Home > Development of Government Services in the Arctic

Development of Government Services in the Arctic

This section explores the historical period following the Second World War when the government of Canada made the decision to become more involved with northern affairs. The research project called Inuit Voices in the Making of Nunavut, a partnership between Nunavut Arctic College and Laval University funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, allowed researchers to produce a new collection of books entitled Life Stories of Northern Leaders.

From1950, a series of progressive measures was swiftly introduced into the Eastern Arctic by the federal government. One of them was the construction of a hospital ship, the C.D.Howe, to tour Inuit communities that were plagued with tuberculosis. The creation of the Eskimo Loan Fund (ELF) to support the emergence of co-operatives and the development of Inuit art was another important federal initiative. Northerners saw increased federal funding for health and education, the first federal housing programs, the creation of electoral ridings in the Eastern Arctic in 1966, and the transfer of the territorial administration from Ottawa to Yellowknife in 1967.

A non-profit organization called the Indian-Eskimo Association was established in 1960, from a sub-committee of the Canadian Association for Adult Education (CAAE), mostly to deal with the "Indian problem" in Canada. This was the early beginning of the Inuit political organization.

Inuit Voices in the Making of Nunavut

Abraham Okpik
“I got caught in the corner, but I had to make a presentation. I said, “We have the Eastern Arctic area with no members, while we have some from the Mackenzie District.” There were three districts at that time. The Mackenzie District was down the Mackenzie River, the Keewatin District was Rankin and north, and this area, Baffin, was the Franklin District. That’s the way they described this country at one time. There was no Baffin Island or anything like that. So I made my presentation, and I continued, “Well, if we can’t have any new elected members, maybe we should go back and ask colonial England to look after us like they did in the olden days. Maybe we should get our services from over there!” Somebody got a hold of this idea, and in February when I went to Ottawa again, they said, “We are going to have an election and we have to pass a bill!” they opened election hearings in July, 1966, at the same time as the Carrothers’ Commission made their report on the need to change the structure of government.
Then they sent electoral boundary officers north. They made three divisions: all of Baffin right up to the High Arctic would have one member in the territorial government, the second one would be the Keewatin, and the third one would be Central. When it passed the third reading and became law, I phoned my friend Simonie Michael. I said, “Simonie, we are going to have an elected representative now; why don’t you run?”
We didn’t have too much money to play around with at that February session. I think we must have passed maybe twenty million dollars worth of territorial government payments. Most of it was federal then, and we just took a little bit at a time.”
We Call it Survival, Chapter 10, (page 185).