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The Eighties: A National Debate on

John Amagoalik

The best explanation of what we were trying to do was made by Zebedee Nungak. He was asked by the media, “What do the Inuit want in the changing of the Constitution?” He said, “We want to do constructive damage to the status quo.” That, in a nutshell, really described what we wanted to do. We could see that Canadian society was not just. There was injustice in this country. The aboriginal people were in many ways repressed. We saw the repatriation of the Constitution as an opportunity for us to be recognized as partners in the Confederation and as founding peoples. That was the most concise explanation of what we were trying to do.
The 1980s: National Debate on Ancestral Rights

In Chapter Seven, John talks first about his family’s move to Ottawa and his intention to return to Nunavut as soon as the land claims settlement was ratified. He emphasizes the importance for the Inuit of taking part in political life and of the dangers of allowing other people to look after issues that concern them. John returns to the round on the constitutional negotiations at the beginning of the 1980s, to the desire of Prime Minister Trudeau to repatriate the Constitution, and to the participation of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC) in the debate to ensure the recognition of Native Peoples as Canada’s founding peoples.

In that regard, he reiterates the importance—for all Native Peoples—of coordinating their efforts. He talks about the premiers he met that supported Native land claims and the position of Québec. He recalls the concern of the provincial governments over the principle of government autonomy. He explains the slight differences between the federal Liberal and Conservative representatives. He also highlights the differences between the visions of the Inuit and the First Nations with regard to type of government.

Then, John talks about the negotiations for the Meech Lake Accord, recognizing Québec as a distinct society but not mentioning indigenous peoples. At that time, he was president of the ITC. He discusses the reactions of the Native Peoples. Last, he talks about television and radio in the North, and their impact on Inuit communities.