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Arctic And Northern Policy Framework: Inuit Nunangat

In order to respect and support Inuit self-determination, an Inuit Nunangat chapter of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework was developed as an Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee deliverable. This chapter will guide how Arctic and Northern Policy Framework goals and objectives are implemented in Inuit Nunangat.

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Inuit Nunangat is the Inuit homeland in Canada, encompassing 51 communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik (Northern Quebec), and Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador). Inuit Nunangat forms nearly one third of Canada’s landmass and half of its coastline. Large portions are co-managed by Inuit and federal, provincial and territorial governments through land and resource management regimes established by five comprehensive Inuit-Crown land claims agreements (Inuvialuit Final Agreement; Nunavut Agreement; James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement; Nunavik Inuit Land Claim Agreement; and Labrador Inuit Land Claim Agreement). Inuit Nunangat includes land, inland waters, Arctic and offshore areas, and ice-covered lands and waters, as well as associated airspace.

Canada’s claim to sovereignty and leadership in the Arctic is founded in its partnership with Inuit. As stated in the 2009 Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Sovereignty in the Arctic:

The inextricable linkages between issues of sovereignty and sovereign rights in the Arctic and Inuit self-determination and other rights require states to accept the presence and role of Inuit as partners in the conduct of international relations in the Arctic... The foundation, projection and enjoyment of Arctic sovereignty and sovereign rights all require healthy and sustainable communities in the Arctic.

Priority Objectives in the Inuit Nunangat Chapter of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework

1. Infrastructure and economic self-reliance

Overall objective: Eliminate the infrastructure deficit in Inuit Nunangat

The infrastructure gap between Inuit Nunangat and the rest of Canada is a notoriousimpediment to the prosperity of Inuit Nunangat residents and contributes to a tremendous lost opportunity cost for the national economy. The APF will seek to eliminate the infrastructure deficit in Inuit Nunangat by 2030 through investments in social infrastructure, marine and air infrastructure, and telecommunications. Investments in social infrastructure are needed in particular to support the environmental conditionsthat we know are necessary for children and families to thrive. Social infrastructure includes early learning and child care centres, kindergarten to grade 12 and postsecondary education, family violence shelters and transitional housing, addictions treatment centres, social and transitional housing and facilities for programming/service provision. The APF must emphasize the essential role of Inuit as central players in Canadian Arctic diplomacy and support Inuit infrastructure to support timely and effective mobilization for Search and Rescue, Emergency Preparedness and Response and defense operations. In doing so, it must also recognize the rights, interests, and decision-making role of Inuit. All governments must understand that Inuit use and occupy Inuit Nunangat – our homeland 12 months of the year, that Inuit are the stewards of the land, and given appropriate infrastructure, will continue asthe principal players and first responders in Canada’s Arctic sovereignty and security. The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board (NAEDB) studied infrastructure project in Inuit Nunangat and estimated,“that about $11 in economic benefit and about $11 in fiscal benefit can be generated for every one dollar invested in transportation and energy infrastructure.” Moreover, the NAEDB and others have identified a number of barriers and challenges to accelerating investment in infrastructure in Inuit Nunangat, barriers and challenges which can be addressed through federal policy and programming reform.


A. Marine and air infrastructure

Strategic objective: Eliminate the infrastructure deficit in Inuit Nunangat

Inuit Nunangat includes 50 percent of Canada’s coastline and represents a geopolitically strategic region, including the Northwest Passage. Yet marine infrastructure throughout the region is impoverished or does not exist compared to other coastal regions of Canada, despite surging international interest and activity in the region that includes increased shipping traffic. These gaps extend to air transportation infrastructure and to training to effectively operate aviation and marine infrastructure. Most airport runways in Inuit Nunangat date from the 1950s and 1960s and are made of compacted gravel. This has a significant impact on emergency travel and the delivery and cost of goods and services not to mention the everyday air travel that so many other Canadians take for granted. In addition, the absence of marine infrastructure results in economic leakage, particularly in the renewable resource sector because fishing vessels operating in Inuit Nunangat must leave the region to offload and to refuel. Finally, the existing marine and air infrastructure gaps impede search and rescue operations, resulting in unacceptably long response times which endanger the health and safety of Inuit and others.

