Negotiators travelling Nunavik to hear questions, concerns on self-governance

Makivvik’s top self-determination negotiator is travelling to every Nunavik community to provide his first update on renewed self-governance talks, and to hear people’s questions and concerns about the topic.

Chief negotiator Tunu Napartuk hosted an event in Kuujjaq Monday and Tuesday alongside his partner, Anthony Ittoshat, who appeared virtually. There were eight people in attendance at the event.

“We have been opening the floor to questions and concerns,” said Napartuk, “and it has been an interesting process.”

Elder Johnny Peters stood at the microphone during the meeting to point out in Inuktitut that Nunavik has a modern treaty through the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

With other Inuit regions like Nunavut and Nunatsiavut gaining their own self-governments, he asked, why is Nunavik behind?

“He wants to be able to see [Nunavik self-governance] before he becomes too elderly,” Napartuk said, interpreting Peters’ concerns.

The idea of self-governance has been on the table for a long time. Inuit in Nunavik have entered discussions around self-government several times over the past few decades, including in 2003, 2007 and 2011.

“This whole thing has many layers, and it is not something that is going to happen overnight,” said Napartuk.

He and Ittoshat are building on the work done by their predecessors, which Napartuk said has made their responsibility “quite a bit smoother.”

“Through their effort, we are not starting from a blank,” he said.

Nunavik, Quebec and the federal government signed the Nunavik Self-Government Negotiations Accord in December, which opened a new round of negotiations. The goal is for the three groups to reach an agreement in principle, which is a stepping stone to having a completed deal.

“We want to be able to show a document to our fellow Inuit, to have an understanding of the government that we will be looking at,” Napartuk said.

The federal and provincial governments provide different approaches to the negotiation process, Napartuk said.

The federal process has been long and “full of red tape,” despite the fact that Ottawa leaders represent themselves as open to recognizing Indigenous groups having an inherent right to self-government, he said.

On the provincial side, Makivvik’s negotiator speaks directly to the Quebec premier’s office, and answers “come back really quickly,” Napartuk said.

At the forefront of negotiations, Napartuk said self-government in Nunavik should be built around the principle that only Inuit beneficiaries of Nunavik are able to vote and be elected.

He said he wants more discussions regarding the inclusion of non-Inuit in running government and the requirement of mastery of Inuktitut among elected officials.

Napartuk said these decisions will not be made by him or Ittoshat, but by people in the communities.

Another important topic Napartuk flagged is that the Supreme Court of Canada recently upheld Bill C-92, which gives Inuit the right to create their own child and family services model for Nunavik.

“It is such an important file that needs to be done,” he said.

Currently, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services is working with Makivvik and Nunavimmi Ilagiit Papatauvinga to see if the groups can create a Nunavik-centred child care and family care system.

Napartuk said Quebec Premier François Legault stated he “really wished that he could see something signed before December 2024.”

Legault’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Napartuk and Ittoshat’s next stop is Kangiqsualujjuaq, on Wednesday.

Cedric Gallant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News