Inuit are the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The word Inuit means "the people" in the Inuit language of Inuktut. The singular of Inuit is Inuk.
Inuit population and language
Many Inuit in Canada live in 53 communities across the northern regions of Canada in Inuit Nunangat, which means "the place where Inuit live."
Inuit Nunangat is comprised of four regions:
- Inuvialuit (NWT and Yukon)
- Nunavik (Northern Quebec)
- Nunatsiavut (Labrador)
In total, approximately 64,235 Inuit live in Canada.
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Throughout Inuit Nunangat, Inuktut is spoken; however, each region has its own dialect(s). There are two written styles of Inuktut: syllabics and roman orthography.
Syllabics use symbols to represent sounds rather than letters. Roman orthography uses the English alphabet to sound out the words in Inuktut.
Nanilavut: Let's find them
Tuberculosis in Canada was at epidemic proportions in the early twentieth century and peaked between the 1940s and 1960s. A significant number of Inuit were affected and sent away from their communities to undergo treatment.
Many patients were treated and returned home. Others succumbed to the illness and were buried in cemeteries near the treatment facilities.
To right historical wrongs, in 2010 the Government of Canada established a working group at the request of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which includes:
- all Inuit Land Claim holders
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
- the Government of Nunavut
- the Government of the Northwest Territories
- Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
- Health Canada
This group is called Nanilavut, which means "let's find them" in Inuktut.
Through the guidance of the Nanilavut working group, comprehensive research was undertaken on finding Inuit lost loved ones from the past tuberculosis epidemic and a database is being finalized containing records of those that were sent away for medical treatment during the epidemic. The Government of Canada is working in partnership with Inuit leadership on the Nanilavut initiative in order to properly address this historical wrong.
In February 2017, the Prime Minister signed a declaration to create the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, which advances the shared priorities of Inuit and the Government of Canada. Canada is working through the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee to finalize the federal response to Nanilavut to help bring closure and begin the healing process for families and communities.
Building Inuit economic success, including art
According to the 2016 Census, the Inuit population is young, with a median age of 24. The Government of Canada has several programs and initiatives to help young Inuit fully participate in the Canadian economy.
The First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment Strategy supports initiatives that provide Inuit and First Nations youth with work experience, information about career options and opportunities to develop skills that help them gain employment and develop careers.
The Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development was launched in 2009 to guide federal actions towards increasing the participation of Inuit, First Nations and Métis in the Canadian economy. This was followed by the Strategic Partnerships Initiative, in 2010, which helps to increase Aboriginal participation in complex economic opportunities.
As well, Inuit in Nunavut are currently participating in the construction of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station. More than 65% of the construction packages have been awarded so far to Inuit-owned or Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. registered firms.
The arts are a vital element of Inuit culture and traditions. Cape Dorset in Nunavut is known as the "Capital of Inuit Art" and one out of five workers here are employed in the arts.
For decades, Inuit art has played an integral role in the Northern economy and contributed millions of dollars to the regional economy.
In July 2017, the Government of Canada officially transferred the responsibility for the management of the Igloo Tag trademark to the Inuit Art Foundation (IAF). This decision was taken after extensive consultations with members of the Inuit art industry. The objective of this transfer is to increase the Inuit art community’s ability to regulate art in a way that benefit Inuit artists and help preserve the values of Inuit cultural heritage for generations to come.
The IAF supports Inuit artists and the development and appreciation of Inuit art and promotes Inuit artists from all four northern regions (Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut) in Canada and internationally.
INAC has developed a comprehensive analysis of the Inuit arts economy (i.e. fine arts, music, film, theatre and other forms). The study includes a full economic analysis of the Inuit arts economy in each of the four Inuit regions, as well as southern Canada. It will inform policy development to better support Inuit arts and artists in Canada.
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Devolution and land claims agreements in Inuit Nunangat
Northern governance and placing more control into the hands of Northerners have been a major part of Canada's Northern Strategy.
Inuit land claims agreements have been signed in all four Inuit regions:
- The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in Nunavik in 1975
- The Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act in Inuvialuit in 1984
- The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act in Nunavut in 1993
- The Land Claims Agreement between the Inuit of Labrador and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Newfoundland and Labrador and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada in Nunatsiavut in 2005
Under their respective land claims agreements, Inuit were granted title to certain blocks of land. The four land claims regions cover about 40 per cent of Canada's land mass.
- Under the Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act, Inuvialuit of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region [pdf], have title to approximately 91,000 square kilometres of land.
- Under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, Inuit in Nunavut have title to 352,191 square kilometres of land.
- Inuit of Nunavik have title to 8,152 square kilometres of land and exercise some rights over 992,307.58 square kilometres of land. They also have title to approximately 5,100 square kilometres of land on the islands in the Nunavik marine region.
- Under the Land Claims Agreement between the Inuit of Labrador and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Newfoundland and Labrador and Her Majesty the Queen in Right Canada, Inuit of Nunatsiavut have title to approximately 15,800 square kilometres of land within the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area and rights over 72,520 square kilometres of land in northern Labrador.
Government of Canada's apology for the Inuit High Arctic relocation
In August 2010, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development apologized to Inuit families who were relocated in the 1950s to the High Arctic. During these relocations, Inuit families from Port Harrison (Inukjuak) in Northern Québec and Pond Inlet in Nunavut were moved to the High Arctic communities of Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord (Craig Harbour) in Nunavut.
Inuit who were relocated had to adapt to colder climates and longer periods of total light or darkness. Inuit were separated from home communities and extended family were not provided with adequate shelter and supplies and were not properly informed of where they would be located or for how long.
The 2010 apology helped Inuit affected by the relocation continue to move towards healing and reconciliation.
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Learn more about community driven efforts that improve the lives of Inuit individuals, families and communities.
INAC negotiates and implements Acts, agreements, treaties and land claims on behalf of the Government of Canada. The department is also responsible for fulfilling obligations in historic treaties. Strong partnerships among Indigenous peoples, governments and the private sector continue to emerge as we address outstanding land claims and treaty issues and work toward self-government.
INAC works with Inuit organizations, and territorial and provincial governments to build social well-being, economic prosperity and healthy communities for the Inuit of Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. This includes support for the Nunavik Housing Policy and coordinating the Nunatsiavut Housing Needs Assessment (issues that are outside of negotiated land claims agreements and are not covered through on-reserve housing policies and programs).
INAC promotes circumpolar cooperation and plays a role in the Arctic Council.
INAC partners with many Inuit organizations, including: