Nunavut land claim organization submits complaint to United Nations

NTI alleges Canada has failed to fulfil its obligations to Inuit by not providing essential services in Inuktut

Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., has submitted a formal complaint to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that alleges Canada has failed and continues to fail in its international obligations to Inuit. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has submitted a formal complaint to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, stating that Canada has failed to fulfil its obligations to Inuit.

The letter from NTI president Aluki Kotierk to Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, charges that Canada “has failed and continues to fail to fulfil its international obligations in relation to Inuit as an ethnic and linguistic minority under international instruments to which Canada is a signatory.”

In its submission, NTI makes several allegations, including the following:

  • Canada has been and is in breach of the duty to not discriminate against Inuit.
  • Canada has not taken and is not taking adequate action to ensure the recognition and realization of the Inuit right to receive public education in our Inuktut language.
  • Canada has not taken and is not taking adequate action to ensure the recognition and implementation of the Inuit right to health services in Inuktut.
  • Canada has not taken and is not taking adequate action to ensure the recognition and implementation of the Inuit right of the Inuit to administration of justice in Inuktut.

“Specifically, Canada has failed, and continues to fail, to provide essential services to the Inuit in our first language, Inuktut, including Inuktut language education, health services, administration of justice, and other publicly available government programs and services,” a news release states.

NTI submitted the complaint on May 28.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that human dignity is considered to be the foundation for all human rights. It is time for Canada to recognize its role to protect Inuit lives and linguistic identity. Inuit must again live with dignity,” Kotierk said in the release.

“Nunavut Inuit have suffered harm to their lives, and to the Inuit language and culture, by discriminatory treatment of Inuit through various assimilationist colonial policies and measures, which continues to the present, and Canada’s continued failure to take remedial action to correct this damage,” the release states.

NTI also calls on Canada “to adopt effective legislative and other measures to provide essential services to the Inuit in their first language, to protect Inuit cultural and linguistic identity and to remedy discrimination and other injustices,” the release states.

You can read the full submission below:

2020-05-28 Nunavut Tunngavik Submission of Allegations Against Canada to the UN Special Rapporteur on Minor… by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

Share This Story

(35) Comments:

  1. Posted by Golden Handcuffs on

    The Government of Nunavut has jurisdiction over Health, Justice and Education in this territory, so I am confused why Aluki is targeting the Federal Government. Wasn’t the logic of Nunavut that giving effective control of this region to Inuit through their own government a way to ensure these issues, among others could be addressed? No one can implement change on any of these issues but the GN. A cynic might think this is a ploy for more funding for NTI. I wonder what their track record is like when it comes to cultural preservation initiatives and education?

    • Posted by Bemused on

      Because pointing the figure at the GN in regard to claiming discrimination against Inuit might be a tad awkward given that the premier and every minister is Inuit, 17 of the 20 MLAs in total are Inuit, and of the other 3, two of them are fluent in Inuktitut and grew up in Nunavut.

      • Posted by Golden Handcuffs on

        Exactly, a fight with the GN wouldn’t be taken to the UN, so it would lack the same emotion and headline appeal. Of course a whole different kind of argument would be needed, one less likely to fit the anti-racism ‘moment’ the world is having right now either. Timing is key, it would seem.

  2. Posted by Non-Profit? on

    I was lost at the part where NTI says they are a non-profit organization. Is that a joke?

    NTI’s philosophy is to live off of millions in annual interest on a billion dollar land claim settlement and basically give nothing to the majority of Inuit they represent (other than the upper class). NTI then periodically screams at government through the media to try extort more money. This looks like another example of the latter.

    Hopefully government has some spine and the taxpayers are protected from these theatrics going forward.

    • Posted by Larry on

      The government is paying for trying to educate the Inuit people in the past and now when they stay out of it they want the government to try again? Maybe if the people take on the job of teaching the language to their children then it would become the first language but education is not important to the vast majority of the Inuit people. All most all the educated Inuits have very good jobs in Nunavut or leave for a better life!

      • Posted by Encourage It on

        The simple fact is also that the successful folks are English or French and Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun bilingual. Monolingual Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun speakers have little economic future.

