-Inuit priorities, such as through the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee.

In this new model, when the federal government makes funding commitments in relation to Inuit Nunangat, clear distinctions-based Inuit-specific allocations are identified.

We note federal budgets from 2016, 2018, and 2019 as examples for priorities such as TB elimination, housing, early learning and childcare funding, and funding for a sustainable Inuit health survey.

Once the federal government has announced an allocation specifically for Inuit, then it receives direction from Inuit leadership on how to allocate the identified funds across Inuit Nunangat.

Elected leaders make allocation decisions

Elected Inuit leaders of the four Inuit land claim organizations make allocation decisions through passing resolutions at ITK board meetings. These decisions are based on formulas that take into account administrative or base needs, population size in each Inuit region, the relative defined need in each Inuit region for the identified funds, and other factors.

Funding then flows to Inuit regions in the way elected Inuit leaders instruct that it should flow.

Notably: Investment announcement references in federal budgets, where some or all of the funding is being allocated toward Inuit, have increased substantially over the past decade and especially in the last three years.

This is in large part due to the successful advocacy efforts by Inuit leadership in the four regional Inuit organizations and ITK in clearly articulating the challenges Inuit are facing and communicating Inuit-led and driven solutions to these complex issues.

The four Inuit representational organizations then self-determine how their allocation will be utilized.

In some instances, Inuit regions administer programs or services and use the funds internally. In other instances, Inuit regions create partnerships with provinces or territories to undertake the identified work.

In other instances, Inuit regions determine that a part of the funds will be allocated to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami for nationally scoped administration, communications, research, or coordination.

ITK’s role in this process is to provide a national voice in advocacy efforts to secure funding from the federal government, and to provide a forum and resources for Inuit regional organizations to make united decisions that are benefit all Inuit, and communicate those decisions with transparency and accountability.

For example, due to the efforts by ITK and Inuit representational organizations, the federal government has committed to working with us to eliminate tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat by 2030, which aligns with global elimination targets.

To begin this process, the federal government committed $27.5 million over five years in Budget 2018. The elected leaders of the four Inuit representational organizations, through the ITK board structure, determined a funding allocation model for tuberculosis elimination funding which takes into account the burden of active tuberculosis and population size, as well as a base amount for administering the program.

ITK will not administer TB elimination programs

The rates of TB within the Inuvialuit Settlement Region are significantly lower than the rates in Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut, so the funding allocation model that will distribute funds to Inuit regions will react accordingly.

Counter to assertions made by some politicians, ITK is not receiving this funding to administer TB elimination programs or services within Inuit Nunangat.

This process is changing the way Canada approaches governance and decision-making in relation to Inuit. This new model empowers Inuit. It is built on mutual trust and respect for Inuit rights.

It may be difficult for some politicians to accept that Canada is turning away from its long-held policies that excluded Inuit from the way it flowed Inuit-specific funding, but I hope that in time there will be an acceptance that those times are over.

Natan Obed is president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national representational organization for Inuit.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by How are ITK elections democratic? on

    In ITK elections, each of the 4 land claim regions gets 1 vote, despite the fact that each region has different numbers of Inuit.

    Consequently, the voting weight of Nunatsiavut is 12.5 times higher than the voting weight of Nunavut (20/1.6 = 12.5).

    Collectively, the two regions where Inuktitut is weakest (Nunatsiavut and Inuvialuit Settlement Region) have a voting weight almost 6 times higher than the two regions where Inuktitut is strongest (Nunavut and Nunavik)((12.5+20)/(1.6+4)=5.8).

    For ITK to be a truly representative body, it would need to amend its voting process such that there are no longer vast discrepancies in voter weight between Inuit from different regions.

    ITK Elections – Voter Weight by Region
    (The population statistics come from

    Region/# of Beneficiaries in the Region/% of Total Number of Beneficiaries in Inuit Nunangat/Voter weight/Voter weight of each region compared to Nunavut

    Nunavut /27,000/62%/1.6/1
    Total 43,610 100%

    • Posted by Fishing for capelin on

      Those are all good points as far as they go but there area couple of other factors you have to take into account to assess ITK’s total failure to establish itself as “democratic.”

