Project Overview

During the last four decades, Canadian Inuit have negotiated a series of comprehensive land claim agreements with federal, provincial and territorial governments. These agreements have provided the basis for regional autonomy and the subsequent development of self-government institutions. Whereas the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement and the creation of the Territory of Nunavut is the most well-known example of this trend, Inuit in other regions such as Nunavik (Quebec), the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (Northwest Territories) and Nunatsiavut (Labrador) have also used land claim agreements as a basis for developing institutions of self-government. What differentiates these regions from Nunavut, however, is that they are territorially and politically embedded within existing constituent units of the Canadian federation. The institutional development of self-government in these regions, therefore, has contributed a new and innovative dimension to Canadian federalism by securing greater regional autonomy for Inuit peoples without challenging the territorial integrity of Canadian federal system.

Given the significance of these changes to the Inuit peoples of the Canadian Arctic and to the future development of Canadian federalism, it is surprising that the political and institutional evolution of working self-government arrangements in Nunavik, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and Nunatsiavut has received so little scholarly attention.  The purpose of the research is to compare the evolution of self-government in these three regions.  Despite the many similarities and connections between these regions, they vary significantly in terms of the structure and development of their respective self-government regimes.  The research will explain why this variation exists by analyzing the broader political, cultural and historical context in which these regions evolved, and identifying key individuals and issues that determined political outcomes in each case.

This project will make an important contribution to the academic literature on Aboriginal self-government and the relationship between Aboriginal self-governments and the Canadian state. By using established theories of political science to explain variation in the evolution of self-government arrangements in the Canadian Arctic, the project will build on the largely descriptive and taxonomic studies that have dominated the literature on this topic. At the same time, the project will also contribute to this literature by testing the applicability of existing concepts to new cases and exploring in greater depth the variables that have shaped the development of Aboriginal self-government in the Inuit regions of the Canadian Arctic. More importantly, the research findings will be of particular interest to government officials at the regional, provincial/territorial and federal levels who are responsible for developing new self-government arrangements and determining how these governments will relate to the existing institutional framework of the Canadian state.