        This only makes sense, every Canadian needs to be able to speak one of the national languages, together with their regional or home tongue.

        The country has long worked that way, and it isn’t going to change.

        So, how do we encourage greater functional bilingualism of this sort? As has been said, the elite of Nunavut are fluently bilingual, how do we get more to be like that?

        • Posted by Language of Business on

          English is the global language of commerce. NTI fails to appreciate that living and working in a minority language spoken by less than 25000 people in Canada is not happening and is against inuit intetests. If you want inuit competing in the business world you need English language skills. Yes, learn inuktitut. Have more classes. Preserve the language. But the idea that you can exist independently in an English world and thrive is thinking like a child.

  3. Posted by Darek on

    How many millions will be spent on flights, meetings, lawyers, and lunches over discussions (and how much has been spent so far?) to fight a fight that alleges the Federal Government is not doing what, mostly, Provincial Governments have jurisdiction over elsewhere in Canada, and what the GN is responsible for in Nunavut.

    Millions that could build enough homes for how many?

    Then politicians wonder why people think they are useless.

  4. Posted by Get With The Program Folks – There Are Only Two Official Languages In This Country on

    What a joke and a complete waste of time. The federal government’s language delivery responsibilities are in the country’s official languages, that’s it.

    Why do so many in Nunavut have a hard time understanding this simple, and very long-standing fact?

    If people want services in a non-official language, then the local jurisdiction or organization can pay – very simple.

    If the Canadian government were going to provide essential services, it would be more sensible to provide them in major national non-official languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, Cantonese or Mandarin, etc. Hell, the GN can’t even provide timely services in Inuinnaqtun, why would we expect the feds to be able to do it?

    This is where NTI has an opportunity to step up and provide services for the community that needs these language services. Show us your sense of community engagement and responsibility!

  5. Posted by Thank you on

    I am very grateful to NTI for bringing the UN’s attention to the lack of Inuktitut services for the Inuktitut-speaking majority in Nunavut.

    Yes, the issues are complicated, and yes, health, justice and education are territorial jurisdiction, and yes, English and French are the official languages of Canada.

    But you know what? Having created a jurisdiction (Nunavut) where the majority are Inuktitut speakers, the federal government now has an obligation to help that jurisdiction flourish within the Canadian federation. And that means taking its head out of the sand and realizing that to meaningfully improve health, educational and justice outcomes in Nunavut, the federal government is going to need to support Inuktitut-language service provision in Nunavut.

    And that includes per capita funding for Inuktitut in Nunavut that is equitable, rather than giving 40 times more funding per capita to French in Nunavut than to Inuktitut.

    Thank you to everyone who believes in a better path. Qujannamiik.

    • Posted by Jessie Aokpic on

      Sorry but its a useless language and doesn’t help Canada, waste of federal tax dollars, the money Nunavut receives is already federal money as the taxes the territory brings in is only 1/100 of what the federal money is given. If you want the language than teach it yourselves to your children, its bad enough that most of your children do not want to learn it. Stop making excuses and blaming others as it is your own fault.

      • Posted by No Language Is Useless on

        No language is ‘useless’ and that is a harsh assessment. It is certainly true that unilingual Inuktitut speakers, as uniingual speakers of many languages face serious challenges in the Canadian and global environment. That in no way makes a language ‘useless’. I wouldn’t even argue that learning Klingon is useless.

        This is the way that it is, it doesn’t matter if your home language is Intuktitut, Gaelic (yes, these people do exist on the east coast) or Portuguese, (yes, these people also exist in this country) full ability in one of the national languages is a requirement.

      • Posted by Thank you on

        Honest question for you:
        – Do you want educational, health and justice outcomes in Nunavut to improve? If so, how do you see that happening without providing services in the language of the majority and per capita funding for Nunavut Inuktitut that is on par with funding for English and French in the territory?
        – Do you disagree with the findings of the Berger Inquiry on the importance of educating kids in the language that they actually speak? If so, can you point to studies which support your point of view?
        – Or is it that you are disengaged from the question of how to improve educational, health and justice outcomes in Nunavut and you think that it is not an issue that every Canadian should be concerned about?

