Arctic Policy Framework regional roundtable session: Inuvik, November 9, 2017

This is a summary of the Arctic Policy Framework regional roundtable discussion in Inuvik, Northwest Territories on November 9, 2017.

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The summary captures comments raised by participants in the discussion.

The views raised in the discussion are those of various participants and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada.


The roundtable discussion included senior officials from the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Joint Secretariat responsible for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region's co-management boards.

Overarching themes and messages from the roundtable

Comprehensive Arctic infrastructure

Strong Arctic people and communities

Mental health

  • The legacy of colonization and the destruction of a sense of purpose and meaning continues to impact communities, particularly Inuit men who would have traditionally taken on roles as harvesters
    • One participant described how many of the activities women continued to do in the period following contact with Europeans were related to their traditional roles, which was not the case for men
  • Three major priorities that would be pursued if adequate funding were available:
    • an addictions treatment centre for the region
    • a wellness centre with community-level, wrap-around services for families
    • on-the-land programming
  • One participant said on-the-land programming provides a calm space for people to leave behind their stressors for a time and to begin thinking about how to improve their lives
  • The region lacks mental health services
    • In the education system teaching staff are often left to grapple with challenges they are not trained to respond to
    • A wellness centre would be an asset in responding to these problems
  • One participant felt that some communities have responded better to mental health challenges than others, arguing that: "Communities need to step up. Some communities do; other communities are still hiding and bottling it up" 


  • Participants discussed challenges in education
    • One participant described current situation as a "crisis," noting a 20-year gap in outcomes that is "widening all the time"
    • This is an essential service, the participant underscored, going on to say that the standard is not being met
    • All Canadians have a right to education
    • There is no reason why small communities should be left behind
  • Kindergarten-to-grade-12 education should be a central part of the Arctic Policy Framework, participants said
    • If strong Arctic people and communities are a major concern of the Arctic Policy Framework, one participant said, then the Government of Canada needs to become involved in education
    • While education falls under territorial jurisdiction, participants noted the Government of Canada's commitment in the Inuit Nunangat Declaration to addressing social gaps
    • One participant said the federal position that education is "not under our jurisdiction" is a "colonial" stance, and described the major challenges Indigenous organizations have faced in participating substantively in the education system
    • Getting statistics on education from the territorial government has been a major hurdle, the participant said
  • There are challenges with school attendance and the practice known as "social passing" is not working
    • Students are promoted to next grade-level to keep them with peers
    • This happens even if they aren't academically prepared for next grade
    • Many students graduate high school, but don't have skills for post-secondary education
    • This leads to major frustration among high school graduates who have to go back to school to upgrade their qualifications
  • Inuvialuit Regional Corporation efforts to address low graduation and attendance rates:
    • hiring student and family support workers for individual schools to address attendance levels
    • a Student Monitoring Program to help teachers in tracking and supporting student performance throughout the students' time in the education system
  • Inuvialuit Regional Corporation achieved success with its e-learning initiative, which participants said is due in part to the quality of e-learning instructors
    •  The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is considering an expansion of the program.
  • Early childhood education centres run by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation throughout the region allow for early interventions with children, with a focus on learning difficulties
  • The importance of capacity building and appropriate financial support for early learning
    • There has been dramatic skills development in the early childhood education field
    • Early childhood workers provide much more than daycare services
    • This needs to be reflected in salaries paid to early childhood education workers
  • Education was described as a "cross-cutting" issue that impacts a wide range of other policy issues, including the economy in small communities.
    • An Inuvialuit Regional Corporation survey showed very few Inuvialuit were involved in education program and service delivery
    • If more Inuvialuit were involved, it could significantly change the economy in a small community
  • More local people need to be recruited to deliver services in communities
    • Successful graduates often end up working out of regional centres such as Yellowknife
    • Retaining local talent will allow youth to see successes around them in the communities
    • It is important for students to have something to look forward to in life, one participant said
  • Participants were critical of the levels of funding for education in smaller communities
    • One participant described being "shocked" at low levels of funding for foundational subjects such as mathematics and language arts
    • Students cannot pursue advanced careers without these subjects
  • Social and educational gaps are growing
    • In small communities there are two ways to put food on the table: traditional harvesting, or the "Western" approach of formal schooling and wage-earning
    • For the generation currently in their 20s and 30s, one participant said, neither of these alternatives is available
  • Residential schools had negative impacts
    • Students separated from family, elders and culture
    • No access to the intergenerational transfer of knowledge and skills
  • Participants described the educational history of the territory following the end of residential schooling
    • Schools returned to communities but were not always supported with proper programming and funding
    • This left generations for whom education was not been a priority
  • Proposed methods to get more students to attend and stay in school:
    • changing school hours
    • changing the structure of the school year
    • shorter, more intensive terms
    • breaks around on-the-land activities
    • rescheduling departmental exams, which currently take place in the spring in a period of 24-hour daylight
  • Participants discussed efforts to "Indigenize" the education system
  • Efforts to develop a curriculum that is not solely academically-focused and can appeal to a broader range of students, including:
    • industrial education
    • arts and crafts
    • automotive skills
  • One participant said school used to be a shelter for many students facing challenges at home
    • Increased focus on academic achievement makes school more competitive, less welcoming
  • Success stories in education, such as:
    • A school in Aklavik with an Indigenous principal and strong links to community
      • community members see the school as "their school"
    • A strong sense of culture at a school in Uluhaktok helps increase attendance
      • A successful Saturday school café program, in which students do cooking, gives students a sense of purpose through community service


