The region of Nunavik, formerly called Nouveau-Quebec, was ceded by Great Britain to Canada as part of Rupert’s Land at the time of Confederation, in 1867. In 1912, the Canadian parliament passed the Quebec Boundaries Extension Act, by which the district of Ungava was transferred to Quebec, thus extending the province’s borders to Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay. The federal law of 1912 stipulated that the province of Quebec was to recognize Indian rights and settle Native land claims.
In 1939, a judgement by the Supreme Court of Canada officially placed the Inuit of Nouveau-Quebec under the jurisdiction of the federal government. This population was now entitled to the “rights” conferred by the Indian Act of 1876. It was not until 1950 that the federal government offered communities in Nouveau-Quebec services in education, health and regional development. The following period saw the establishment of the first Inuit co-operatives in Nouveau-Quebec, with co-ops started at George River in 1959, at Great Whale River in 1961 and at Inukjuak in 1967. The 1950s was also the time when the government of Quebec explored through mining and hydroelectric projects the immense economic development potential of Nouveau-Quebec.
In 1970, the Neville-Robitaille Commission was set up to study various conditions for transferring the federal government’s responsibilities for Northern Quebec to the provincial government. The first proposal for Inuit self-government was presented to the Commission when it toured the villages of Nouveau-Quebec. The same year marked the founding of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association.
Following a legal dispute in which the Crees and Inuit contested the La Grande hydroelectric construction project, the government of Quebec agreed to respect the clauses of the Act of 1912. In November of 1975, an agreement in principle led to the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). This agreement was signed by the Northern Quebec Inuit Association and the Grand Council of the Crees of Quebec, on the one hand, and, on the other, by the government of Quebec, the James Bay Energy Corporation (JBEC), the James Bay Development Corporation (JBDC), the Commission hydro-électrique du Quebec (Hydro-Quebec) and the government of Canada. The Inuit of Puvirnituq, Ivujivik and Salluit refused to ratify the agreement and formed a dissident movement called Inuit Tungavingat Nunaminim (ITN) in 1975.
In 1978, the Quebec government took a series of legislative measures to support the implementation of several provisions in the JBNQA. To begin with, it passed an Act respecting Northern Villages and the Kativik Regional Government. It then passed a law that led to the creation of the Makivik Corporation, an agency responsible for managing the funds obtained as a result of the signing of the JBNQA, protecting Inuit rights under the terms of the JBNQ and taking a leading role in the political, social and economic development of Nunavik. These measures were followed by the establishment of the Kativik School Board, the Kativik Regional Government and the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services.
Following the presentation of Inuit claims to the Parliamentary Commission on Aboriginal People (1983), the Nunavik Constitutional Committee (NCC) was established in 1987. An agreement was signed in 1999 enabling the creation of the Nunavik Commission, whose mandate is to make recommendations on what form Nunavik government might take.
The Makivik Corporation first organized a tour of Nunavik communities to offer information and then hosted a conference on the Nunavik government attended by over 70 delegates from every community. Given a mandate to negotiate the creation of a new form of government, the Makivik Corporation approached the governments of Canada and Quebec. This led to the working out of a Negotiation Framework that defined the overall process through which the autonomous government of Nunavik would be established.
Following the signing of the 2007 agreement-in-principle, negotiations were initiated to seal a final agreement reached in March 2011. The latter was rejected by Nunavik residents - the Nunavimmiut - in a referendum held on 27 April 2011.
Over the years, the Inuit of Nunavik have often expressed their needs, particularly at the Katutjiniq regional socio-economic summit (2000), during the negotiation of the Sanarrutik Agreement (2002), at the Katimajiit Summit on socio-economic issues in Nunavik (2007) and in the development of the Nunavik Plan (2010), a regional response to the “Plan Nord” (Northern Plan) of the Government of Quebec.
Following the Nunavik Plan, an expanded consultation, Parnasimautik (2012-2014) was undertaken by the Inuit. Meetings and workshops were held in all Nunavik communities to define a more comprehensive vision of development based on Inuit traditional culture, identity, language and lifestyle, to ensure their protection and sustainability. In order to better understand the spirit of Parnasimautik, here are some quotes from the consultations held within the framework of Parnasimautik which are included in the report’s conclusion:
“Family is the authority with the children and the foundation of our communities. Practising traditional activities, our children can contribute to preserving our identity."
“The gap between youth and elders seems to be widening. Elders need to be more involved in guidance and teaching.“
“There are many resources in Nunavik and many people expressed a wish to take over the land instead of being controlled by the government.“
“We have to take charge of our destiny instead of relying on outside help. We should take our strength back, our rights as indigenous people able to survive.“
“Working together as one... is self-government.”
Parnasimautik is not an end: it is a new beginning, a plan for the future of the Inuit of Nunavik.← Previous period: Inuit in the Historic Period