      These factors mean the voting weight of Nunavut and Nunavik should be even lower that your calculations.

      One factor is the size of the southern and urban Inuit population who lives outside of the Inuit homeland. This must be at least 25 or 30 percent of our total Inuit population. They have no, zero, representation on ITK. Why is Tunngasuvvingat Inuit not part of ITK?

      The other is the NunatuKavut Inuit of southern Labrador, they are of Inuit descent and they are not recognized by ITK even though they have something like 6,000 members. Those are 6,000 Inuit who are completely marginalized by Natan Obed and ITK.

      Why are the NunatuKavut Inuit not recognized? The Labrador Inuit land claim that Mr. Natan Obed is a part of gives beneficiary status to 100 per cent Qadlunaat settlers. If you are descended from a white settler family that arrived in Labrador before 1940 and you were born before 1990, you are a Labrador Inuit beneficiary.

      If these Kablunângajuit can be Inuit beneficiaries why not the NunatuKavut Inuit?

      This ITK does not represent all Inuit and is not democratic. Mr. Natan Obed should stop calling it a representative organization and democratic. Everyone knows this is bull**t.

  2. Posted by Observer on

    “Counter to assertions made by some politicians, ITK is not receiving this funding to administer TB elimination programs or services within Inuit Nunangat.”

    Very good. I notice, however, there is a complete lack of a statement about who *is*. Who is getting the money? Who is administering and delivering the program?

    • Posted by Jeff panipakutsik on

      To whom it may concern,
      I have a few documents that is involve in a small town that needs more houses and getting more plans a head and I tried to give out information to our MLA but he went out giving the information out to someone else so I need help trying to get those more information for me to have a 10 year contract for the housing & Hamlet association, for more info contact me at my e-mail I’m always checking my e-mail

  3. Posted by One Wonders on

    Dear Natan; can Inuit really be said to have self determination around funding decisions when they have very little corresponding self sufficiency in the generation of those funds? The well constructed language in this piece obscures the fact that this is a relationship of absolute dependence. Can mutual or self respect really flourish under such conditions?

  4. Posted by Northernmom on

    So ITK is going to receive funding to eradicate TB but will not be administering programs to eliminate TB. Please explain exactly what you’re going to do with the TB related funding you’re given?

  5. Posted by Roger Williamson on

    Whats he talking about….the Fed gives Nunavut a fairly substantial transfer payment. The Fed does not direct how that money is spent, the Govt of Nunavut does. The Fed also offers money directed at specific programs. Either cost matched by the GN or a straight contribution. In any event these program dollars are no different than what is offered to other provinces. Self determination is not an issue when viewed in this perspective.

    • Posted by teacher on

      Yes. True and half true.
      Understand Inuit Nunangat is not just another name for Nunavut.
      Nunangat has other regions, just like Iqaluit is not the only thing that matters in Nunavut.

  6. Posted by Colin on

    Nunavaluit have self-determination and almost $2 billion in investments. That’s dead money except for the mock parallel government that does essentially nothing for Inuit in need.
    So-called leaders, including Natan, don’t speak for a burgeoning underclass of followers, a cohort of under-housed who are vulnerable to TB. The food-insecure, under-educated, unskilled, unmotivated, comprise an all but unemployable underclass that’s doubling every 20 years. Women get murdered or disappear or live in hopelessness that invites suicide. Prime evidence of maladministration is in these numbers and in the crime and imprisonment figures.

    Educated and skilled people in rewarding employment should be filling the professional and managerial jobs in their own land. How is that the population of Iqaluit is barely half Inuit? It’s because Inuit can’t or won’t fill the jobs and many that do fill those jobs perform incompetently.

    Leaders promote the fantasy of a “pre-colonial” lifestyle. But how many Inuit could let alone want to survive without the dreaded colonials’ amenities? I recall that the man who portrayed the lead in the film Nanook of the North died of starvation in Nunavik, with all his family, two years after the film was made.

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