  • Participants described housing as a "crisis" in the Inuvialuit region
  • Issues relate to overcrowding and eviction
    • Family members and others come to stay with social housing tenants
    • Tenants eventually evicted due to too many people staying in the unit
    • Tenants sometimes forced to turn away family, contrary to Inuvialuit values
  • Homeless in Inuvik are often:
    • elderly
    • evicted from housing units due to overcrowding
    • may have been abused by those living with them
    • in Inuvik because there are shelters there
  • One participant told a story of a 70-year year old man who had been evicted from his social housing unit, but was eventually able to secure another unit. Within a month, he had been evicted again because he had other people living in his unit
  • Participants called for more interventions to assist with social challenges and family conflict, rather than turning to eviction as the principal recourse to tenant problems
  • Inuvialuit Regional Corporation's mental health survey found housing is a major stressor
    • Eviction and the accompanying sense of losing control over one's life has a severe mental health impact
  • Participants described the importance of direct funding for housing. In their view, successful models include:
    • Quebec's Plan Nord
    • Nunavik and the Government of Quebec partnership for funding housing operations and maintenance 

Community safety and the criminal justice system

  • The violent crime rate in the region is three times the Canadian average, one participant noted
  • Crime in Inuvik has increased due to drug addiction and drug-related crime, one participant noted
    • Crime in smaller communities were not seen to be as closely related to drug use as in Inuvik
  • A criminal record can be a major barrier for Inuvialuit youth who want to change their lives
    • The public sector is a major employer in the region
    • The public sector requires criminal background checks for employees
    • Obtaining a pardon can be a lengthy process
    • There are financial barriers to obtaining a pardon
  • It was suggested that a campaign to help people obtain a pardon would be a worthwhile initiative
    • This could include an information awareness campaign
    • Many people unaware that some jobs don't require a pardon

Strong, sustainable and diversified Arctic economies

Internet access

  • Broadband connectivity is important and relates to a broad range of services and opportunities, including:
    • tele-health
    • tele-justice
    • e-learning
    • banking
    • access to the global economy
  • In the words of one participant, "Connectivity is a building block for development."
  • With the completion of the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link, participants noted the next step is the development of connectivity redundancy.
  • Not all communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region will be linked to the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link
    • They also need improved internet connectivity
    • Potential solutions include using the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link to push the signal to Aklavik and Tuktoyuktuk through satellite by installing towers in each community
  • Some remote communities will likely never have access to high-speed internet through large-scale government projects
    • These communities will need to look at community-driven and community-owned projects, with local capacity to maintain the network
  • Participants criticized current internet access pricing models
  • Connectivity remains a challenge despite completion of new Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link, participants said
    • "Last mile infrastructure" for connectivity is still mostly copper and coaxial cable and prevents people in the region from fully benefiting from the new link
  • One participant likened connectivity to the regulatory environment, as key to supporting the region as a place to do business

