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Five: Up North

The Canadian North is the largest undeveloped region left on a shrunken planet, but mind-boggling though it may be to many futurists, it only sporadically holds southern attention. We take it for granted as part of our national heritage as a northern people and land. The vast majority of us being urban dwellers living within 350 kilometres of the Canada-U.S. border, we often consider our North to be as remote as a small nation in the developing world and about as important.

"The views of the majority of Canadians about the North are unsurveyed, and perhaps unformulated," concluded H.B. Hawthorn in Science and the North almost twenty years ago. This view doubtless remains equally true in the last decade of the twentieth century. As we struggle to stay a nation, we can make the last decade of the twentieth century the one of the North. It has stamped our national consciousness deeply and defines our identity throughout the world.

For many, the North is a state of mind; for others, it is more than an area -- it is a passion. For still others, the North is, "…like an irresistible itch, which implacably drives man to mobility" in the splendid phrase of Professor Louis-Edmond Hamelin of Laval University, an authority on our nordicity. Nineteenth century adventurers, explorers and coureurs de bois could not resist the call of the North. There, they had to experience -- in fear, in tragedy and in bravery -- its awesome and silent power. They had to find escape from monotony and renaissance from subdued spirits.

Among non-native Canadians, we often see the North in a host of localized northern situations: the Northwest Passage, polar expeditions, the Inuit, unimaginable cold, the Klondike, and recently, oil. Two extreme notions about the North clash: the over-idealized and the excessively pessimistic. Pleasant illusions are often ignited by the pioneer spirit; pessimistic ones come afterwards from those disappointed in seeking quick profits. One view claims the North is a hinterland to be exploited for the benefit of southern Canada; another argues the wilderness must be preserved in a pristine condition. Much northern history revolves around this confrontation. Related notions adopted by governments, agencies, industry, interest groups, and so on, continue to shape the affairs of the region, depending on which group is more vocal or dominant.

Southerners tend to ignore a region that holds a fraction of one per cent of our population and has no political and economic clout to speak of. Our view of Canada sometimes leaves off Canada’s Far North entirely. At Dorval Airport in Montréal, a large mural depicting Canada represents only southern Canada. To mark the occasion of the Olympic Games in Montréal in 1976, Canada issued a $5 coin displaying a map of the country. Part of the High Arctic was missing.

Even what constitutes the Canadian "North" has undergone considerable evolution since 1870. In the immediate post-Confederation period, anything beyond Lake Nipissing was "North." When we obtained new territories from Britain in 1870, we conferred the name "North-West Territories" on them, but included in this description was land as far south as the 49th parallel. Only after 1912 was the name confined to the parts of Canada lying beyond 60°. Politically, Canada has a federal North, two territorial Norths, and seven provincial Norths.

In assuming control of the new territories in 1870-71, the largest transfer of land in recorded history, the government of Canada developed its new frontiers with little real effort to study or understand the existing situation there, or to adapt its policies to the circumstances of the region. The Red River uprising was one result of this lack of insight, yet, in the historian Morris Zaslow’s words, "Canada seemingly learned nothing from the experience of Red River. The bland assumption that the territory, having been paid for (and conquered by) the Dominion, ought to be used for the primary benefit of eastern Canada, continued to characterize her governance of the Northwest."

Our national governments also used authoritarian methods in line with prevailing notions of the Crown as the ultimate source of authority. Decisions were made in accord with national rather than local priorities; boundaries and powers of the resulting new government and territories were set by federal officials, and according to their wishes. Notions of self-reliance typical of the frontier experience in the United States succumbed to general acceptance by residents of authority from outside. Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis found little reflection in Canada’s northern frontier movement, partly because Canada’s political centre never moved from Inner Canada, and partly because the drive to open the frontier came from groups and forces outside the region, more than from pioneering settlers.

Canadian institutions were clamped onto the Northwest in a rigid and unimaginative way by successive governments in Ottawa. The area continued to be controlled from afar, with its resources exploited in order to ease the burden of the southern taxpayer. Local residents were allowed little initiative. Decisions affecting their lives were to be made in Ottawa by officials entirely out of touch with the situation. The underlying goal of the governments of the day was to settle the region as quickly as possible and replace the institutions of Indian and Métis with social, cultural and political practices from southern Canada. In colonizing the Northwest, Ottawa failed to recognize the urgent problems of aboriginal peoples caught in the vortex of an advancing civilization. In its eagerness to promote development, Ottawa allowed resources to be exploited blindly and for any foreign interest.

Those who live north of sixty degrees are the most isolated of all Outer Canadians. They bitterly resent their ongoing status as political, economic and cultural colonials. Northern Indians and Inuit, of course, see the North neither as hinterland nor as a frontier, but as their homeland, a native land that is held under economic and cultural siege by colonists.

A Regional Colossus

Canada is above all a northern country. One needs only to travel abroad to see how firmly this concept of our nation is endorsed in minds the world over. Hamelin estimates that Canada’s North constitutes seventy per cent of our territory, arguing the official thirty-nine per cent merely corresponds to the area of land and fresh water of the Northwest Territories and Yukon: "The Canadian North expresses the concept of vastness almost to excess. By area, the North is the principal component of the country, and in this sense, the North characterizes Canada."

The magnitude of the area is colossal, its coastline longer than our southern two coastlines combined. The Northwest Territories, with 3.3 million square kilometres, and the Yukon Territory, with 0.5 million, contain four-tenths of our national land surface.

The national census figures of 1986 show that the two territories contain less than one-third of one per cent of Canada’s population. Of the 52,020 residents of the NWT, fifty-eight per cent report aboriginal origins (Inuit -- 18,350, Métis -- 3,810, Indian or Dene --9,370); of the residents of Yukon only 21.4 per cent report aboriginal origins (Indian or Dene --4,770, Métis -- 225, Inuit -- 65).

Northern Indians usually refer to themselves as "Dene" except a small group in southwestern Yukon, the Tlingit. Dene leaders insist they can understand the different languages that have a common Athapaskan root and are economically and culturally united enough to become a nation. Although Ottawa forced them to negotiate land claims as a single party with the Dene, the NWT Métis are a distinct cultural group. For historical reasons they tend to share a common view as to the most desirable relationship between the native and non-native communities. The same group in the Yukon does not generally identify itself as Métis and has since the beginning joined voluntarily with Yukon Indians to negotiate land claims.

Canada’s Inuit live mostly in the NW1’ from above the tree line to as far north as Ellesmere Island. For centuries, they were nomadic hunters and gatherers, but today live in settlements close to the sea. A study by Michael Whittington for the 1985 MacDonald Commission concluded that Inuit remoteness from southern Canada has helped them to maintain a tighter consensus on various issues than either the Dene and Métis of the NWT or the Yukon Indian people.

Surprisingly to many southerners, the white population of the North is diverse. The major variable is permanent versus short-term residence. At one extreme are transients who fly in for two-or-three week shifts and have little or no contact with other northern residents. A second group, in Whittington’s groupings, are mostly young males, who migrate north by highway to look for work in resource development, mines, and the like. Most return south after a few years. Another group, frequently termed "bush hippies" by permanent white Yukoners, often have university degrees and attempt to experience the North for a few years before drifting back to the South. The "indefinites" include federal public officials, RCMP officers, and bank and chain store employees who usually live in the major urban centres in both territories. Farthest away from transients are those permanently located in the NWT or Yukon. This group, in Whittington’s apt language, are for the most part, "whites who have been ‘captured by’ or have ‘fallen in love’ with the North. . . those for whom Yukon or the NWT is home."

A central goal of most northerners, whether Inuit, Indian or white, is that their own futures should not be subordinated to the conflicting views of southern Canadians. They are anxious to get rid of overgeneralizations. In fact, differences abound among northerners of the three backgrounds: Territorians not only differ in their origins but also in their political, social and economic aspirations.

Ice Trails to Serfdom

"The North can be studied as a society -- actually a set of several societies -- but it can only be understood as a colony," concluded Gurston Dacks accurately a decade ago. It continues to be an internal colony of Canada, a domestic frontier of exploitation and settlement with a mythical promise of national and personal renewal, where both previous development and current occurrences carry the possibility of growing racial discord, social disorder, and widening economic disparity. Most of the critical decisions affecting its peoples are made thousands of miles south.

Similar patterns of development, repeated throughout the North, illustrate a constant in successive national government thinking about the region: it is Canada’s colony to hold, exploit, and develop or not, exclusively as and how Ottawa deems fit. On the other hand, practice frequently conflicts with Ottawa’s rhetoric. As the historian Jack Granatstein notes, after one flourish about "what we have, we hold," Ottawa quietly abandoned Wrangel Island, located north of Siberia, to the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. It wasn’t until much later that Ottawa began to effectively administer many remote parts of the NWT. Essentially the North remained ours only because no powerful nation thought it worth pursuing.

The Canadian claim to the region is based on the unsuccessful attempts during four hundred years of British explorers, including Hudson and Franklin, to find the Northwest Passage to the Orient. When Britain in 1870 transferred to Canada all lands of the Hudson’s Bay Company -- essentially everything between Hudson Bay and Vancouver Island -- we obtained the North. A decade later, Britain ceded to Canada sovereignty of the rest of the Arctic lands, the archipelago and Baffin Island. It did so largely, it appears, to pass to Ottawa the problem of impending American penetration: Canada was thought better able than Britain to resist Washington’s ascendant Monroe Doctrine. The British offer was accepted by a resolution in the Canadian Parliament in 1878. Approval was given on the premise that the region would cost nothing to administer and that the only alternative was control by the United States. It wasn’t until 1897, when stories of violence and destruction of Inuit villages reached the south, that the Laurier government bothered to draw boundaries dividing the North into more manageable districts.

The Laurier government’s initial efforts to exert sovereignty in the North consisted of six expeditions between 1897 and 1911, to collect custom duties and fees from whalers and to tell residents they lived under Canadian law. By 1907, Senator Pascal Poirier could advance his sector theory which claimed for Canada all land south of the North Pole lying between longitudinal lines drawn from the western and eastern extremities of our two coastlines. This theory eventually won international acceptance after our successful dispute with the Danes over Ellesmere Island. A Norwegian claim to Sverdrup Island was in effect bought out in 1930 by Ottawa for $67,000. A more lively dispute with the Americans began in 1925, when an American scientific expedition to the Arctic commanded by Robert Byrd falsely claimed to have Canadian government permission to enter the region. Subsequent American expeditions respected Canadian law; by 1933, our sovereignty in the North was for the most part established from the standpoint of international law. In practice, however, when World War II began, Ottawa had still to demonstrate a need for the Arctic. When, in 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt pledged to defend all of Canada, he was, as Granatstein notes, in effect "placing Canada under the Monroe Doctrine."

The 1970s saw the first erosion of colonialism in the North. Still, southern factors prevail and dominate northern policies. Northerners remain dependent constitutionally on Ottawa. They elect only three out of 295 members of Parliament and have been represented in only two national cabinets since 1945. Ottawa holds the levers on native claims, political development and economic policy, thus reinforcing the subordinate status of the two territorial governments. Initiatives and serious proposals in these vital areas usually originate in Ottawa rather than in territorial governments, which are forced in turn to react most of the time, thereby diverting available resources from initiating their own long term planning.

The subordinate status of the North is most visible in economic development because southern interests normally determine economic activity. When large-scale economic development takes place in the North, it usually reflects the colonial tendency of providing little benefit to the area affected. Even the local spin-off is not very effective because megaprojects are normally fully supplied from the South. The profits of most projects flow south rather than remaining in the North to finance further economic growth. The relationship between the two dominant northern economic sectors reinforce the colonial character: a large-scale, capital intensive resource sector undermines a small-scale, labour-intensive hunting, fishing and trapping sector. This causes much social and economic dislocation and increases native population dependence on the resource sector.

Traditional Ways of Life

If demographics indicate the importance of not overgeneralizing about northerners, the region’s history reinforces the same point. Long before Europeans reached our North, various aboriginal peoples fed, clothed, and housed themselves using wildlife, plants and fish. This way of life was later altered at different times by explorers, fur traders, whalers, and missionaries. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, for example, brought thousands of whites into the Yukon for the first time; while most soon gave up and left, a significant number remained. In the eastern Arctic and Mackenzie Valley, however, the earliest white intruders were missionaries, the RCMP, and the Hudson’s Bay Company agents, all of whom came "to do something" for indigenous residents. The Inuit in the eastern Arctic were left largely alone by whites, except for the occasional nurse, until as late as the 1 960s when most abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and began to settle in larger communities.

The building of the Alaska Highway during World War II caused major changes for natives and whites alike in the Yukon. As hunting and fishing stocks deteriorated along the route, Indians, who were fast becoming a minority, experienced severe social problems, including alcoholism, family breakup and crime. Many of their settlements were relocated to sites along the Alaska highway to facilitate the creation of an essentially welfare economy for them. Their minority status reduced their policy influence on the white Yukon majority.

During the 1960s, economic development in the NWT began with prime minister John Diefenbaker’s "roads to resources" program. The building by Ottawa of all-weather roads to a host of remote communities, including Inuvik and Fort MacPherson, produced an effect on the Dene similar to, if less severe than, that of the Alaska Highway earlier on Yukon Indians. Two factors moderated the pattern: greater political sophistication by the Dene and increased sensitivity by southern Canadians to the plight of native people.

In the far North, the building of a network of radar bases and the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, along with the coming of frequent airline flights to and from most of these installations, and regular air service to the eastern Arctic, tended to duplicate the Alaska Highway effect. Most Inuit maintained their older way of life for a while, even if families began to live in prefabricated homes with oil heaters. In the case of the inland Inuit of Keewatin, a series of natural disasters among the caribou during the late 1950s resulted in a major famine. Ottawa officials relocated many of them to unfamiliar settlements, including Rankin Inlet, and they became reliant upon social assistance.

During late 1988, any lingering complacency about long term trends for the Canadian Inuit was exploded by the publication of Cohn Irwin’s report, Lords of the Arctic: Wards of the State, which painted a very bleak picture of Inuit society forty years hence. "Most of the Inuit in the Arctic in the year 2025," Irwin predicted, "will probably be second-generation wards of the state, living out their lives in ‘arctic ghettos’ plagued by increasing rates of crime." Residents with professional or university education will tend to be white and they will continue to dominate the higher levels of management in both the private and public sectors.

Old ways of life were largely lost when the Inuit were moved by Ottawa officialdom into permanent settlements during the late 1950s. A new generation grew up in a cultural environment transplanted from the south and reinforced by a school system that did nothing to enhance pride in native heritage or to teach old values. As traditional skills and language continue to disappear, a new generation of Inuit are neither able to live "out on the land," nor are they well-equipped with employable skills. By allowing destructive and assimilative processes to continue unabated, Canadians as a whole will lose once again an opportunity to preserve a unique and ancient culture as a permanent and enriching component of our cultural mosaic.

The reality of the life north of 60° reflects the dependence on wildlife of peoples who for centuries lived off the land and harvested its wildlife. In their religious beliefs, "wildlife is there for a purpose: for man to make a living off. Wildlife is a gift of the Great Creator. These are the gifts of nature. Wildlife is the fruit of the land." Traditions were established in the past of an Animal Mother who insisted that the carcasses of dead animals be utilized in full; otherwise all would suffer. Today, this essential relationship between aboriginal people and the animals they trap remains an important part of their culture.

The fur trade played a major role in the creation of Canada. It provided the incentive for the exploration of much of the country and remained the economic foundation for Western Canada until about 1870. Today, fur trapping--the oldest land-based industry in Canada-- pumps $1 billion into our economy yearly and some fifty thousand aboriginal Canadians rely on it. Wildlife as a renewable resource remains a major component of the northern economy. Hunting and trapping continue to be important for nutritional, economic, social and cultural reasons even though many native northerners are attracted by wage employment available through nonrenewable resources.

This is illustrated in a recent survey in which eighty-eight per cent of all Inuit in Chesterfield Inlet were found to have eaten Inuit food the previous day. Store-bought food costs approximately twice as much in the North as in southern Canada so the value of native food is considerable. The product of the hunt represents more than a family’s next meal. There are other uses for animals: tools, medicine, jewellery and income. Clothing made from caribou and seal is far superior to southern products in its insulating properties. The meat is shared through the network established by the extended family: older community members, family and friends all receive part of it. Polar bear skins are used to make mitts, soles of boots and pants. Skins can be used in mattresses for sleeping in tents and igloos, and in protective matting for transportation on sleds. Ironically, only those native hunters who have a job can afford to go hunting in the short time spans available. The unemployed cannot afford to go hunting even though they have time to do so -- the high capital and operating costs of mechanized hunting (about $10,000 per year for the fully outfitted hunter) restrict hunting to those with cash incomes.

In recent years, the trapping of wild, fur-bearing animals has come under a new and frontal attack by the animal welfare movement based in urban centres. Many Canadians and Americans rallying against furs are only vaguely aware, if at all, of the concept of harvesting rights, or of Inuit nutritional and cultural dependence upon the hunt, and of the scarcity of other economic opportunities in Northern Canada. By forcing natives from the land, these groups would make it possible for major industries to move in, thus causing destruction of wildlife itself-- the very thing that these concerned individuals attempt to prevent.

Rosemary Kuptana, vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, told Arctic natives that animal rights campaigners are seeking nothing less than cultural genocide against Inuit. Stephen Kakfwi, the Dene Nation president and now a cabinet minister in the government of the NWT, warned his compatriots about the threat and the power of the anti-harvest campaign: "this force is potentially far more dangerous than the threat to our lands posed by resource developers and far more oppressing than colonial governments." Natives, fighting back through the Aboriginal Trappers Association and other organizations, are creating public awareness. There are indications that the general public across Canada now supports the continued harvesting of wildlife by natives.

Finn Lynge of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference Environmental Commission, Greenland, stresses that animal protection movements have a legitimate job to do in sensitizing man to unnecessary suffering, a goal with which the Inuit identify strongly. He adds, however, " . . . my main message from all of us, the Indians, and the Inuit of North America and Greenland, is clear: as far as our right to eat meat, to use skin garments, and to create a modest economy on the surplus of these products we need no colonialistic suppression of our way. ...It is a human right to go and get the food where it is, in a responsible manner, without ruining and depleting the resources around you." I strongly agree.

Aggressive media-oriented campaigns by animal rights groups almost brought the fur industry to an end. The human consequences of the anti-seal hunting campaign to native communities in Greenland and the eastern NWT are well known. In the NWT and Northern Québec, the number of seal pelts sold declined from about 44,000 in 1980-81 to 8,000 in 1983-84 and the value of seal pelts declined from $952,590 to $76,681 in the same period. The government of the NWT estimated that eighteen of twenty Inuit villages lost sixty percent of total annual community income--a loss that affected 1,500 Inuit hunters and their families. In Resolute, NWT, total income from sealing dropped from $54,000 in 1982 to $1,000 in 1983. A few years ago, Finn Lynge mentioned during a conference on the use of northern wildlife that, on the invitation of the Greenland home-rule government, Greenpeace International had sent two representatives to Greenland to see the conditions in some of the seal-hunting communities in Arctic west Greenland. These representatives extended a public apology to the Inuit people for the damage that Greenpeace has done to them. In general, native trappers find themselves incapable of conducting the high-profile campaigns necessary to counter the crusades launched by well-financed and professionally-organized animal rights movements.

Wolfgang Schroeder, an environmental scientist from the University of Munich, says Europeans need to be shown how important trapping is to the aboriginal way of life. He stresses the need for a broad and thorough campaign about how natives in the Northwest Territories use wildlife and how they will be affected if this centuries-old way of earning a living is seriously threatened. Canadians should have a leading role in increasing this awareness. Our native peoples and their centuries-old heritage, the very thing that makes us different from other nations, is threatened and the cultural fabric of many communities already weakened. If the harvest of wildlife is lost, the fabric may disintegrate.

It is not only the Inuit whose existence, sovereignty, and self-reliance are threatened. The Innu of Northern Québec and Labrador found themselves at the centre of the storm over the low-level flights from the Canadian Forces Base in Goose Bay thundering over the territory they call Nitassinan, or "Our Land." The present 7,000 ear-splitting flights a year would have increased to 33,000 flights a year if NATO had decided to establish a tactical weapons and fighter training centre in Goose Bay. When, earlier this year, NATO sensibly decided not to build a base in Labrador as part of the East-West Peace dividend, Canadians in all parts of the country were vexed when the Mulroney government announced it intends to expand low-level flight tests around Goose Bay. As the spokesman for the 1 ,200-member Naskapi-Montagnais Innu Association noted, the number of low-level flights could increase from the current 7,000 to 18,000 a year by 1996 under existing agreements.

Thus, until the NATO decision, one of the last hunting-gathering cultures of nomadic people, with a way of life 9,000 years old, was being pressured into "new" lifestyles by industrial development or national interests that did not include them. The results could only have been welfare dependence, alcoholism, malnutrition, domestic violence and suicide. Those Innu who managed to cling to their traditional lifestyle were watching with powerless frustration as their shrinking hunting and fishing grounds were threatened by jet engine noises and a large intrusion of transitory southerners.

Northern Land Use

Land-use is the most emotional issue facing northerners. Land is the basis of life, the source of sustenance, and the origin of material wealth. Northern natives see land very differently from non-natives. Native people call the land their land, for that is the meaning in Nitassinan, of Nunavut: "Our land." The Crees call their area Eeyou Astchee: "The people’s homeland."

The pace of industrial development in the Yukon and Northwest Territories accelerated in the 1970s, bringing with it the need for land-use planning to direct development and conservation of the region’s natural resources. A compromise must be reached if land is to be used with care, and resources developed to provide the maximum benefit to the North while satisfying the voracious appetite of the South; this implies northern land use carried out in the North essentially by northern peoples.

The orderly political development of the North depends on significant changes in both the nature and process of land-use decisions. A recent book published by the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, Hinterland or Homeland: Land -use planning in Northern Canada, argues that appropriate forms of planning can make a key contribution to human and economic development in the North and is central to both stable development and to the very security of Canada north of 60°. "The particular mechanisms by which we manage our northern lands will affect everything," says William E. Rees, an editor of the book, "from the fate of that solitary trapper now picking his way along a stony Yukon creek bed to whether Canada has a significant future as a polar nation." A consensus appears among interested parties that land-use planning in the North is essential and that it can be done cooperatively by governments, aboriginal peoples, communities and industry.

Central to it is the need to ensure that the authority to make resource-use decisions be devolved from Ottawa to Yellowknife and Whitehorse. As land claims by aboriginal organizations are settled and enshrined in legislation, the resource-use decisions in the North should reflect the real needs of northerners since they affect the quality of life in the northern third of our nation.

The claims settlements mean in effect opening the door to native participation in decision-making as they will provide aboriginal people with a voice in the management and development of the North’s resources. The interests of native northerners will be reflected in wildlife management, environment protection and the use of water and land. For non-native northerners, land claim settlements can speed up devolution by resolving questions of aboriginal title to Crown lands and by creating a better climate for business and industry across the North.

North of 60°’ four major groups representing some 40,000 native northerners have engaged in comprehensive claims negotiations. After nearly two decades of negotiation, the Council for Yukon Indians, representing 6,500 natives, reached an agreement in principle with Ottawa and the Yukon government in March, 1990. If ratified, the agreement would give the Indians 41,439 square kilometres of land and $248 million in compensation. The Dene-Métis, comprising two major groups with 13,000 claimants in thirty communities across the Mackenzie Valley, agreed in principle in mid-1990 to a settlement giving them about eighteen percent of the land in the region or about 121,000 square kilometres and $500 million in compensation. The Dene have since refused to ratify it unless its treaty and aboriginal title provisions are re-negotiated.

The 4,000 Inuvialuit scattered from the shores of the Beaufort Sea to the northern islands in the Western Arctic reached an agreement in 1984 with Ottawa: they were given title to 91,000 square kilometres and $152 million in cash compensation and are allowed to manage the settlement funds and lands and wildlife within the region.

In April 1990, an agreement-in-principle was signed with the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut. It is the largest comprehensive land claim in Canada, representing more than 17,000 Inuit and a land area of approximately two million square kilometres within the NWT. If completed over eighteen months, it would provide the Inuit with $580 million in financial compensation and confirm their title to more than 350,000 square kilometres of land -- an area about half the size of Saskatchewan. Other rights and benefits in the agreement include resource royalties, guaranteed wildlife harvesting rights, participation in decision-making structures and dealing with management of land and the environment.

The necessary preconditions to northern growth appear to be within reach as all these agreements become a fact of life.

Northern Development Re-examined

Reviewing the history of the development of the North, one sees three major stages. The first was its discovery and commercial penetration, initially by Europeans and later by Southern Californians. Phase two was the creation of administrative imperialism in Ottawa. The third and current period is characterized by the emergence of industrial production dominated by Inner Canadian-owned businesses and to a degree by foreigners.

The discovery of the Canadian North was probably by Norsemen during the 1200s, but it was mostly the British who were the first European visitors. The dominant fur company in the region became the Hudson’s Bay Company, founded in 1670. It supplied its northern forts mostly from London and for many years simply waited for Indians to bring furs to its trading posts. When the more aggressive North West Company, based in Montréal, began diverting business during the 1770s, the Hudson’s Bay Company agents began going into the northern interior to get furs. Beaver was the most valuable product so Bay traders largely ignored the Arctic, where no beaver lived, in favour of Great Slave Lake and later the Yukon. Only in the twentieth century did the Inuit enter the fur trade, relying mostly on the Arctic fox.