B. Telecommunications

Strategic objective: Invest in fibre optic connectivity for all Inuit Nunangat communities

Access to telephone and internet service is essential for accessing government programs and services, commercial opportunities, economic development and employment. The extreme digital divide between Inuit Nunangat and most other parts of Canada will be remedied through deployment of broadband in Inuit Nunangat that meets the telecommunications regulatory policy established by the Canada Radio Telecommunications Commission and is not prohibitive in costs.

C. Renewable energy and climate

Strategic objective: Reduce community diesel reliance by 50 percent by 2030

Inuit are determined to actively shape inclusive and effective climate policies and actions. They seek energy independence as well as ownership and governance of energy systems in Inuit Nunangat communities. The APF will include targeted investments in Inuit Nunangat that remedy barriers to the deployment of renewable energy technologies and reduction of diesel and support ownership and governance of energy systems by Inuit.

D. Mental health and suicide prevention

Strategic objective: Provide mental health services and significantly enhance mental health indicators across Inuit Nunangat

Improving mental health of Inuit is a shared objective of Canada and Inuit. Developing and improving social infrastructure such as addictions treatment centers, as well as developing infrastructure to ensure universal accessibility to mental health services for Inuit in Inuit Nunangat will serve to improve health status and economic outcomes across Inuit Nunangat. This includes the importance of infrastructure focused on children, including expanded facilities for children in care. For example, the 2016 National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy (NISPS) provides a holistic blueprint for action and investment that requires ongoing support by the federal government, including action plans to create social equity, to create cultural continuity, to nurture healthy Inuit children from birth, to ensure access to a continuum of mental wellness services for Inuit, to healing unresolved trauma and grief and to mobilize Inuit knowledge for resilience and suicide prevention.

2. Inuit self-determination in research

Strategic objective: Advance Inuit self-determination in research by developing and implementing a national Inuit Nunangat research policy

Inuit self-determination in research is imperative for enhancing the usefulness of research for Inuit. Moreover, the development of a national Inuit Nunangat research policy by the Government of Canada is necessary to coordinate research initiatives among the more than 10 federal departments and agencies that carry out research in Inuit Nunangat and to formalize guidelines for advancing Inuit governance in research. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami released the National Inuit Strategy on Research (NISR) in March 2018 and its companion Implementation Plan in August 2018 that put forward solutions to remedy barriers to achieving this Strategic Objective. The APF will advance implementation of the NISR by facilitating the co-development of a national Inuit Nunangat research policy by federal departments and Inuit, while facilitating increased capacity for Inuit regions to develop research capacity, policies and initiatives.

3. Education

Strategic objective: Close the gap in educational outcomes between Inuit and non-Inuit

The federal government will assume a greater role in early learning and child care, in primary, secondary and postsecondary education. As noted by the 2011 National Inuit Education Strategy, “Inuit need a school system whose objective is the mastery of core subjects, including language and math, as well as 21st century subjects, such as global awareness and civic literacy. Curriculum, standards and support systems must all work to produce learning environments and outcomes for Inuit students that equip them to become successful citizens in diverse and multicultural settings.”

Federal policy should build on existing Early Learning and Childcare (ELCC) investments to ensure safe spaces for children, all children are well fed and that parents have affordable child care. It should include an enhanced federal role in Inuit K-12 education to ensure Inuit students have the prerequisite courses to enter into post-secondary programs and including data on outcomes and regular Inuit/federal/provincial/territorial meetings, should ensure all Inuit children can learn in Inuktut, from early learning and childcare through secondary education. Finally, it should result in the establishment of a University of Inuit Nunangat.

4. Wildlife and Food Security

Strategic objective: Inuit will be able to exercise harvesting and wildlife management rights into the foreseeable future

The federal government will support measures to protect and enhance Arctic biodiversity within Inuit Nunangat, with the specific conservation objective of supporting Inuit harvesting. Inuit rights to harvesting and wildlife management are constitutionally protected rights and must be respected and fully supported. Federal policy should recognize the interconnected nature of harvesting activities, climate change and food security for Inuit households when developing policies and programs which address any of these three related issues, and should prioritize innovative approaches for supporting Inuit harvesting in such policies and programs