        I am grateful to NTI for bringing this to the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and I hope that this spotlight on Canada will push the federal government to take seriously the evidence on the importance of Inuktitut as a cross-cutting health, educational and justice issue for Nunavut and, therefore, for Canada.

        • Posted by Laudable Goal, But… on

          Question for you, are you prepared to re-open the constitution and have another Meach Lake in your push to get another official language funded? That is what it will take.

          Other provinces and territories absolutely will not allow the creation of defacto third official language and will demand it be made de jure. Does Nunavut really want to get into those sorts of protracted constitutional negotiations? What are Nunavummiut willing to give up in these negotiations in order to get federal language funding?

          Fund Inuktitut and Innaquituin as much as you want, it is a laudable goal, but don’t ever look to Canadian taxpayer money to do it. Talk to the GN and the Inuit orgs, it is their responsibility. There is no will in this country (and make no mistake, this is would be a national issue, not merely regional) to fund and support a third quasi official language.

          • Posted by Thank you on

            I note that many commentators do not in fact respond to my questions about how they think education, health and justice can be meaningfully improved in Nunavut without delivering services in the majority language. Commentators are right to be worried about how taxpayer dollars are spent, but it is telling that they do not seem to be equally concerned about health, education and justice outcomes in Nunavut, which is part of Canada.

            We do not need to amend the Constitution to fund Inuktitut in Nunavut equitably. Under the Canada-Nunavut Agreement on French Services and Inuktut Language, the federal government spends 44 times per capita more on French in Nunavut than it does on Inuktut. It does not have to be this way. I am not making a legal argument that the Canadian government is legally obliged under domestic law to fund Nunavut Inuktitut equitably. I am making a moral argument that the government of Canada needs to walk the walk of human rights and provide critical services such as education in the language of the majority of Nunavummiut.

            I look forward to seeing what the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights thinks.

            • Posted by No Moniker on

              To Dear Thank you;
              In a way I think your response here is a bit of a strawman. There’s no argument against Inuktitut teaching or use here (granted, there are some ignorant comments). As I see it there is also no disputing that services in Inuktitut might have a beneficial impact.
              The real criticism and questions hinge on who is responsible for delivering those services. There are also questions about funding, and some skepticism whether the numbers you’ve used to compare French vs Inuktitut funding are an accurate reflection of reality. Some of the better critiques are below, I won’t rehash them, but if you would address them that would be helpful (see David regarding funding formula). There are also some very good points about NTI’s own role in the provision of cultural preservation initiatives (see Putuguk below).
              For example, you say you are making a moral argument that the government of Canada needs to “provide… education in the language of the majority of Nunavummiut.” Yet, it is clear to everyone that the provision of education falls on the territorial government. We also know the GN is funded by the government of Canada to do this. So, you must be saying that the funding that is provided is insufficient. Can you provide any details on how more funding would change things? It would also be interesting to know who would get the funding if it were provided, and what they would do with it that isn’t already being done, or how it might change what hasn’t been accomplished? As far as I can tell the arguments seem to boil down to a belief that French language is being funded at vastly higher levels and we want the same; though there are good questions about the accuracy of your formula. I’m sure we would all be interested in a more detailed response if possible.

            • Posted by David on

              I don’t think at all it is telling the way you think. It is very, very clear that the GN plans to chart it’s own course on these issues and wants an original plan. It is also clear that the opinions of non-Inuit are not very welcome. So I don’t believe you can read as much into this as you do, even if some of these comments are not that cordial.

              The entire funding argument baffles me. What French funding are you discussing? Other than the tiny French school in Iqaluit, that is legally required to provide K-12 education to the children of French speakers. what funding is there? That little school is super expensive to run and I have no doubt, is the most expensive education any student in Canada is receiving. But that is money spent on children’s education.

              I find the entire argument confusing, what am I missing?

              But your article states that funding is presently $15.8 million for 21,000 people. You seem to be saying that amount should be growing by 10 or 20 times. Astronomical money, by the way. But I don’t believe you are comparing apples to apples at all.

    • Posted by The Real Threatened Nunavut Language is Not Inuktitut on

      You know what, the federal government as no such obligation at all and you will hard pressed to convince other parts of Canada to support this initiative with their money for so little return.