When the Hudson’s Bay Company portion of the continent was bought in 1870, the major prize was clearly the Prairies. Inner Canadians intended to leave the North and its residents undisturbed until southerners determined otherwise. The first flicker of southern interest in the north was the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Thousands rushed north to search for gold. A railway was completed with much difficulty from Whitehorse to the port at Skagway, Alaska, in 1900. The first North-West Mounted Police recruits arrived with the miners in the Klondike, and many detachments were later formed across the North. Other officials were sent north to do surveys, research and exploration in order to establish sovereignty more securely. As Peter Usher, a major authority on the North, notes, "Even 50 years after Confederation, there were no publicly employed doctors, teachers, or administrators in the Northwest Territories."

The Northwest Territories as such were only established by Ottawa in 1920; official indifference to native residents, whose land had in effect been seized without compensation, persisted long afterwards. Two treaties were signed with the Dene, but none was attempted with the Inuit. Indeed, accepting constitutional responsibility for aboriginals living in northern Québec caused the national and provincial governments to battle each other to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1939, each seeking to decline any role. Ottawa lost and reluctantly accepted responsibility for Inuit education and health, although in practice both were mostly provided throughout the North by Catholic and Anglican missionaries for long afterwards.

The second phase of Inner Canadian incorporation of the North coincided with a more vigorous exertion of sovereignty by Ottawa, and began with the construction of the Alaska Highway and other northern mega-projects. As world fur prices declined in the mid-twentieth century, the Hudson’s Bay Company reduced its credit to trappers and closed a number of posts. Many local natives were forced to approach military and other installations in search of employment, supplies and even food. In the face of incidents of starvation, most notably among the Keewatin Inuit during the 1950s, Ottawa intervened in a number of ways, including the granting of family allowances and old age pensions for the first time. Ballot boxes for federal elections were first distributed in the Northwest Territories during the 1950s.

Federal schools and nursing stations were built throughout the North during the 1960s and l970s. The downside, again to quote Usher, was "a peculiar form of government totalitarianism in which virtually no facet of native life remains uninfluenced by the state." Severe conditions clearly required major initiatives by Ottawa and the waves of teachers, nurses, doctors and administrators arriving were mostly well-intentioned and dedicated individuals. The health and other programs they administered were unfortunately fashioned solely on Inner Canadian perceptions, and were often applied firmly against the grain of aboriginal culture.

One major consequence of Ottawa’s new programs was the end of aboriginal life on the land and the move by many aboriginal families to settlements in Frobisher Bay, Inuvik and Yellowknife. Compulsory schooling meant, in practice, that unless the whole family moved to a centre, parents would be separated from their children. In this sense, many relocations were involuntary.

The third and current phase which began in the l950s and 1960s, resulted in large measure from the search by American, Japanese and European companies for minerals, oil and gas. One example was the Pine Point mine south of Great Slave Lake in the 1960s, which produced lead and zinc for international markets. Two of the world’s largest power stations were built at Churchill Falls in Labrador and on La Grande Rivière in northern Québec; another large hydro-electric project on the Churchill and Nelson Rivers in northern Manitoba. Oil and gas exploration and development has included Alberta’s oil sands, as well as the Mackenzie Valley, the Beaufort Sea and the High Arctic. Large amounts of oil and gas have been discovered in the North; more is expected to be found both in the northern and western Northwest Territories and off shore in the eastern Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.

Several proposals have been made to move fossil fuels south, most notably the Mackenzie Valley pipeline from the Mackenzie Delta to the U.S. midwest and the High-Arctic pipeline from west of Hudson Bay to the Great Lakes. By the mid-1980s, only an oil pipeline from Norman Wells south up the Mackenzie Valley had opened. The recently-approved proposal to move $11 billion worth of natural gas from the Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea to California might still begin by October 31, 2000.

Northern mining is a different story, partly because of a continuing long term decline in the world price of many minerals. The only major developments in recent years have been two lead-zinc mines in the Arctic

-- Nanisivik on Northern Baffin Island in 1976 and Polaris on Little Cornwalhis Island in 1981 -- and some uranium mines near Uranium City in northeast Saskatchewan. Other mining proposals for Labrador, Baffin Island, northern Yukon, and northern Ontario have not proceeded.

Economic prosperity will, however, continue to elude the North in the 1990s as a number of federal government policies, designed to curb the federal deficit, are undermining an already vulnerable economy. Northern tax benefits, which helped pay for higher fuel and food costs and medical expenses, are to be limited to an area deemed the proper North by a federally-appointed and southern-dominated task force. Thousands of taxpayers will lose these benefits when the eligibility criteria are eliminated which tie the northern living allowance to distances from a major centre. Millions of dollars will not be spent in these northern communities, but will be sent to Ottawa. "Those folks who sit in their ivory towers down south in Ottawa obviously don’t know what it’s like to live up here," commented Mel Hegland, mayor of La Ronge, Saskatchewan, a northern community that stands to lose the tax deduction.

A decision by Canada Post Corporation and its political masters, the Cabinet, to eliminate cheap rates for food shipments to northern Canada will cause sharp increases in the cost of northern living. The rate hikes, which are to average 32 per cent across northeastern Québec, northern Ontario and the Northwest Territories, will be another blow to northern communities as almost everything they buy is flown in. A grocery bill for a family of five in Pond Inlet, Northwest Territories is expected to rise from $1,300 a month to $1,600. A loaf of bread will cost $4.49 compared with the present $3.45. A five-kilogram bag of flour in small Baffin Island settlements will rise from $1 Ito $12.50; a dozen eggs will cost $4.20, up from $3.85. In Ottawa, the same amount of flour goes for $5.79 and the eggs $1.55; a loaf of bread between $.99 and $1.60. The unemployment rate in the winter of 1989 for the NWT was thirty per cent for natives, compared to five per cent for non-natives. Many northerners fear the increases on milk, fruit, vegetables and other basic staples will affect the health of native northerners as some families will cut back on these high priced products.

The postal increases, the elimination of the tax credits to certain northern communities, the proposed changes to the unemployment insurance system claims (thus far blocked by the Senate), and the proposed goods and services consumption tax (which taxes transportation costs on all items except food) will hit Northerners much more severely than most other Canadians. The combined effect of these measures by the Mulroney government will affect not only the standard of living of northerners, but also the growing perception that the present government in Ottawa neither understands the realities of life in northern parts of the country nor "gives a damn" about the well-being of northern residents.

Sustainable Development

The North is a resource hinterland supplying the metropolis of southern Canada with raw materials. The northern economy has almost no secondary or manufacturing sector: in 1989, manufacturing in the Yukon accounted for only 7.1 per cent of its economic output. Governments are the largest employers in both territories and in the northern regions of the provinces, accounting for almost forty per cent of all northern employment. Real economic growth in the North, however, depends mostly on non-renewable resource exploitation.