Arctic oil and gas and the Northern regulatory environment

  • Participants discussed economic opportunity in the region
  • One participant said it is unlikely major manufacturing will develop in the area.
    • Outside of the public sector, there is a dependence on natural resource extraction, the participant said
  • Participants discussed the December 2016 announcement regarding the moratorium on future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing
    • Announcement was not well received in the region
    • Decision was completely unexpected
    • Inuvialuit Regional Corporation was left "scrambling" to see how the decision would impact businesses across the North
  • One participant described the "sometimes very confusing regulatory framework that we interact with every day in the North"
    • The participant said they recognize some recent decisions by the federal government – such as the oil and gas moratorium – are well intentioned
    •  However, the participant said such decisions make being a business owner in the region unpredictable
  • Even without the moratorium, the fall in commodity prices and new sources of oil and gas elsewhere mean oil and gas in the Arctic offshore will not be extracted in this generation, one participant said
  • One participant said that "executive decision-making not grounded in process" creates an unpredictable environment
    • The participant raised the example of legislative changes that will allow protected marine areas to be established through ministerial action at the federal level
    • These types of changes were said to send troubling messages to industry and to Indigenous partners who have their own processes for defining protected areas
  • A low-impact way to make the region amenable to industry would be to make the regulatory framework more clearly understood
  • The impact of global competition
    • Corporations such as Conico have closed their Canadian Arctic offices, but continue to pursue exploratory licenses off the coast of Alaska
    • One participant described how, even if there is an oil spill in Alaska, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region will still be impacted, without any of the economic development benefit that comes from oil and gas development
  • As an early land claim agreement, the Inuvialuit Final Agreement does not have the same impact benefit agreement provisions contained in later agreements such as the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement
  • Participants discussed the desire to negotiate a Beaufort Sea oil and gas co-management and revenue-sharing agreement  with the Government of Canada as part of the Northwest Territories devolution agreement
  • Participants expressed a desire for greater clarity on the relationship between the current strategic environmental assessment of the Beaufort region, and the five-year science-based assessment of the moratorium on new offshore oil and gas licences in Canada's Arctic waters

Economic development and diversification opportunities in the region

  • The need to look at opportunities for diversification
    • the Beaufort region has traditionally depended on leveraging the possibility of oil and gas development
  • Mineral potential in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region
    • Federal support for increasing geological knowledge and defining potential areas of development was called for
    • This potential has not been sufficiently explored in the past due to the longstanding focus oil and gas development in the region
  • The importance of developing value-added industries in the region
    • Most of the region's resources are sent elsewhere for processing
    • One participant raised the possibility of a food processing plant in the region to process muskox
    • A new Maker Space is starting up in association with the Aurora Research Institute, which includes:
      • mixing traditional arts and crafts with engineering
      • developing products from food processing and harvesting country foods
  • Valuing and training harvesters is important; otherwise, participants said, within 5-10 years there will be no harvesters left
    • One participant spoke about a recent country food forum, in which the importance of increasing north-to-north trade and exchanging best practices regarding traditional knowledge and harvesting were highlighted
  • One participant said the Nutrition North Canada program has been a positive initiative, but suggested it should fund harvesters instead of subsidizing retailers and suppliers
  • Participants discussed the possibility of a fish processing plant for the region
    • This could support capacity building and the provision of food
  • Participants discussed current initiatives to explore how to lower the cost of getting renewable resources to market
    • Costs prevent local fisheries and game harvesting from becoming viable businesses


  • Participants underlined interest in the industry and the importance of taking time to develop a sustainable approach to tourism in the region.
  • When thousands of cruise ship passengers descend upon a small coastal community, there is high potential for environmental damage and for communities to be overwhelmed
    • A cruise ship visit can provide tens of thousands of dollars in business
    • Potential gain has to be weighed against risk to community if something goes wrong
  • Tourism is not a panacea for unemployment and other economic challenges

