Last week Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated inked an agreement with the Government of Nunavut to refresh and renew a working relationship between the two organizations.
The agreement, called the Katujjiqatigiinniq Protocol, outlines several priorities for the groups to work together on – including Inuit empowerment, improving quality of life and getting Inuit involved in the creation of policy.
When asked why it was important for the GN to be signing on with this, Premier Joe Savikataaq replied “it’s a new decade” to applause.
But after years of the NTI and GN operating in tandem, does another document signing for the sake of a photo-op seem appropriate?
There have been many success stories to come out of Nunavut in terms of progress with economic development or anchoring Inuit cultural practices, but there are many needs that continue to go unaddressed.
The two parties, either co-operatively or independently, have been working towards goals like making Inuktut the main language of schools and government offices since the creation of the territory.
Though some improvements have been made the work is nowhere close to completion.
Aggu MLA Paul Quassa even grilled Savikataaq last October about the state of language development, asking if he’s forgotten why Nunavut exists as its own territory.
“The government was supposed to run in Inuktut and people are still expecting it today but still nothing,” said Quassa.
The GN introduced a phase-in approach to Inuktitut instruction in school through the Education Act by 2039, which drew some ire from NTI president Aluki Kotierk who stated she felt this was unacceptable and their collaboration kept coming up short. Creating more housing would be another prime example of a fundamentally important issue with little tangible progress being produced.
Last November, in the legislative assembly, Housing Minister Patterk Netser called for help from NTI to get housing built for the people that are ultimately beneficiaries of NTI.
Even with a trust fund approaching $2 billion and the 2018/2019 fiscal year having a “milestone” budget surplus of over $27 million, the request fell on deaf years.
How much would even a portion of that surplus from the land claims organization help housing efforts in Nunavut?
The onus doesn’t completely fall on NTI for such matters, but if both organizations want to step into the spotlight and talk about co-operation and helping Nunavummiut, the concrete actions that are being taken should be spelled out in plain language.
Many comments on social media attached to this story across various media outlets followed a similar vein.
“Won’t benefit us at all. Another 20 years of nothing,” wrote one Facebook user, posting on Nunavut News’ story (“Government of Nunavut and Inuit organization renew commitment to work together,” Jan. 23).
“Dumb what happened between 1999-2020 counter productive little giants!” wrote another.
Perceptions are important and if Nunavummiut are expressing distrust in their government and NTI, something clearly has to be done to re-ground their co-operative efforts so every citizen of Nunavut understands these efforts.
The GN and NTI working together will likely make a formidable team when pushing the federal government for better funding. They should spell out exactly what their strategy is so Nunavummiut can get behind it.