Makivvik names two Nunavik Inuit self-determination negotiators
Kuujjuarapik Mayor Anthony Ittoshat, former Kuujjuaq mayor Tunu Napartuk to lead talks
Makivvik Corp. has named two negotiators to lead self-determination talks on behalf of Nunavik Inuit with the governments of Canada and Quebec.
In a news release Friday, the corporation announced community leaders Anthony Ittoshat and Tunu Napartuk will fill the roles after what it described as an “extensive” interview process.
Ittoshat is currently the mayor of Kuujjuarapik. Previously, he served on Makivvik’s executive as treasurer.
Napartuk was the mayor of Kuujjuaq for six years, and currently serves as director of compassionate and complimentary services at the Kativik Ilisarniliriniq school board. Recently, Napartuk ran as a Liberal candidate in Ungava riding in the 2022 Quebec election, finishing third.
“Makivvik is pleased to have selected two exceptional leaders whose combined professional and negotiating experience can only benefit our efforts,” said Makivvik president Pita Aatami in a news release.
“I am confident that their expertise, dedication, and passion for Inuit rights will help us achieve meaningful progress in our pursuit of self-determination.”
A new self-determination agreement for Nunavik has been on Makivvik’s agenda for several years.
In 2019, then-president Charlie Watt and then-minister for Crown-Indigenous relations Carolyn Bennett signed a memorandum of understanding to create the framework toward future self-government negotiations.
During her return to Nunavik last May, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon told Aatami she had encouraged Quebec Premier François Legault to appoint a negotiator in self-determination talks.
“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,” Simon told Nunatsiaq News in an interview in Kuujjuaq at the time.
Before being named Governor General, Simon was serving as a lead negotiator for Nunavik.
A forum between Quebec and Nunavik officials is set to take place later this year, provincial First Nations and Inuit Relations Minister Ian Lafrenière told Nunatsiaq News last month.
In an interview Friday, Napartuk said he is excited to take on the challenge of leading self-determination negotiations alongside Ittoshat.
Having interviewed for the position back in January, Napartuk said he patiently waited to find out if he was selected. Having only learned around lunchtime Friday, he was still trying to find the words to describe what it means.
“I have grandchildren now, and I just turned 50 recently, and I have seen changes and I have seen areas that need to be improved for my fellow Inuit in Nunavik,” Napartuk said.
“To be part of a process that may help in creating a self-government for the Inuit of Nunavik, it’s really about our future, of our children, our grandchildren and beyond.”
Many challenges are ahead, Napartuk said, but he’s looking forward to working with advisers and organizations to earn the best outcome possible for the region.
“It’s not going to be a simple process, but there’s an opportunity for dialogue and to be able to try and bring the interest of the Inuit of Nunavik and as well as the regional organizations,” he said.
“That’s going to be a very important part of the process, is to bring in understanding and healing from our recent past and to come out as a group of people within Quebec, within Canada, standing more proudly of who we are.”
Ittoshat echoed a similar sentiment.
In an interview, he said the next step is for the Makivvik executive to hand them their mandates.
“Naturally, our ultimate goal will be success, become autonomous, be decider of our own future,” Ittoshat said.
“It’s a huge challenge bestowed on me, and I’m really grateful for the confidence shown by the Makivvik board on this major, major file.”