      The ‘

      It is also very interesting to me that you only speak of Inuktitut and not Inuinnaqtun. Way to ignore the western part of the territory. No wonder so many are so resentful of people from Baffin Island. Speaking of the ‘majority of Inuktitut speakers’ and totally ignoring the real threatened language of Nunavut speaks volumes of your mindset.

  6. Posted by Are the N.T.I. serious ? on

    A lot of good comments here, well done.
    Will the N.T.I. ever change ?
    Inuktitut is the responsibility of the D.E.A’s in Nunavut for
    which they are well funded.
    Inuit beneficiaries should be getting way more from the
    It works both ways, beneficiaries should be sending letters
    and petitions to the U.N. for justice from N.T.I. who appear
    to look after themselves very well.
    We should all go for it guys.

    • Posted by Darek on

      Just a quick look at NTI financials (2018 were last ones posted online).

      For an organization (NTI) which invests over $1 Billion of it’s assets of $1.7 Billion in foreign currency investments (62% is invested in currency/stocks other than Canadian) I find that hypocrisy of whining that the Federal Govt not investing in the north quite funny when even NTI doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

      • Posted by Jeannie Me on

        NTI points the one finger but many are pointing back at themselves. where are all those millions going? how are they giving back to Inuit? In comparison, how are the salaries compared to equivalent positions in the community?

  7. Posted by Pickled Herring on

    Wow, some of these comments are just plain nasty.
    I’m a unilingual English speaker. I agree with and support Inuktitut education and preservation, and I believe it is important, not useless by any measure. I am also ashamed as an outsider to read such puerile and unreflective comments, presumably from other southerners. To those writing these; when people talk about a colonial mindset, this is what you have shown us.
    The question of funding seems a bit more complex to me than has been presented here. For example, when it is said that French is funded 40x more than Inuktitut I wonder at the formula being used. Does it account for federal monies poured into education including the College (for example, the NTEP program)? We know the GN is funded to provide education in Nunavut through transfers from the Federal government. It seems the issue is getting Inuktituk education off the ground is the issue, and I wonder if money is the real issue at all? What would more funding actually do? I admit I’m not privy to the numbers on per capita spending etc, but the way this has been framed feels like it may be a misrepresentation to me. These are sincere questions, not gratuitous, reactive criticisms.

    • Posted by Not just money on

      You have to ask yourself how any government can improve education in a language and language use when the culture refuses to take any responsibility itself. They offer free university, lodging, travel, childcare, training every sort of tutoring and help to Inuit to get a degree and start teaching Inuktitut. Guess what? Not enough take advantage and almost none of them stay to teach who go to university.
      Why strive to get a degree when you can earn over six figures answering a phone as a receptionist? Why be a teacher when if you have any level of post secondary you can earn mid six figures in management in government or with inuit orgs like NTI?
      Things are slowly changing but as many people have pointed out, NTI does literally nothing to assist Inuit besides rant and rave for more money. They do nothing to preserve language except sue government for money. It has settled claims but never uses the money for inuit. They invest it in foreign markets and grow the pot for a few and do not help the many. It is basically a caste system where a few rich families prosper and most others have no stake in NTI or its vast wealth.
      The government offers interpretation by police, court, hospitals and can offer inuit speaking services in almost every department to the public. What does NTI want? Teaching inuktitut to southerners is something NTI refuses to pay any funding from its settlement for training that was meant for this sort of thing.
      It is infuriating to see NTI behave like it has no responsibility or obligations under the land claim. I’m not going to read its rant but does it say anywhere that NTI has more to do itself? I doubt it. It actually is supposed to collaborate and work with government on all these issues, but it doesn’t spend a dime and staffs it’s operations almost entirely in Ottawa. Inuit need to vote in people who represent the majority and not the elite families who are holding them back.

    • Posted by David on

      I can explain 40 x funding to some extent.
      The Charter gives French language speakers the right to French education. Nunavut has a very small number of French speakers, and as a result the per capita cost is likely the most expensive education in Canada. Someone good at playing with number likely started by comparing the per capita cost of French students compared to Inuit students. But…. I don’t believe it ended there to get 40x.
      I am unsure what percentage of their day Inuit students spend in Inuktitut class. Likely no more than 20% for older students. Where French students are full time in French. This is likely where the outlandish number came from. Comparing the funding of full time students to part time students. IN the end you come up with 40x. I would call 40x the funding a very Trumpian statistic.