Entrepreneurship and small and medium-size enterprises

  • Forms of support needed to encourage entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises
    • Lack of access to capital is a major impediment to small businesses and entrepreneurs in the region
  • Certain public housing regulations prevent people from running a small business out of their homes
  • Reliance on public housing in the region means that aspiring business owners are unable to leverage home ownership for credit
  • Community Futures organizations can also provide loans, one participant said, but they are not seen as risk-oriented investors.
  • The Government of the Northwest Territories' Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development program can provide funding
    • However, this funding only supports certain types of industry, participants said
    • Participants therefore felt "start ups" still face a development support gap
  • Benefits could flow from an innovation incubator in the region

Traditional economy

  • Many people in the region would like to pursue trapping as their primary livelihood
  • The price of furs does not cover the costs of trapping

Arctic science and Indigenous knowledge

Community-based monitoring

  • Community-based monitoring programs are building capacity
    • Through these programs, community members have developed interviewing and data-collection skills
    • This kind of capacity base could be further developed to support large-scale initiatives such as the Arctic Policy Framework
  • A Guardians-type program for the Inuvialuit region was described as an idea with a great deal of potential.
  • These types of community-based monitoring allow for local knowledge to be more broadly disseminated, while ensuring that the knowledge and capacity also stays in the community and can be put to use there.

Research partnerships, projects and funding

  • Inuvialuit organizations participate in research projects and partnerships
    • These research projects and partnerships are often of an ad hoc character
    • There is interest in more coordination and a more formal research network
    • Research institutions should respect the role land claims organizations have to play in research, not simply in terms of providing information or agreeing to be interviewed in studies, but throughout the process of designing and executing research projects
  • Participants discussed social science research spearheaded by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation such as:
    • the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research initiative
    • a Student Monitoring Program to help teachers track and support student performance
  • The social science research involves collaboration between the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and:
    • Statistics Canada
    • Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics
    • research undertaken with Tri-Council support
  • The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation has also begun digitizing older data it collected
  • The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation collaborates with the Joint Secretariat in bringing together research and policy work on social and wildlife issues
    • These two domains are mutually supportive in a region and culture where wildlife harvesting is an important part of everyday life.
  • Indigenous Knowledge plays an important role in this data-collection work, including through the community-based monitoring program
    • Some of this work has been supported by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • A five-year regional Strategic Environmental Assessment project is being led by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada in collaboration with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Inuvialuit Game Council
    • This work will build on the body of knowledge developed by Beaufort Regional Environmental Assessment
    • Participants were hopeful the current project will help provide direction to Canada on regional development, particularly in light of the five-year review of the moratorium on new oil and gas licenses in the Arctic offshore
  • Participants noted the shortcomings of federal research programs that require funding applications every year. Multi-year funding should be considered
  • The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation receives the same level of research funding that had been negotiated under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement finalized in 1984
    • The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is borrowing funds from its economic development arm to pay for core research costs
    • This diminishes the ability of the economic development arm to develop wealth in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region
  • The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is working with the Aurora Research Institute and hopes to increase collaboration with Polar Knowledge Canada
    • One participant noted concern that Polar Knowledge Canada might not be able to serve the needs of the broader North, because its headquarters is in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
  • Participants discussed the geospatial platform developed as part of the Beaufort Sea Partnership, and the potential to build on this accomplishment
  • Participants called on federal support for the Inuit Health Survey

Research and communities

  • Participants discussed progress on establishing research guidelines in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.
  • In the past:
    • researchers came and went into the region without anyone keeping track
    • communities did not receive results of research projects
  • Researchers now have a better awareness of their responsibilities
  • The Geo-Mapping for Energy and Minerals program run by Natural Resources Canada was cited as a success story
    • Researchers have diligently returned to the community to explain project results
    • This is well-received in the community
      • The information is available for community use
      • It encourages youth to consider future careers in research
  • There is often reluctance at the community level to share Indigenous Knowledge with researchers from outside of the region
  • Involving the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation can be key to developing a real partnership with communities and building trust
  • Participants emphasized the importance of community participation in research and community guidance in setting research priorities
  • Rather than being presented with a research project to comment on, communities would prefer to be asked what types of research would benefit them
  • Long-term relationships between research institutes and communities are key to ensuring:
    • a mutually-beneficial partnership
    • the transmission of research back to the community
    • local capacity building
  • One participant said researchers from outside the region have had limited impact on capacity building at the community level

