Nunavut News approached Nunavut Agreement negotiator and former premier Paul Quassa, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk and newly elected premier Joe Savikataaq to pinpoint a specific area where the implementation of Nunavut Agreement has benefitted Inuit and, where there have been challenges to implementation, how have Inuit been affected.
The creation of Nunavut, with its own government, is Nunavut Agreement negotiator and Aggu MLA Paul Quassa’s pick for an article successfully implemented.
“We have a public government and yet, within the legislative assembly, 80 per cent, if not more, are Inuit,” Quassa said in an interview June 12.
“That was the vision when we negotiated the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement – a government that was going to be representative at the legislative assembly level. Certainly that is one of the successful stories.”
Quassa said, in the negotiations, Inuit were only going to get 20 per cent of the land that they could call their own.
“But with the creation of the Nunavut government, we’re going to have control over the rest of the lands. Certainly, this was always the vision,” he said.
“The next process of course is the conclusion of the devolution negotiations to ensure that the territory would have total control over its lands, resources and the waters within the Nunavut territory.”
Quassa noted the Government of Nunavut has many obligations under the agreement that need to be implemented.
Quassa was still premier at the time of his chat with Nunavut News – Joe Savikataaq took over after an ouster June 14 – and he said it was the government’s priority to ensure it meets Inuit employment targets.
“A good example is Article 23, where the government’s obligation is to ensure our workforce is at a representative level. It’s something we’ve been working towards,” he said.
“And certainly we’re doing a lot of changes within the government to ensure that it’s implemented,” he said.
“Right now our goal is to have 85 per cent Inuit employees within government.”
Quassa then brought up Article 32.
“To ensure that any social programs we deliver are very Inuit-oriented because this government’s main guiding principle is to work towards Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, that our government respects and implements Inuit societal values within its policies, regulations and legislations.”
Quassa called the Nunavut Agreement a living agreement, so the government is always working towards full implementation.
“Of course, it’s challenging. Not all Nunavut Inuit want to work for the government. There are a lot of other opportunities.”
Quassa said he wanted to celebrate Nunavut Day big time, noting it had been 25 years since the signing of the final agreement.
“It’s a celebration of the success of it, because look where we are now,” he said.
“We’re kind of on our last step, which is completion of devolution. Once that’s done, it’s a matter of making it work.”