The main source of northern wealth in the early 1990s lies in oil, gas and mining development, but such resources create few permanent jobs. Some say that mega-developments, such as the production of Beaufort Sea oil, would allow the Northwest Territories to offset much of its current federal subsidy. According to John Merritt, formerly of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, a confidential federal cabinet document says northern resource development income, even by the year 2000, will amount to no more than a fifth of Ottawa’s northern grant. Some federal officials, said Merritt, contend that before the Northwest Territories receive any oil royalties they should pay Ottawa back the billions of tax incentive dollars handed over to oil companies during the 1980s to promote northern drilling. Outer Canadians in some parts of southern Canada can only be thankful that our own provinces didn’t have to weather such storms of indifference on our way to provincial status.

Canada’s North has been referred to as "the biggest backyard on the planet with untapped potential." The land and offshore waters of northern Canada offer oil and gas explorers opportunities unequalled almost anywhere on earth. The Mackenzie Delta and Valley, the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Islands cover an area of about 450,000 square miles -- an area twice the size of Alberta -- and most of it has potential for oil and gas development. The estimated potential reserves in this part of northern Canada are 15 billion barrels of oil and 150 trillion cubic feet of gas according to a recent report by the Geological Survey of Canada. With such promise, the North can be seen as part of the answer to future fossil fuel shortages for Canada, an opportunity to find jobs for many Canadians, and the source of vast export revenues. The resource potential, however, has to be severely discounted because of remote location, high costs, environmental concerns and logistical difficulties associated with most of the North’s resources.

Experts say that through the I990s, the most valuable components of the North’s endowment include oil and gas along the Mackenzie Corridor; oil and gas in the onshore and shallow offshore of the Mackenzie Delta; and oil resources in the offshore Delta. The West Beaufort oil opportunities are also likely to be the focus of limited exploration. All this depends very much on future world oil prices, but Northern Canada remains one of the most promising areas in North America in which to explore.

Native peoples in the North have in recent years become increasingly aware of the effects of non-renewable resource development on their lives and cultures, and of the potential benefits for them of such development. The Third National Works hop on Peoples, Resources and the Environment North of 60, held in Yellowknife in mid-1983, heard aboriginal representatives point out that they had not received major benefits through employment in the mining industry and other sectors of non-renewable resources, a view shared by the federal government and admitted generally by the industry.

The desire for more participation in northern development has resulted in specific proposals for equity participation by aboriginal peoples in oil ventures. Political powerlessness among natives generally, and among natives of the North in particular, comes in large measure from a lack of economic power collectively. Native economic companies are instruments that might foster the development of economic power within these communities while minimizing the socio-cultural costs. Michael Whittington argues persuasively that such corporations could be a catalyst for aboriginals to acquire economic power that can in turn be exercised in a manner compatible with their socio-cultural context in order to acquire a greater political power within our national political culture. Native people in the North often lack the necessary training to fill many of the positions in the non-renewable sector. Most of the jobs in the resource-based economy are filled by southerners who return home with the closure of mines and other projects. Since such jobs are usually in urban centres and far from native communities, those with the necessary skills often do not apply because they are reluctant to move from their home communities. The northern non-governmental labour force is thus drawn from temporary and transient individuals: this reality not only makes it difficult for smaller enterprises to recruit their staffs but also reduces the total purchasing power in the smaller communities, itself an essential for successful small business.

The northern economies also suffer from a lack of risk capital. There are virtually no northern financial institutions, especially in remote communities. Small business entrepreneurs cannot normally borrow from chartered bank branches in the larger centres. They must go to larger branches in the south. "The lack of indigenous risk capital and the absence of significant lending institutions in the North is exacerbated by the tendency of southern lending institutions to apply southern standards of credit risk to potential northern investments," concludes Whittington.

In view of the high cost of any northern infrastructure and transportation, development in the future is likely to be dominated by governments and larger corporations because only they have the financial and human resources necessary to operate efficiently under the extreme environmental and economic conditions in the North. For better or worse, both are thus likely to be major players in northern development. However, there must also be room for other types of institutions and other options that will complement large-scale development initiatives and provide fresh opportunities to northerners.

Continued exploitation of the natural resources of the North must take into account and strive to minimize the social and cultural impact on native communities. Those projects which allow employees not to uproot their families in order to take a job should be favoured over those that are based only on southern criteria of cost-efficiency and profitability. Secondary economic goals such as job creation potential in the North, training and skill development for native people, service creation to native communities and stimulation of the local economy, have to be considered as major criteria in an assessment of economic activity in the northern context. Thus, the potential profitability and return on investment must be examined in the context of non-economic costs and benefits. Economic development must be sensitive to the social and cultural milieu of the North, to its unique and fragile natural environment, and to potential positive and negative political impacts.

The Maidvik Corporation, with a broad mandate to secure political, social and cultural benefits for northern Québec Inuit, indicates how one native community interprets the economic development in the North. "It is important not to define northern development in purely economic terms," it states. "Rather, we must take into account the significant and complex inter-relationships between economic activity and the social and cultural problems which may result in regard to the indigenous populations." Native development corporations appear to have succeeded as an appropriate vehicle for economic development in the North. They have been springing up since the l970s, partly as organizations to administer the funds from land claims settlements transferred to the native groups, and partly to allow native organizations to acquire some insight into the Canadian business world.

Increased involvement of native people in economic activities will result in a native middle class with the skills, training, and education necessary to create innovative enterprises capable of accommodating traditional ways with contemporary ones. "If this native middle-class emerges from involvement in native-controlled institutions such as the development corporations," argues Whittington, and I agree with him fully, "it may spawn a new philosophy of development that is different from that of the south and that can establish a place for traditional values within the Canadian economic mainstream."

Northern Environment

Public opinion surveys have repeatedly indicated that the environment remains one of the major issues for all Canadians. Northerners are especially sensitive to environmental issues as the pressures for resource development become stronger. They view the development of their natural environment and economy as parts of the same decision-making process. The sustainable development of northern resources is central to their long-term economic, cultural and social well-being. Industry must thus work closely with northern governments to meet the challenges arising during development of the northern economy. Both must seize the opportunity to learn from past development errors in other regions in order to improve the process in the North. For the time being, the obligation to ensure that the resources of the North are used wisely rests on all of us.

The success of northern environmental protection will be largely affected by political development in the North as territorial governments seek provincial-type responsibilities over their resources. The 1988 agreement-in-principle on the Northern Energy Accord with the Yukon and the Northwest Territories is a positive step toward this goal.