      What I find so interesting about it is, Inuktitut finding is a GN decision, but somehow this is the Federal government’s fault.

    • Posted by How Do You Know? on

      Other southerner? How do you know the poster is a southerner? Even if he or she were, it in no way matters, Canadians are free to be concerned at how their money is being spent, anywhere in the country.

  8. Posted by Putuguk on

    The only reason NTI exists is to protect and uphold the provisions of the Nunavut Agreement on behalf of Inuit.

    Well, lets see – Article 2 of the Nunavut Agreement indicates that the Crown is indemnified against any “actions, claims, demands, damages, costs or expenses, liability and entitlement, initiated” by Inuit against the Crown. Looks like NTI has just broke that.

    And, Article 32 of of the Nunavut Agreement provides the right of Inuit to “participate in the development of social and cultural policies, and in the design of social and
    cultural programs and services, including their method of delivery, within the
    Nunavut Settlement Area.” This is goes to the crux of the UN case. This is meant to be accomplished per 32.3.1 through a Nunavut Social Development Council. Well, NTI has dissolved the NSDC years ago.

    I think it is a legitimate question to ask why NTI is not following the Nunavut Agreement, and what role this plays in the deprivations Inuit face today.

  9. Posted by Northern Resident on

    Very disappointed and sad to read this article. Over the last few years the Federal government has gone the extra distance to try and remedy past wrongs and to fund projects in the territory that will benefit current and future generations. There will always be, more to do and never enough resources to solve all the issues raised. The Canadian government is not to blame here.

    In return the NTI has used it’s scarce funds and best efforts to showcase what it does best, whine and complain and before the United Nations no less! And about domestic issues!

    And what will this achieve. Has anyone thought about the consequences of this action? The UN cannot help Nunavut. All you have done is wasted your seat at the table to complain about issues your organization should be an expert in improving. Its an embarrassment.

    • Posted by Piitaqanngi on

      I agree with you that NTI could’ve done this domestically. The World doens’t care about our language, let alone our federal government. By using the all-encompassing word, ‘Inuktut’ it doesn’t deal with specific Inuit languages nor does it indicate where the language is weak. Inuktitut is strong. Other dialiects, not sure. If I was to push my Inuktitut language rights to the Western Arctic, it wouldn’t be reflective of the Inuinnaqtun needs nor Inuvialuktun.
      If NTI really want’s to improve our lanuage, it needs to start focussing on local Inuit language needs, i.e., Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, Inuvialuktun, etc. By continuing to use, ‘Inuktun’ it is not advancing Inuit language needs. NTI: start focussing on local dialectal needs rather than treating them as one language. If the North had one language or dialect, then we can start using that awful word to our advantage. The way I see it, by continuing to use the word, it is inconducive to the advancement of the Inuit language.

  10. Posted by Qanuqtauq on

    NTI? What is NTI? No presents in my region.

    When will you start addressing the need to help with Inuinnaqtun other then to state to let it die a natural death as per your staff member laptop work on Canadian North in December bound for Ottawa.

  11. Posted by Still Wondering? on

    As many have already mentioned, what has NTI accomplished in recent years with the hundreds of millions that they have already received from the federal gov’t for training Inuit? What practical solutions has NTI offered or even more unlikely, actually implemented, towards training and language preservation…..Aluki has fallen into the same traps as previous “leaders” ? …disappointing for sure….

  12. Posted by Evidence of the Thomas Berger Inquiry on

    Alas, too many comments on this thread are based on anecdotal evidence.

    The Conciliator’s Final Report of the Berger Inquiry, although published in 2006, continues to provide a clear, evidence-based argument as to why the federal government needs to work with the territory and NTI to ensure Inuktitut-language services for the majority Inuktitut-speaking population of Nunavut. Providing services in the language of the majority is key to increasing graduation rates and improving governance, health and justice in the territory.

