Why Inuit should be exempted from the gun law


Equality and exemption for Inuit were brought up by Tanis Fiss of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation on CBC radio on Friday, Aug. 11.

Why should the Inuit be treated differently from the rest of Canadians?

Let’s talk about equality first. Inuit have been mistreated since democracy arrived in the North. If we were treated as equal to the rest of Canada, we would have no housing problem. The housing in this harsh territory is outrageous, with overcrowding and very few houses being built in each community of Nunavut.

The rents range from $32 per month up to, in some cases, $4000 per month. For those people who rely on income support (social assistance), their income support is way too low.

If you don’t know it, a family usually has at least between six to 10 people living under one roof.

Those who are fortunate to be in the work force know jobs are very limited in most remote communities. The majority of their income goes to rent and leaves them with hardly any money to buy nutritious food.

So they, in turn, go out hunting over the weekend to support their families.

Health issues are among the biggest concerns throughout Nunavut. Our nurses are being burned out from over-work and living with a completely different culture.

Although there are a number of things I could write about equality, I’d like to get back to why Inuit should be treated differently, by exempting them from the gun control law.

I fully agree with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., not because I’m a beneficiary, but because I care about my fellow Inuit.

Yes, it’s true that we used different methods for hunting for thousands of years. When Qallunaat introduced guns to Inuit, we only used them for the purpose of hunting wild game such as caribou, polar bears, seals, walruses, beluga and narwhal and everything that is edible. Most Inuit, at least 80 per cent of the population in Nunavut, are full-time hunters, because it’s their only means of eating meat.

Let’s face it, education was not introduced to us until the late 1950s, and in some areas not until the early 1960s. For those who have never entered education systems, it is very difficult for them to get into the work force.

So, they hunt for themselves and for their extended family. I can only see that it’s their way of life. The only life they know is to hunt and feed their families and those who are widowed or elderly. If you can only understand the hardship we have to go through.

In some remote communities there is only one store with no competition, so the stores can skyrocket their prices.

If you don’t know, we rely on aircraft to bring in meat and fresh produce, but the majority of the time, what the merchants call “fresh produce” is rotten when it eventually gets into a community.

Our weather is a factor most of the time, with very thick fogs in springtime, very heavy snow in the fall, and blizzards and white-outs in the winter. Believe me, the beef, pork, chicken and other meats are very expensive.

We envy people living down south, because they are able to get fresh meat at different kinds of stores. We have to settle for frozen meat, bought with our last dollar. If you can afford it, you can order fresh meat from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, but that is not the case for Inuit.

These are different factors and obstacles we have to go through, trying to survive in this harsh, unforgiving land. Those who do not believe me should come up to one of the most remote communities and find out for themselves what it’s really like and not take things for granted.

We Inuit hunt for food and consume practically everything that is harvested, unlike people from down south who only do sport hunting – their only interest is to get the biggest bulls with the biggest antlers, and so on.

We use all the caribou meat and the antlers are usually carved by the carvers for very little income. Inuit respect their rifles and will not use them until they are out hunting.

After the scare of mad cow disease, and not knowing where the meat was coming from, we were reluctant to buy meat from the only one store or two stores, so we hunted more caribou, knowing that the meat is good.

We eat caribou in a variety of ways, frozen raw, cooked, dried, or raw and freshly killed. The only thing in a caribou we don’t eat is the intestines and bones. Any country food is the best.

I myself have tried eating frozen beef before, but it does not beat caribou meat by a long shot.

I’m 100 per cent Inuk and most proud of it. Inuit are very proud of our culture and we don’t want to lose our traditional hunting rights now or ever.

Johnny Ayaruaq

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