NTI matters: on Feb. 8, make sure you cast a ballot

Nunavut’s Inuit organization wields real power and influence

The Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. presidential election is set for Monday, Feb. 8. Mark that date and make sure you cast a ballot. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

Next week, the people of Nunavut will get a chance to take part in an event that eligible Nunavummiut voters usually ignore in droves: an election to choose a president for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

For example, in the 2016 NTI presidential election, only 31.9 per cent of eligible Inuit voters turned out to cast a ballot.

That, unfortunately, is part of a persistent trend. In the 2012 NTI election, only 35 per cent of eligible Inuit turned out to vote. During NTI’s 2010 executive election, the turnout was again about 35 per cent. In the 2008 NTI election, turnout stood at only 29 per cent.

This means a large majority of eligible Nunavut Inuit voters — roughly seven in 10 — are disengaged from the organization that legally represents them.

This stands in sharp contrast to public government elections in Nunavut, where turnouts range above 60 per cent or higher. For example, voter turnout for the 2017 Nunavut territorial election stood at 63.3 per cent.

And in the territorial election of 2008, turnout in the closely-fought election for the former seat of Iqaluit West stood at 90.2 per cent.

This is not a healthy situation. Because NTI matters.

And if the president of NTI wins his or her job through an election in which most eligible voters can’t be bothered to cast a ballot, the political legitimacy of the entire organization is badly weakened.

The federal government now recognizes NTI as a representative Inuit organization. The federal government also recognizes the three regional Inuit associations in Nunavut as representative organizations. (Incidentally, elections for those organizations also produce low turnouts most of the time.)

So how “representative” are these organizations if they’re run by people who can’t command majority support from the Inuit populations they’re supposed to speak for?

That’s why it’s important for Nunavut Inuit to come out and vote.

Here are a couple of reasons why NTI matters:

NTI is influential

Article 32 of the Nunavut Agreement says Inuit have the right to participate in the development of any government-run social and cultural programs and policies that affect them.

So if governments want to do things that affect health care, social services, education, language rights and so on, NTI must be part of those decisions. That means the NTI president and the rest of the organization’s executive occupy highly influential positions in Nunavut.

Also, NTI is one of the four Inuit Nunangat organizations that comprise the national Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. As a member of ITK’s board, the NTI president helps choose the ITK president and plays a big role in influencing ITK’s national policies.

NTI is powerful

The NTI president sits on the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, which was created through a deal the Trudeau government and ITK signed in 2017.

Through that partnership committee, Inuit leaders sit down with the prime minister and other cabinet members to make big decisions that directly affect Inuit.

Effectively, it’s a sub-committee of the federal cabinet. And that confers real power on Inuit leaders, including powers that used to be the sole preserve of public governments.

For example, this past summer and fall, ITK and NTI distributed millions of dollars of public money from the federal government that was intended for COVID-19 relief.

The NTI presidential election takes place Monday, Feb. 8, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time in each community. You can find more information at this web page.

Nunatsiaq News has published profiles of candidates Andrew Nakashuk and Aluki Kotierk.

Be sure to mark that date.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Old trapper on

    Million of dollars for covid 19 Relief ? I’m in were the hardest hit was and never got a penny from them were my shear?

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    • Posted by Bill Tagalik on

      you mean arviat???????????

      • Posted by monty sling on

        Do i detect resentment? We don’t need ur kind of attitude with this serious illness. It kills….why the comment? I know u have lot of family down there.

  2. Posted by Fred on

    Lower numbers in Inuit elections vs. higher numbers in other elections. Shows that the majority of Inuit don’t want to or don’t care to vote, for whatever reason. Other elections get higher turnout due to all people being eligible to vote and those other people tend to vote in all elections. NTI and the RIA’s do have a lot of power and more Inuit should go and vote, as the old saying goes if you don’t vote don’t complain.

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  3. Posted by No Moniker on

    NTI might occupy a powerful and influential position, yet as we have seen over and over in recent years it does not seem to have been influential or effective at changing much of anything.

    This might not be a problem inherent to the organization itself, but a consequence of years of mediocre to outright dysfunctional leadership.

    I am an advocate of political engagement, but can’t help but notice that the choices we are sometimes offered are so poor that the act of ‘voting,’ especially when done for its own sake, has become a ritual motivated more by habit than conviction. It would be hard to blame anyone for seeing through such a thin fog and ignoring participation in a process that repeatedly yields such poor results.

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  4. Posted by Jack Napier on

    The ballots already look spoiled.

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  5. Posted by Low statistics on

    The low participation rates at elections might be partly attributable to the age limit of voters, which is 16 years of age, likely a big part of the population gap in NTI elections. Makivik elections, age limit is 18, and in Canadian and territorial elections, age limit is 19. The youth should be encouraged to vote more, as well as be encouraged to run in all avenues in politics or in other venues like board representations. Their ability to be part of decision making must be fostered.

    • Posted by 18+ on

      Small correction, the voting age for federal and territorial election is 18 as well.

  6. Posted by Toonik’s Grandfather on

    Ottawa doesn’t know whom to connect in terms of providing the needs of Inuit (too many chiefs, not enough Indians). Gov”t of NU., NTI and ITK……many sservices never reach the little guys in communmities, I only see regional Inuit bodies aiding Inuit during Covid-19 crisis.

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