    I encourage commentators to read the Report in its entirety, and I also hope that it will be put before the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for their consideration.

    With regards to the issue of inequitable federal funding for the majority language of Nunavut, please see p. 38 of the Report:

    “The Official Languages Act is an expression of policy – a policy favouring English and French. But nothing in the Constitution or the Official Languages Act prevents Canada, as a matter of policy, from supporting a territorial initiative favouring Inuktitut. As a result of its dual-language policy, the federal government subsidizes the teaching of French as a second language in schools in the provinces and the territories.

    In Nunavut the fruits of this policy can today be observed. There are approximately 400 Francophones in the territory, concentrated in the capital, Iqaluit. With federal funding the local Francophone community has built a $5 million dollar school, where French is the language of instruction. Class sizes average six students. All of this was made possible under section 23 of the Charter of Rights. In addition, the federal government provides $4 million a year to promote the use of French in Nunavut.

    The Inuit receive $1 million a year to promote the use of their language.
    This is not to make invidious comparisons. But it shows what can be done to strengthen a minority language.”

    • Posted by Pickled Herring on

      Interesting report, though it suggests that the GN puts approx. 7.5 million directly into Inuktitut language training (p. 31), though this number is obviously a bit dated. I wonder what it is today? It also urges a broad spectrum of locally based initiatives to preserve Inuktitut; for example, “language nests” which would involve Inuktitut speaking (or bilingual? it doesn’t say, I bring this up because Berger is adamant that bilingual training is the desired path) daycare and pre-school, and greater efforts at teacher training.
      Toward these ends, and echoing Putuguk above, I suggest that NTI take a hard look at its own obligations toward language and cultural preservation under section 32 of the NLCA and re-instate the Nunavut Social Development Council, which was tasked to provide Inuit “the right… to participate in the development of social and cultural policies, and in the design of social and cultural programs and services, including their method of delivery, within the Nunavut Settlement Area.” It was also designed to “report to the federal government annually and to make recommendations on health, social, cultural and housing issues.” (see:

      So, what happened to the NSDC? It was scrapped under Cathy Towtongie, at which point NTI proclaimed it would take up and report on the same worked tasked to the council. Has it done that?
      If you care about the preservation of Inuit language and culture you should know this history. You might also want to press NTI on where its annual reports are and what it has done to accomplish the goals of the NSDC, mindful of the fact that the NSDC is an organization ENSHRINED IN THE NUNAVUT LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT. Think about the implications of this, and how NTI has not only been derelict in its duties to the Inuit of Nunavut, but has also chosen to ignore the NLCA. The entire purpose of NTI is to ensure the agreement is followed!
      So, if successful in its mission to get more funding for Inuktitut the question we should ask is who will get those funds, and how to they intend to use them? Should we trust NTI to look after this mandate? It seems history provides a resounding answer to that question.

    • Posted by Again What is NTI Doing on

      The Berger report says “…nothing less than the full involvement of all partners at all levels of the education system will be sufficient.”
      You have had pretty much every commenter on this article beg the question: what is NTI doing to resolve the issue? We also know that the answer is not anecdotal, but objective, that NTI only complains, sues, and goes to the media every few years seeking more money. Going to the UN is the same play they always make.
      NTI literally appears to do nothing with the money to further Inuktitut objectives. Are they building houses for less privielged Inuit? No. Are they providing any meaningful funding to Inuit? No. Are they giving grants to the GN to further learning Inuktitut? No.
      If there is a case for anything here, it is that the GN needs to be better funded to carry out the tasks delegated to it by Canada.

    • Posted by David on

      . In addition, the federal government provides $4 million a year to promote the use of French in Nunavut.
      What does promote the use mean?

      I think that is the french school’s budget myself. If not, where does the french school receive funding ? The GN doesn’t cover it.

      As per a link above, the Federal government gives Nunavut $15.8 mill over the next 4 years for promotion of Inuktitut. $1 mill annually is incorrect.

  13. Posted by Where are the Inuk teachers? on

    If the NTI want Inuktitut taught in the classrooms they need to focus on getting children to grade 12. There are no Inuk teachers with the qualifications to teach beyond elementary school in my area.

Comments are closed.