Arctic Policy Framework regional roundtable session: Kuujjuaq, October 30 to 31, 2017

This is a summary of the Arctic Policy Framework regional roundtable held in Kuujjuaq, Quebec on October 30-31, 2017.

ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ

Participants

Representatives from the Nunavik region gathered on October 30 to 31, 2017, at the Makivik Corporation boardroom in Kuujjuaq to discuss the Arctic Policy Framework. Participants included representatives from Makivik Corporation, the Kativik Regional Government, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq (School Board of Nunavik), Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, the Avataq Cultural Institute, the Qarjuit Youth Council, the Nunavik Landholding Corporation Association, Taqramiut Nipingat Incorporated, Nunavik Mineral Exploration Fund, the Government of Quebec and a number of federal departments. To protect the privacy of participants, the names of individuals are not disclosed, except where permission to be quoted has been obtained.

Overarching themes and messages for the framework

Comprehensive Arctic infrastructure

Social infrastructure and education

  • Participants emphasized the primacy of social infrastructure, including medical infrastructure, support for housing, child and youth services (including innovative approaches to enable children to be cared for by their community rather than being placed into youth protection outside of the community).
  • Participants discussed the need for access to higher learning opportunities, including the possibility of a Nunavik-based university or Arctic university.
  • There is a need for increased broadband access and connectivity. Current levels of internet access create a barrier to e-learning.
  • The lack of services and infrastructure in place to support youth place them in a vulnerable situation.
  • There is an interest in developing mixed-purpose community facilities, but a lack of government support for these initiatives have stalled or derailed previous efforts.

Innovative approaches

  • Participants noted a need for innovative approaches to building infrastructure, and described how governments too often insist on inflexible models that do not take into account local realities and priorities.
  • Participants stated that interest among some Nunavik communities in producing their own energy has run up against Hydro-Québec's monopoly over energy.
  • Public–private partnerships and other innovative approaches to infrastructure financing are not new to the Nunavik region.

Cultural infrastructure

  • Cultural infrastructure is a priority. Participants expressed a desire to move the Avataq Cultural Institute from their offices in Montreal to Nunavik.

Marine infrastructure

  • Participants called for improved ports and ice-breaking ships to extend Nunavik's shipping season. Participants noted that Northern retailers have to spend a great deal of money on storage for periods when the shipping season is over. Year-round shipping would free up this cost for retailers.

Strong Arctic people and communities

Reconciliation and the legacy of colonialism

  • Implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be one of the outcomes under this theme.
  • The legacy of colonialism is still alive. One participant felt that many Nunavik Inuit have been made to feel ashamed to be Indigenous, including some elders. This participant described how this legacy of colonialism prevents meaningful relationships between generations.

Social challenges

  • Communities suffer from a lack of emergency services in the region, particularly given the reality of widespread alcohol-related incidents.
  • Alcohol-related challenges disproportionately impact Inuit in the region, compared to others living in Nunavik. This has led to a widespread criminalization of Nunavik Inuit through interaction with the criminal justice system due to alcohol-related incidents.
  • Criminal records prevent many from accessing jobs.
  • Suicide has become an everyday reality for communities in Nunavik.
  • Participants expressed concern over a lack of government support for the region's home ownership program.
  • Participants described the centrality of country food to Inuit culture, and the negative impact that losing access to country food has had on the sense of wellbeing among many Nunavik Inuit.
  • Participants pointed to the success of hunter support programming.

Greater collaboration and flexibility required

  • Participants noted the need for increased collaboration between governments to address interjurisdictional challenges that impact the delivery of services such as health care.
  • Participants described challenges they face in gaining access to federal funding, including burdensome application procedures. Participants were also concerned that funding becomes lost as it travels through various levels of government before actually reaching those people who need it.
  • Most Nunavik organizations receive funding from both the federal and provincial governments, but there are very few mechanisms where all parties can sit together and discuss mutual challenges.

Distinctive approaches for elders and youth

  • In supporting Arctic residents, there needs to be specific forms of support in response to distinctive needs, such as the needs of youth and elders.
  • Participants called for greater support for elders. Elders often provide childcare and help hold families together. Elders are also a vital link with traditional ways of life, including hunting. However, elders are also a vulnerable population. They are often dependent on a limited government pension, and in some cases suffer from forms of abuse.

Education

  • As noted in the Mary Simon report, education is central to responding to social challenges. Participants stated that the federal government has a major role to play in this field by supporting social infrastructure, skills development and early learning.

Language and culture

  • Participants expressed concern over the erosion of Inuit language and culture in the region.
  • Greenland has been successful in promoting art and music in their curriculum, which has supported a vibrant Inuit cultural presence throughout Greenland.
  • Participants emphasized the barriers Nunavik Inuit face in accessing funds to support their language and culture.
  • Participants noted a desire to repatriate the large number of cultural objects from the region that are currently stored in major museums around the world. Due to a lack of resources, Nunavik Inuit are not in a position to build the specialized storage facilities needed to house these items.

Strong, sustainable and diversified Arctic economies

Inuit leadership in the regional economy

  • Participants described the challenge that arises when beneficiaries lend their name to southern companies that operate in the region, allowing these companies to claim that they are an "Aboriginal"/local business.
  • Participants emphasized the importance of Inuit involvement in the economic development of the Nunavik region, including through Inuit control over mineral exploration and development.
  • Participants felt that more job opportunities should be prioritized for Inuit.

