Inuit are Indigenous people of the Arctic. The word Inuit means "the people" in the Inuit language of Inuktut. The singular of Inuit is Inuk.
On this page
- Inuit population and language
- Nanilavut: Let's find them
- Building Inuit economic success, including art
- Devolution and land claims agreements in Inuit Nunangat
- Government of Canada's apology for the Inuit High Arctic relocation
- Government of Canada's apology to Qikiqtani Inuit
- Success stories
- The department's role
Inuit population and language
Many Inuit in Canada live in 51 communities across the northern regions of Canada in Inuit Nunangat, which means "the place where Inuit live."
Inuit Nunangat is comprised of 4 regions:
- Inuvialuit (Northwest Territories and Yukon)
- Nunavik (Northern Quebec)
- Nunatsiavut (Labrador)
In total, approximately 64,235 Inuit live in Canada.
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Inuktut is spoken throughout Inuit Nunangat, and each region has its own dialects. 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 20th 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
- the Government of 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 was created 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 (ICPC), which advances the shared priorities of Inuit and the Government of Canada. Canada is working through the ICPC to finalize the federal response to Nanilavut to help bring closure and begin the healing process for families and communities.
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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 Indigenous participation in complex economic opportunities.
As well, Inuit in Nunavut participated in the construction of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station. The station's design was developed through the Inuit Quajimajatuqangit approach, which articulates the pillars of traditional Inuit knowledge.
The arts are a vital element of Inuit culture and traditions. Cape Dorset in Nunavut is known as the "Capital of Inuit Art" and 1 out of 5 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.
CIRNAC has developed a comprehensive analysis of the Inuit arts economy, such as 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 are major parts of Canada's Arctic and Northern Policy.
Inuit land claims agreements have been signed in all 4 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, 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 former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians 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 or 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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Government of Canada's apology to Qikiqtani Inuit
In August 2019, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations apologized to Qikiqtani Inuit for effects of federal policies undertaken in the Qikiqtani region from 1950 to 1975.
During this time, the Government of Canada enacted colonial policies which had deep and lasting effects for Inuit in the Qikiqtani region. Actions during this period included forced relocation and family separation, the killing of qimmiit (sled dogs) essential for travel and food security in the Arctic and other assimulitative actions.
These policies and their effects were outlined by the Qikiqtani Truth Commission. The commission was independent of the Government of Canada and sought to bring a voice to Qikiqtani Inuit.
The official apology represents the cumulative work of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and the Government of Canada. Guided by the commission's findings, this apology seeks to help Inuit affected by these policies 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.
The department's role
CIRNAC 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.
CIRNAC 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.
CIRNAC promotes circumpolar cooperation and plays a role in the Arctic Council.
CIRNAC partners with many Inuit organizations, including:
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