An agreement in principle was signed on Wednesday between the governments of Canada and Quebec, the Makivik Corporation and indigenous representatives for a new “semi-autonomous Inuit government” (or perhaps more accurately, “experimental municipal government”) in Northern Quebec..
Basically, the plan is to enjoin the existing Kativik regional government, the area school board and regional health authority into one body that will be comprised of an Assembly made of 21 members, and a five-member executive council to be elected by the 11,000 mostly Inuit residents of the region.
The responsibilities of this new Assembly will be the same as those normally covered by a municipal government, though it will also take care of education and health matters in the region.
The assembly will, however, “remain part of Quebec and would be subordinate to the province’s legislature and the federal House of Commons,” said Quebec’s native affairs minister, adding the “new powers still stop short of a full land claim settlement” (which obviously leaves the door open for development.)
Noting that, I find it strange how Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl can claim that this deal means the Inuit will “be able to make their own decisions about matters related to the preservation and development of their distinctive culture” seeing as how Inuit culture, like all traditional indigenous culture, is inherently connected to the land.
How exactly are the Inuit supposed to have such authority over their culture when Quebec and Canada reserves the right to infringe on the land however they want? I’m sure it’s not so black and white, but considering Canada’s new-found love affair with unbridled development, it is a valid concern, and a serious one. Are the Inuit just supposed to rest on the faith that Canada will not undermine their culture (pun intended) because they love the Inuit so much?
In any event, at least this “semi-autonomous Inuit government”is giving some hope to the Inuit in Nunavik, who have been deeply struggling with violence, suicides and narcotics abuse in their communities. With my love and respect to the them, I prey it is not false hope, and that it will provide them with what they need to bring healing to their People.
The agreement is expected to be in place by 2009.
Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.