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Nunavik Practitioners Urge a Better Integration of Inuit Needs Into Northern Economic Development

February 9, 2016

Task Force students from JSIS 495C: The Arctic – A New Player in International Relations, traveled to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, from January 23rd to 30th, 2016 to engage in on-the-ground research with organizations and specialists in the field and learn about climate change and the current issues facing the Arctic region. Below are student articles of their trip and learning experience.

The Arctic Task Force met with Jean-François Arteau, the former Executive Assistant to the President of the Makivik Corporation, and Donat Savoie, the former Chief Federal Negotiator for Nunavik, the Inuit region in norther Quebec. They provided a history of Nunavik as well as issues that the communities and region are facing today, including the common view of Inuit as subjects of research rather than as partners or collaborators. Amending this relationship would be of common interest to both the Canadian government and Inuit communities. Economic development could help to bring about a higher quality of life for Inuit communities while also incorporating extensive knowledge of the Arctic into various fields of research. By examining past and present attempts at economic development and comparing them with the current issues, a more comprehensive plan can be developed. One of the principal issues is the lack of knowledge surrounding the cost of living in isolated communities, especially the exorbitant prices of groceries. While there are federal programs that provide money to help support families, the amount awarded to each family is not adjusted to reflect the cost of goods in that area. The cost of goods is often 75% greater than that of most other cities. Since the federal government has not put in place any adjustment for these communities, they are not able to purchase as many products as their southern counterparts.

The cost of living is not the only issue that these communities must overcome. A new hydroelectric dam that is being built in the northern part of Quebec. However, the electricity from the dam will not be routed up into northern communities but rather down into New Hampshire. Reliable infrastructure is necessary in order to help facilitate economic growth, especially in communities where each house relies on a diesel generator for their power needs (largely due to the cost of running power lines up into that area). Yet if we are to assist in developing these areas, standard models of cost-benefit analysis need to be reconsidered. These are the type of issues that will need to be answered to promote economic growth that are better tailored to the needs of Inuit communities.

Author: Jordan Habenicht

This publication was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.