Economic leakage

  • Participants were concerned over the phenomenon of Northern resources leaving the region with little economic benefit to Northerners. These forms of "economic leakage" extend not only to extractive industries, but also to the funds that leave the region when residents are required to travel south to seek medical treatment. Some participants emphasized that regional health centres would help keep resources in the region.
  • Participants noted that economic leakage is a reality in the public sector as well as in the private sector, arguing that the design of transportation subsidies for programs such as the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program actually strengthen southern-based health care services rather support the development of increased health services in the North.

Capacity building

  • Participants described how Nunavik has seen a large influx of southern workers coming into the region in recent years because of a need for qualified and skilled workers, and stated that Nunavik Inuit should have access to these jobs in their own communities. Greater support for education and skills development is key to making this happen.
  • Participants expressed interest in seeing greater support for internship opportunities for youth from companies operating in the region.
  • One participant described how Inuit who have been incarcerated return to society with strong technical training. As this participant noted, "Inuit are good with their hands. We need these opportunities before people get to jail."

Innovation

  • Northerners often have to purchase vehicles and equipment from the south that are not suitable for the Arctic environment. The creation of innovation centres in the region could attract multinational companies to develop and test Arctic/cold-climate technologies.

Intellectual/cultural property rights

  • Participants expressed an interest in the potential of collective intellectual/cultural property rights, which would allow Inuit to benefit from the use of their cultural symbols such as the igloo and the Inukshuk.
  • Participants described the forms of cultural appropriation which take advantage of Inuit culture without any benefit to Inuit, such as cheap, mass-produced Inukshuks that are manufactured abroad and sold throughout Canada.

Culture and tourism opportunities

  • Participants described how Indigenous artists and businesses would benefit from increased access to trade and the global market. It was noted, however, that the lack of connectivity in the region prevents local artists and craftspeople from reaching international markets.
  • Inuit culture and tourism were identified as potential areas for growth, though participants also expressed caution regarding the number of tourists that the region is able to absorb.
  • A Nunavik-based cultural centre was seen as a potential attraction for tourism, raising again the issue of repatriating Nunavik artifacts from international museums.
  • The example of the Inuit teas created by Avataq Cultural Institute and displayed in Canada House in the United Kingdom was raised to demonstrate the ways in which Inuit culture is successfully used to showcase Canada internationally.

Arctic science and Indigenous Knowledge /protecting the environment and conserving Arctic biodiversity

Energy

  • Makivik Corporation and other organizations in the Nunavik region are active in exploring alternatives to diesel. Transitioning Nunavik communities to green energy will require cooperation between levels of government to identify the right systems for an Arctic environment.
  • Participants noted that there is an opportunity for Nunavik Inuit to sell energy to Hydro-Québec.

Northern research institutes and networks

  • Participants noted the significant work being undertaken by the Nunavik Research Centre, established and supported by Makivik Corporation.
  • Participants expressed concern that the new Insitute nordique du Québec has not sufficiently engaged with local leadership, and were critical of the establishment of a research centre devoted to Northern Quebec that is located outside of the region.
  • Participants called for increased research in the social sciences to support communities in taking a proactive approach to social challenges.
  • Participants emphasized the importance of building local capacity in the region, and of making scientific research networks devoted to Northern research, such as ArcticNet, more relevant to local communities.

Communities and research

  • Participants wished to see greater opportunities for monitoring of local contaminates and pollutants.
  • Participants discussed the issue of "research fatigue" in local communities, noting many cases of local residents assisting in the research and training of doctoral candidates and never receiving credit for it.
  • Participants emphasized the need for a new approach for communicating research results back to communities.
  • Participants expressed a desire to see previous research on the region returned to the region for local use.

Inuit leadership in research

  • Participants called for local ownership of data collected in the region, pointing to the Inuit Health Survey as an example.
  • Participants were critical of the level of financial support provided by the Government of Canada for the last iteration of the Inuit Health Survey, and called for greater support in future.
  • The lack of Inuit presence on the ethics boards of major research agencies was noted.

Climate change

  • Climate change adaptation, and its relationship to a broad range of social challenges and other issues, was discussed. As one participant noted, "People ask us about how we adapt to coming changes, but the answer is: we need to be healthy now – we can't adapt to the future if we're not adapted to the present."
  • The impacts of climate change on local wildlife and traditional harvesting were noted.

Biodiversity

  • Participants expressed concern over the introduction of species from one Northern region into another with what they characterized as little concern over the impact upon local ecosystems. The example of muskox relocated to Northern Quebec was pointed to.

Indigenous Knowledge

  • Participants discussed persistent challenges around the integration of science and Indigenous Knowledge, expressing frustration that governments and researchers have not made more progress in recent decades beyond paying "lip service" to the importance of integrating the two bodies of knowledge.
  • Participants pointed to wildlife boards in the North as forums that have effectively made use of both science and Indigenous Knowledge.
  • Participants emphasized the need to use both streams of knowledge on their own terms, rather than simply using Indigenous Knowledge to bolster scientific findings.
  • Participants called for increased Indigenous Knowledge capacity in governments, noting that in many cases it is government scientists who are asked to assess the value of Indigenous Knowledge.
  • Participants were critical of what they saw as a lack of transparency around the use of Indigenous Knowledge in decisions made by governments.
  • Participants noted the importance of Inuit governance of the region, including over the harvesting of local marine mammals such as beluga.
  • The importance of Indigenous Knowledge being taken into consideration by environmentalists was emphasized during the discussion.
  • Participants noted that increased investment in broadband and connectivity could enhance the access of Northerners to research and Indigenous Knowledge resources.

The Arctic in a global context

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