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.
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
- Participants emphasized that the Arctic Policy Framework must be centred on pressing social issues such as suicide, mental health, alcoholism and addiction, the erosion of language and culture, and the multifaceted legacy of colonialism.
- Participants urged the federal government to actively take into account the priorities and strategic direction provided by regional strategies, notably the Parnasimautik consultation report spearheaded by many of the Nunavik organizations present at the roundtable.
- Participants emphasized that the drafting of the Arctic Policy Framework has to be done with Nunavik Inuit and the people of the Arctic.
- Participants stressed the importance of active involvement of the Government of Quebec in discussions regarding the Arctic Policy Framework.
- Participants noted that they wish to play a continued role in the co-development of a new Arctic Policy Framework for Canada.
- Multiple references were made to Mary Simon's report, A new Shared Arctic Leadership Model, and particularly Ms. Simon's emphasis on education.
- Participants emphasized that the framework should not just reflect Canada's domestic and international objectives, but also those of Inuit and Quebec as well.
- Participants stated that the framework should be co-developed with Indigenous and provincial partners, and not solely with the territorial governments. The framework should also encompass other Canadian provinces with links to the Arctic.
- Participants felt that per capita spending models do not make sense in an Arctic context.
- Participants discussed formula financing agreements with the province, noting their concern that funds disappear in the course of intergovernmental transfers before reaching Northerners and their communities.
- Participants strongly advocated for governments to stop referring to jurisdictional issues as a justification for inaction.
- The question of Inuit living in urban regions, and their place in the Arctic Policy Framework, was raised. It was pointed out that more than one quarter of Canada's Inuit population live in urban areas outside of Inuit Nunangat.
- Participants called for greater engagement at the community level on initiatives such as the Arctic Policy Framework.
- Participants emphasized that Nunavik Inuit are a distinct people and will pursue relationships with both the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec.
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.
- 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 is a priority. Participants expressed a desire to move the Avataq Cultural Institute from their offices in Montreal to Nunavik.
- 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
- Some participants called for communities to be engaged with at the grass-roots level in the development of the Arctic Policy Framework.
- One participant expressed concerned about seeing Inuit grouped under the broader term "Arctic people" in this theme.
- Participants believed that more can be achieved through increased collaboration between Nunvaik Inuit and the federal and provincial governments.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Participants noted that strong participation in the economy will not be a reality for Nunavik Inuit until there is social change.
- Northerners feel they do not have access to the same opportunities as other Canadians.
- Funding support for regional media, such as regional television and radio, is still at the same level it was decades ago.
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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Participants noted that Canada can only be a leader in the global Arctic context through the leadership of its Inuit and Indigenous peoples.
- Participants noted the Government of Canada's recent efforts to communicate its commitment to reconciliation to international audiences, notably Prime Minister Trudeau's address to the 2017 United Nations General Assembly and Minister Bennett's address at the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik. While the good intentions of the Prime Minister and Minister Bennett were acknowledged, participants felt that positive rhetoric has yet to be transformed into action.
- Participants stated that Inuit participate in international conferences partly because they feel their voice is still not being heard by their government and governments abroad. Participants emphasized that there needs to be more work done to ensure that the issues vocalized by Inuit internationally are translated into concrete actions by the federal government. Canada's support for Inuit leadership and participation in the international arena also advances the reconciliation agenda.
- Participants often referenced opportunities for bilateral cooperation, in terms of lessons learned from other Arctic states.
- Participants discussed the issues of Inuit homelessness and children in care in a circumpolar context, noting that these social challenges are a reality in many Arctic countries.
- One participant called for the establishment of a treaty for the Arctic that is similar to the Antarctic Treaty.
- Participants questioned whether it was premature to discuss how the international dimension of the Arctic Policy Framework can advance the domestic Arctic agenda, since communities, provincial, territorial and the federal government are still working to define domestic priorities.
- Participants argued that Canada's identity as an Arctic state is based on the presence of Northern Indigenous communities whose use and occupancy of the region supports Canada's Arctic sovereignty. Given the geopolitical and strategic importance Canada places on being a prominent member of the Arctic community, participants felt that the federal government should be mindful of this debt to Northern Indigenous communities.
- Participants discussed a circumpolar education program being run by Kativik Ilisarniliriniq (School Board of Nunavik), and noted that it could be further strengthened.