Industry has some essential contributions to make in the development of northern structures, policies and legislation. The greatest are to entrench environmental decision-making into the business base, to improve economic and environmental planning, and to develop a "made-in-the-North" approach to resource management and development. Michael Robinson, Executive Director of the Arctic Institute of America, has identified four generations in the history of environmental practice: the Elders’ Generation of the l960s whose efforts laid the foundation for careers in industry and government; the Mackenzie Valley Generation who through a commission of inquiry contributed to the fostering of Canada’s international reputation as an environmentally and socially aware country on northern development; the Mega Project Generation of environmental regulators, industry managers and private and public sector consultants, i.e. the generation of boom and bust of the recession of 1981-82 and the layoffs of 1986; and finally, the Environmental Technocrat Generation, the managers of the 1980s and 1990s who must deal with the consequences of global environmental change and public demands for strict stewardship and sustainable economic development.

"In Whitehorse and Yellowknife," Robinson predicted, "a new team of regulatory professionals will view environmental and social issues from the perspective of homeland rather than frontier and they will do so with educational experience and qualifications every bit the equal of their industry counterparts. High on their agendas will be project contributions to a sustainable northern economy, free from the boom and bust cycles endemic to southern industries, and detailed concern about project linkages to the northern environment."

Land, water and wildlife have sustained Northerners for centuries. This relationship between human beings and the natural environment is central to native identity and culture. When explorers and scientists first went north, they quickly grew to appreciate it; many would not have survived without assistance given to them by natives. Over the past decade, there has been a growing awareness of the value of the environmental knowledge aboriginal people possess, including their understanding of animal behaviour, and the indigenous systems of self-government which rely on a sophisticated database to provide strategies for conserving natural resources. Everyone now recognizes the need for an economic development that is ecologically sustainable. One way to achieve it is to draw on knowledge collected over generations of observations and to involve local aboriginals in all phases of the management process.

Participants in a fairly recent seminar on the role of the northern community in managing northern resources echoed the concerns of many natives when they referred to "long-term decisions by short-term residents" as hurting the North. Northerners often feel remote from decisions affecting their livelihoods. Decision-makers are usually transient, representing the non-native business sector, and thus fail to understand that native culture places a higher value on the protection of resources than on the potential economic benefits for resource development.

Many speakers commented on the limited ability of northern communities to influence decision-making about local developments. As a consequence, projects are often harmful to the traditional land use and wildlife areas. (For example, the living quarters for Pine Point mine workers are located within the trapping area of residents of Fort Resolution.) The conclusions of these discussions summarized well the role of aboriginal communities in designing future resource development. Northerners now expect to play a major role in decision-making that precedes resource development. Community representatives see their role as encompassing everything from the identification of lands for oil and gas exploration to the negotiation of provisions guaranteeing the use of local business and labour. Native northerners say first consideration must be given to the protection of renewable resources; they are the foundation of northern societies and economies, and northerners must continue to rely on indigenous food. They are determined to make changes that will prevent damage to the environment and minimize hardship during economic downturns.

Tourism in the North

The alluring mystery of the North offers much promise for tourism in a region that could benefit from the industry but could also become its casualty. Southerners seeking unique tourist experiences are welcome for their dollars in the often stagnant northern economy: they are also viewed as intruders, disrupting the nature-determined pace of life of shrinking numbers of native communities and the sensitive northern ecosystems.

Tourism in the North is a recent phenomenon. Prior to 1960, only Dawson in the Yukon could be identified as a tourist centre. At present those who visit the Canadian North annually represent only one per cent of tourists in Canada. While there has been a growing recognition of the importance of northern tourism, the real impact of the industry on the economy and environment is little understood or measured. How the unique flora, fauna and ecosystems of the northern wilderness can compete with southern tourist attractions, such as the Niagara Falls, Prince Edward Island, Vancouver Island or the Rockies, remains unclear. Northern tourism is more nature-oriented and as such will attract visitors prepared to pay high prices to see the mountains of the Yukon and Baffin-Ellesmere, to fish for Arctic char or salmon on the North Shore, to observe nests of migratory birds or species of northern wildlife or just to absorb the fresh air and the pristine environment so quickly and irrevocably disappearing from the planet.

The North has its own culture to offer visitors, one that is not measured by mammoth architecture or magnificent cathedrals, but that reflects the realities of a world in which human beings have little impact on nature. Of considerable interest to southerners are numerous archeological sites, rock paintings, Dene and Inuit communities, and the signs of industrial development in the north, including the White Pass and Yukon Railway and the hydroelectric projects on northern rivers. In the Yukon, a visitor survey showed that 193,700 individuals (most of them Americans) visited the territory in 1987 between June 1 and September30 and spent an estimated $37 million on direct expenditures.

A 1988 publication by the government of the Northwest Territories attempted to capture the economic impact of the Northwest Territories tourism industry and to determine its potential for development. It estimated the value of the Northwest Territories current travel volume at $119.5 million annually. The sector employed over 3,500 persons both full time and part time. In fact, while the public sector (federal, territorial and local government) is the Northwest Territories’ largest employer--almost 40 per cent of the labour force -- tourism is the largest employer in the private sector. The industry accounts for almost eleven per cent of the Northwest Territories’ Gross Domestic Product.

The best potential for tourism lies in the non-resident pleasure travel market. The key to success, a NWT government document says, lies not in travel volume but in selling good travel products that are unique and are perceived to be high-value attractions to tourists. The same dollar inflow can be achieved here with fewer tourists, and this approach to tourism is more compatible with the uniqueness of the social and economic structure of northern communities. Small communities and fragile ecosystems can neither absorb nor tolerate increased visitor volume.

Eco-tourism, a different approach to tourism in the North, is becoming more popular, as a form of recreation that combines concern for protection of the environment and the enjoyment of wilderness. Bathurst Inlet Lodge, just sixty-four kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, is one of five lodges in the Canadian Arctic providing this sort of product in Northern tourism. Co-owned by non-natives and twenty-five Inuit family members of the Bathurst Inlet settlement, the lodge provides visitors with some comfort while offering a firsthand opportunity to appreciate the surrounding wilderness and wildlife thanks to the Inuit guides and trappers. For local Inuit this means a stable economic future. They not only assist in the kitchen and with housekeeping, but also act as wildlife guides. When, instead of killing an animal, a trapper tracks it and gets close to it for the tourists to see, he makes a more efficient use of both his skills and the natural resources at his disposal. One local wolf pack or musk ox herd will bring more income from tourists than it will from hides and furs. In this way, eco-tourism could become one of the most important modern economic opportunities for the Inuit.