Protecting the environment and conserving Arctic biodiversity

Regional models of co-management and monitoring

  • A successful, "ground-breaking" co-management model has been established in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region
    • Despite some capacity issues, this system has generated trust between government and the land claim organizations, and created a model that people feel invested in
    • This approach could be applied to other issues, such as economic development
  • The desire for a fully-credentialed community-based monitoring program was discussed
    • Participants would like community-based monitors to have enforcement authority
  • Current training for some monitoring programs is not sufficient, and a more robust monitoring program or system is called for

Conservation and wildlife management

  • Participants discussed southern Canadian and international interest in conserving the Arctic
    • One participant said, "The North can't function as the environmental conscience of Canada and the rest of the world"
  • If Northern and Arctic Canada is to be singled out for conservation, perhaps options could be explored to "monetize" conservation efforts for Northern and Arctic communities
    • Environmental non-governmental organizations and large foundations could possibly help pay for the creation, implementation and monitoring of different types of restricted use areas
  • One participant said, "At this point in time, it seems that a large part of the world is looking for a clean lung for the planet"
    • In this respect Northerners possess a valuable commodity
    • Providing financial compensation and support for conservation would probably not form of large part of the economy, the participant said, but it would provide a way to:
      • employ people with land-based and marine-based skills
      • offset socio-economic loss resulting from restricting other forms economic development
  • Participants criticized employment opportunities provided by the national parks system
    • Parks in the North tend to be very remote
    • It's economically unfeasible for many people to visit and generate significant tourism revenue
  • The Inuvialuit Settlement Region has unique conservation achievements, such as the Region's three national parks and two marine protected areas
  • There are not many objections to establishing marine protected areas in the region
    • It seems that there is not always a scientific basis behind conservation decisions, and Indigenous knowledge is not always readily available to assist in the selection of areas for protection, participants said
    • Some participants criticized the concept of numerical conservation targets when data on areas like the Beaufort is not sufficiently robust
  • Communities, it was felt, are open to new marine protected areas, but not until there is stronger support for the management of existing protected areas
  • Under international commitments, conservation can often mean areas with no hunting or harvesting
    • Participants made it clear that harvesting and hunting are important elements of marine protected areas
  • Some participants felt communities do not have sufficient information to make decisions about conservation or development in their region
    • Project advocates visiting the region often fail to communicate in a way that is accessible for elders and others in the community
  • The state of the Porcupine caribou herd is a major issue in the region
  • Participants discussed the dependency of Inuvialuit communities on whales and other wildlife harvested on the coast

Climate change

  • The impacts of climate change are being felt in an immediate way in the region
    • Participants described the need to support community resiliency in the face of these impacts
    • This includes support for community-based climate change adaptation plans
    • Many of these plans have been developed as part of federal funding requirements
    • Participants felt these plans do not have sufficient federal support and end up "sitting on the shelf"
  • Recognition of regional diversity is key to supporting resiliency and adapting to climate change impacts
    •  A "one size fits all" approach will not meet the needs of different communities
  • Climate change impacts traditional cultures and ways of life in the region and local mobility
    • Many in the region are accustomed to traveling by snowmobile from community to community
    • Warm winters prevent people from crossing rivers and getting from place to place

Federal-local relationships

  • Participants criticized what they saw as a withdrawal of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans from the region over the past decade
    • This happened despite environmental impacts from major projects such as the Tuktoyaktuk Highway
    • It was felt that many of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' responsibilities had fallen upon co-management bodies
    • Participants called for a reversal of this trend, and the return of a more robust presence from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Participants underscored the importance of partnership and communication between federal departments and local communities
    • They cited the remediation of Distant Early Warning Line sites as a success story
      • The Department of National Defence, Parks Canada and the community of Aklavik developed a successful partnership through this project
      • Elders helped federal officials find areas that needed remediation

Alternative energy

  • Methane could be an alternative energy source
    • The Inuvialuit Settlement Region could be a showcase for this type of energy
  • The potential role of non-governmental organizations in supporting the creation of an "alternative energy community" in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region was discussed

The Arctic in a global context

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