Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Inuit Today 

The Inuit of Canada are now in the post land claim era of our continuing history. Consequently, it is impossible to discuss our future as part of the larger Canadian fabric without giving serious consideration to the role we will play in the next phase of economic and political development throughout the Canadian North. We cannot, however, assume that this new role will be developed at the expense of more traditional activities which characterize our mixed subsistence based economies that are so vital for the long term economic and social health of our communities.

We cannot pursue avenues leading to new economic development if they ignore or impact upon our continuing ability to hunt or to earn an income from the application of traditional skills. Family members continue to contribute to household incomes that are derived from several different sectors of the new economy. In this way we are able to balance the emerging opportunities with our stable and sustainable traditional hunting and social activities. As part of our new political position we are able to support and strengthen our sustainable attachment to the territorial and resource base of our culture through direct participation in newly established management boards or through co-management programs.

During earlier phases of economic development, the approach most often taken was one that emphasized small scale projects organized at the community level. While not all projects were successful, the commercial and artistic success of Inuit carving and print making are concrete evidence of the value of this approach. The development of marketing cooperatives reflected new ways of taking more effective control over economic activity. Educational and training programs are providing both younger and older Inuit with an opportunity to reshape traditional skills and acquire modern technical skills that help support economic initiatives. One of the most promising economic development areas is in the tourist sector, especially for ecological and cultural tourism.

While Inuit communities were experimenting with economic development programs at the local level, industry and governments in Canada began paying greater attention to large scale development projects especially those linked to the exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves, mineral deposits and hydroelectric potential.
Our cautious interest in larger scale development, reshaped by land claims, has now opened a new chapter of northern development. Not only have land claim agreements provided a legal and administrative framework vital to our orderly economic development, but the negotiating process has also served as a training ground for the rapid growth of Inuit expertise. Perhaps most importantly, the land claim agreements have provided significant working capital that our regional organizations can use for initiating a wide range of economic development projects that reflect local as well as regionwide ideas from an Inuit perspective.

Today there is a new sense of optimism fueling economic planning at local, regional, and national levels. There is also a great desire to achieve economic self sufficiency in the north in a way that incorporates our cultural values into the many new businesses which will form the backbone of the emerging economy. The Inuit regional organizations have their own economic development aims and joint ventures between regions are beginning to take shape. Throughout all of this activity there is a continuing effort to emphasize and follow the principles of sustainable development and formal processes have been created to ensure that all major projects are subject to environmental and social impact assessments.

Already there are new and interesting economic programs under way. Airlines, offshore and high seas fisheries, ecological and cultural tourism, Arctic foods, marine transportation, hunting and fishing for non-Inuit and real estate. These, and other businesses are helping to create economic momentum which in turn helps spawn yet another level of economic spin off and, through the creation of support companies, additional employment opportunities in all sectors of the economy.

In 1994 the Canadian Inuit Business Development Council was formally established. This council brings together all regional Inuit organizations for the purpose of promoting economic development within the broader context of Inuit culture. The objectives of this council reflect Inuit aspirations and define the potential scope of future economic activities. They are: 
  • to organize the members into a cooperative network to promote economic development and self-sufficiency in Inuit regions and communities; 

  • to develop economic cooperation, trade, and business ties among Inuit corporations and businesses, not just in Canada but in the circumpolar world;

  • to promote Inuit employment and training opportunities in cooperative economic ventures and activities undertaken by Inuit communities, organizations or other groups.