Charlie Watt, president of Makivik Corp., released a statement on Oct. 22 following the federal election, calling for Nunavik to have its own federal riding. (File photo)

Nunavik needs its own riding, says Makivik president

Charlie Watt responds to federal election with optimism and a call for change

By Elaine Anselmi

Makivik Corp. president Charlie Watt didn’t mince his words about Nunavik’s political landscape when he sent his congratulations to the region’s new MP, Sylvie Bérubé.

“We intend to follow up with the electoral boundaries commission to make the point, once again, that a Nunavik riding be created that reflects our region for Inuit, now more so considering the self-determination project we are working on,” he said. “We need this at the provincial level as well.”

Abitibi–James Bay–Nunavik–Eeyou is the largest federal riding in Quebec, extending from Nunavik south to the La Vallée-de-l’Or regional county municipality, where four of the six 2019 federal candidates reside, including Bérubé of the Bloc Québécois.

Nunavik leaders have lobbied for a riding of their own since 1972.

In 2002, the Kativik Regional Government along with Makivik went before the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission on the issue and again in 2011. Since then, the boundaries of the riding were increased in 2013, adding two more southern communities.

Boundaries are redrawn, according to the commission, so that each contains roughly the same number of people. Across Quebec, they average around 100,000 people per riding, with Abitibi–James Bay–Nunavik–Eeyou on the lower end with about 85,000 people.

With a population of about 13,000, Nunavik is well below this, but their leaders have argued for an exception due to the region’s ethnic makeup.

The smallest federal riding in Canada is Labrador, with about 26,000 people, while the Newfoundland ridings hover around 80,000 people.

Bérubé won the northern Quebec riding with more than 11,000 votes, or nearly 40 per cent, followed by the Liberal and Conservative party candidates.

Watt congratulated Green Party candidate Kiara Cabana-Whiteley, an Inuk from Kuujjuaq, who came in fifth with just over 1,000 votes.

In his statement, Watt invited Bérubé to visit the Nunavik region at her earliest opportunity.

“I look forward to meeting with her, and receiving her support for our work on self-determination, and on issues such as the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Watt said.

He had a firm message for Bloq Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet, whose separatist party won 32 seats across Quebec.

“We hope you are supportive of our development projects in Nunavik—both political and economic—and on that political terrain we can develop positive relations,” said Watt.

“However, on the issue of Quebec sovereignty, Inuit have a solid history of supporting a united Canada.”

Watt framed the election, which gave the Liberals a minority government, as an opportunity to bring the different parties and parts of the country together.

“Justin Trudeau has a strong minority government, and he can work with the other parties—the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois, Greens, the Conservatives, and the Independent candidate—to pass bills and present them to the House, and in the process build national unity,” he said.

For Nunavut’s new NDP MP, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq of Baker Lake, he had hopeful words.

“I remember the [Inuit Tapirisat of Canada] meeting in Baker Lake in 1971 with Tagak Curley,” Watt said. “We were all young back then. You’ll do well Mumilaaq, and I look forward to meeting you and working on Inuit self-determination together, for the next generation.”

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Snow Snake on

    Nunavik does need it’s own riding. We want to be part of a growing country that needs each other more than ever. More so in these trying times. Canadians need to stop being afraid/ignorant about our aspirations in being part of building a better country. We know that we have much to offer our great country but first lets get that riding for Nunavik and this will help the people more when they see how much influence we are allowed to make which will only benefit all Canadians.

    • Posted by No it doesnt on

      Nunavut and the Yukon are currently the smallest ridings in Canada by population; both at around 40,000. The population of Nunavik is closer to 12,000; which is far too small for a riding. Even if it were combined with the 2,500 inuit who live in Nunatsiavut, there wouldnt even be 15,000 constituents!

      • Posted by anon on

        Administratively, it doesn’take sense for Nunavik to be a part of QC either, but rather Nunavut. Maybe Nunavik should make moves to join the territory and electoral riding.

  2. Posted by Northern Guy on

    One riding for 12,500 people?!?! While we are at it why don’t we just give Magog, Greater Napanee and le Plateau their own ridings they all have larger populations than Nunavik!

    • Posted by David MacDougall on

      I have an exceptionally large walk in closet in my bedroom. I think I qualify as my own riding too.

  3. Posted by Ms.Tupak on

    It’s too bad Nunavik gets dragged around by the larger population when Federal elections comes. I agree with Charlie on this issue of having a riding of their own.
    I don’t believe him on this one thou. “Justin Trudeau has a strong minority government, and he can work with the other parties—the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois, Greens, the Conservatives, and the Independent candidate—to pass bills and present them to the House, and in the process build national unity,” he said.

    Justin Trudeau has broken up Canada. I don’t believe he can work with Conservatives but he will now have to humble for the sake of Canada. He is a weak minority government leader but his face was showing “scared” after election. The committees will be filled with the oposition so he doesn’t have much of a choice but to bend down to them. He is the wrong guy to build National Unity for he just divided Canada in the last 4 years single handedly.

    • Posted by Ms.Tupak on

      Alberta wants to separate from Canada, Quebec’s also mad and voted the Bloc Quebecois. It’s the result of Trudeau’s leadership. He has divided the country and the old liberals still cheering him on.

      • Posted by iRoll on

        You have a short memory, or perhaps no grasp of history, if you think Trudeau is the source of western alienation or Quebec separatism. I would be interested to hear your case for this claim though. Please…

  4. Posted by Angut on

    If Inuit formed their own country, would not have to ask for this or that. We’d be in control of our own lives. 65 K or so of us, with Billions or trillions in resources. As a wise man once said, why are we trying to be part of a country that treats us badly, maybe we should work with any other country who will treat us better than Canada does. These should be our thoughts, not begging and being ignored. We could only rise up as what Makivik set out to do for Inuit.

    • Posted by Utopia Forever on

      It would be very interesting to see what would happen if this
      ever came to pass.
      Those who are interested, go for it.
      Why not ? Only Inuit people could work in such a country ?
      No more alcohol, drugs, or unhappiness ?
      Bring it on, our grandchildren will have a great life, and our
      own currency will be used in our own land.
      Our houses could be built from wood from Nunavik.

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Ummm, except that we wouldn’t be. We’d be at the mercy of international corporations and foreign governments.

  5. Posted by Colin on

    It would make a lot of sense for Nunavik to join Nunavut. Leaders should arrange for a plebiscite.

  6. Posted by Let us not be runned over by gui gui on

    I am tired of watching being run over by non-indigenous MP, we definitely need our own MP for Nunavik, we cannot some what agree with new Partie Quebecois, we are not driven to separate since we were at way beginning recognized as a Canadian, new Quebec only arrived later.

    We are the voters from Nunavik, not Southern Quebecers voters trying to run over Inuit with much RACISM towards us by their southern French workers, many are working in Nunavik in various organizations, many at KRG, Tulattavik Hospital, Nursing in Nunavik, NRBHSS, Social Services, we are fed up of seeing sad/mean and angry looking faces, I mean, why work in North if you are not happy holding grudges over us Inuit? Aren’t making money from us? many questions out there are roaming around

    • Posted by Let us not be runned over by gui gui on


      Aren’t you making money from us?

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