Home > The Creation of Nunavut > Changing the Face of Canada > Drawing Plans for Nunavut

Caribou hunt near Arctic Bay

Drawing Plans for Nunavut

John Amagoalik

In those early days, ITC did not have the kind of working relationship with the federal government that it has today. It played a much more adversarial role. Today the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is making an effort to get along with the Government of Canada to cooperate on projects and get contracts with different departments on issues like health. But in the early days, we were involved in a struggle with the government to negotiate our land claims settlement and to create our own territory. There was a certain degree of animosity between ITC and the government, because it was then the position of the government that Inuit had no land rights. When we first came to the negotiating table, their position was that Inuit still might have hunting and trapping rights in the Arctic. That was it! Their position was that we did not have any aboriginal rights to the land, and that over the years, the government, through its actions and legislation, had probably extinguished Inuit land rights. It was a position that the Inuit found unacceptable.
In 1993, John was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission. In Chapter Nine, he talks about his role and the nomination process within the Commission, and speaks about the commissioners he worked with. He describes the Commission’s main responsibilities. He sheds light on the debates that took place within it as well as the different alternatives for the polling process that it reviewed, in particular the election of the premier by direct vote and equal representation for women in the government—ideas that were ultimately rejected. He mentions the matter of choosing the capital, which sparked a lot of passion. He speaks of the place of women in Nunavut society, a situation closely linked to colonialism. He recounts emotionally how measures taken by the colonial government undermined the authority of Inuit men, especially the slaughter of the sled dogs—the qimmit—that occupied a central place in Inuit culture. He speaks of the attitude of the Government of the Northwest Territories toward the creation of Nunavut and its decentralization strategies.