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Inuit

In Québec, almost the entire Inuit nation lives north of the 55th parallel, in Nunavik. Approximately 10,000 Inuit and a few hundred other people live in 14 villages located on the shores of Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay. Inuktitut is the mother tongue spoken by more than 95% of the Inuit. English is the second language used by the majority of the Inuit, but French has been progressing steadily in recent years.

During the 1950s, the Inuit very quickly went from a semi-nomadic to a more sedentary lifestyle, changing their way of life drastically in an effort to adapt in a few short decades to centuries of technological evolution. Today, the Inuit are eager to retain their values, language and culture, while maintaining harmonious relations with the rest of Québec.

James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement

The James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA), signed in 1975 by the Inuit, the Crees and the governments of Québec and Canada, led to the creation of several institutions that have been headed by the Inuit ever since. Numerous organizations were created in the wake of the agreement. Makivik Corporation, established in 1978, is the mouthpiece of the Inuit when it comes to the protection of their rights and interests related to the JBNQA. The Kativik Regional Government (KRG), which was also created in 1978, is a supramunicipal body, made up of representatives of each northern village, and which exercises its jurisdiction in various public administration fields, including economic development, transportation, police services, telecommunications and wildlife protection. As for the northern village corporations, they are administered by elected municipal councils, whose operation is similar to that of the municipalities in the southern part of the province. Among the other Inuit institutions and organizations, mention may be made of the Kativik School Board and the Nunuvik Regional Board of Health and Social Services. Since the end of the 1950s, the cooperative movement has played a key role in the economic evolution of Nunavik. Along with Makivik Corporation, the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec is the region’s major economic player.

Institutional ties between the Inuit and Québec

For more than 30 years, the implementation of the JBNQA has led to the intensification of relations between northern public bodies and the departments of the Gouvernement du Québec regarding the development of policies, the growth of funding and the adaptation of the legislative framework. In recent years for example, Québec and the Inuit have reached the Sanarrutik Agreement to accelerate the economic and community development of Nunavik. In 2004, the Gouvernement du Québec and the KRG signed the Sivunirmut Agreement making it possible to combine a large portion of the funding from several departments and agencies into one large budget. Thirty years after the signing of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, the Katimajiit meeting, which was held in Kuujjuaq in August 2007, made it possible to mobilize political decision-makers of all levels of government as well as Inuit leaders in order to open new socioeconomic horizons for Nunavik.

Turning to the subject of self-government, the Inuit made known to the Gouvernement du Québec in the 1980s their aspiration to have their own government institution. The question began to take clearer form towards the end of the 1990s with the creation of the Nunavik Commission and, in 2003, with the signing, between Québec, the Inuit and the Federal Government, of a framework agreement dealing with the negotiations to be undertaken in order for a regional government to be formed and placed under Québec’s jurisdiction.

In December 2007, the same three parties reached a memorandum of understanding which establishes the framework and the process whereby the future regional government of Nunavik can be created: this regional institution, which will evolve under Québec’s jurisdiction, will be public in nature and will come from the merger of the Kativik Regional Government, the Nunuvik Regional Board of Health and Social Services and the Kativik School Board.

On the 27th of April 2011, a referendum was held in Nunavik on the establishment of a regional government. This project was rejected by the population and negotiations have been on hold since that time. The government of Quebec remains open to the further progress on this issue.

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Last update: January 7, 2014
Online as of: November 11, 2004