Politics North of 60

The Yukon has elected its own government since 1898 and the Northwest Territories since 1967. Yet development of a fully responsible government capable of safeguarding and reflecting the culture and traditions of the region is still only a dream. Increasing numbers of aboriginal and white northerners want to see it realized as soon as possible. Northerners see their region as a colony of the south with its land and resources owned and controlled by southerners. A greater degree of self-government and the gradual transfer of jurisdiction over natural resources are essential to their ability to become more self-sufficient and less financially dependent on the federal government.

Incredibly, both territories were closer to full responsible government decades ago than now. The Yukon was created as a separate territory in 1898 with an appointed commissioner and a six-member appointed council. By 1908, all its council members were elected. The commissioner, council and administration were all located in the Yukon and provincial status was seen as imminent. With the collapse of the Klondike boom, the territorial population declined so swiftly that by the end of World War I the Yukon was run almost entirely by Ottawa’s commissioner.

The original Northwest Territories contained the present NWT, Yukon, Alberta and Saskatchewan. After Alberta and Saskatchewan achieved provincial status in 1905, the remnants of the NWT sank back into an unalloyed colonial status: they were even obliged to accept directives from a commissioner and officials living far away in Ottawa. Even the members of the six-member council appointed in 1921 were Ottawa residents. In 1951 the territorial council met in the north for the first time with newly-elected members from the Mackenzie Valley. When the territorial government finally moved to Yellowknife in 1967, the enlarged council still had some appointed members. The first fully-elected N.W.T. council took office only in 1975.

Today, both territorial governments are creatures of Parliament and as such remain in theory subject to federal edict in all their decisions. In practice they are now quite close to achieving the full powers of a responsible government. Since 1979, the Yukon Commissioner has appointed his cabinet on the advice of the majority leader, and must accept the council’s advice, thereby functioning essentially as the lieutenant-governor of a province. The Yukon Assembly, dominated by political parties since 1978, operates on the premise that its cabinet must maintain the confidence of the Council to stay in office.

The progress of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly toward a similar model has been slower. Council members, still elected on a non-partisan basis, choose their Executive Council members, including the Government Leader, and any of them can be dismissed by a vote of the assembly. Assembly divisions tend to be on lines such as Eastern Arctic versus Western Arctic and native versus non-native. In the 1987 election, fifteen of the twenty-four MLAs elected were Dene, Inuit or Métis; aboriginal issues are, accordingly, now at the top of the Assembly’s agenda.

In both territories, the local government is responsible for social services, education, tourism and most aspects of renewable resource development. Ottawa maintains jealous control of non-renewable resources and of land use. Meanwhile, federal transfer payments constitute approximately eighty per cent of revenue in the Northwest Territories budget, sixty per cent in the Yukon one. Ottawa provided $825 million in total to both territories during fiscal 1988/89 to cover the gap between territorial spending and revenues. This meant a federal subsidy of about $11,000 for every Canadian living north of 60°. The huge size of the federal subsidy to northerners was presumably what encouraged Bill McKnight, Ottawa’s Indian and Northern Affairs Minister of the day, to tell a group of northerners in late 1987 that their political aspirations were "bound absolutely to the ability of the northern economy to generate employment."

In 1988, the Penikett government released a report, Yukon 2000, resulting from an extensive consultation process with residents. It focused on community renewal and economic development. A few months later, Ottawa’s Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development released its own ambitious program for both territories, calling for fully responsible northern governments. It offered to transfer federal programs to their governments, to settle native land claims, to promote economic development, and to enhance Canadian northern sovereignty.

Nunavut -- "Our Land"

Another major issue of political development in the 1980s was that of dividing the Northwest Territories between east and west, Nunavut and Denendah. It is closely linked to the settlement of land claims and the establishment of native self-government. The Inuit believe that their economic future and cultural identity can be protected only if they have some control over the government of their area and if they share in the management and the resources of their lands. Nunavut-- "our land" -- is the name Inuit give to their model of self-government and self-determination. "Northern native people want nothing more than to be accepted as part of Canada, yet Canada appears to be saying no to them," concluded the authors of Nunavut, a 1989 report published by the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee. Stressing that political, racial, and economic uncertainties plague the North for lack of a political settlement between aboriginal peoples and the Canadian government, they plead for the creation of a new political entity within the Canadian federation: Nunavut. They point out that the Inuit proposal for Nunavut has been specifically conceived to meet the criteria of the two population groups affected. For aboriginal peoples, it would guarantee economic rights, collective cultural rights, and culturally responsive self-governing jurisdictions. For the white population, it would ensure protection for their minority rights, equal opportunity for political participation, and freedom to share in economic development. Since Inuit would constitute about eighty per cent of the population of Nunavut, creation of the new territory would, in effect, establish self-government for the Inuit, concluded the report.

In fact, aboriginal self-government is now supported in principle by most Canadians. A poll carried out by Decima Research in 1987 for the Inuit Committee on National Issues indicated that seventy per cent of Canadians in every region of the country supported the idea of aboriginal self-government. Eighty-two per cent of those polled believed that recognizing the role of the aboriginal peoples in Confederation is important for national pride. A 1989 Southam/Angus Reid poll concluded that more than half of the people surveyed said the right of self-government should be enshrined in the Constitution and that natives should have their own police and justice system.

Nunavut is both a natural geographic region and a distinct cultural community. Canadians who live there should be able to manage their local economies, their social services, their school systems and their way of life according to their systems of values and local circumstances. They should also be allowed to participate fully in the making of national policies which affect their lives.

The Nunavut concept does not call for the creation of an ethnic nation; it invites non-native northerners to share in the future and the culture of the land. Nunavut would constitute a historic step in the development of better understanding between races. Canadians have a chance to demonstrate to the world that old notions of European dominance are gone, and that in our country we see federalism as a way of protecting the identity of minorities. Federalism is practised throughout the world in large measure to protect the identity of minority regions and peoples.


As devolution toward full provincial status in both territories was discussed with increasing frequency during the l980s, the most widely-resented feature of the now collapsed Meech Lake accord in the North was its requirement of unanimous agreement by eleven legislatures before either territory could achieve provincial status. Yukon premier Tony Penikett noted that the three Prairie provinces were each created by the Canadian Parliament alone after residents petitioned and negotiated with Ottawa. Actually, Ottawa alone negotiated the terms for entry for six provinces between 1870 and 1950. Not one required the assent of any other province. Under the Meech Lake proposal, Penikett insisted, provincial status for the two would have become "practically impossible. Second, it was done without any consultation with us whatsoever."

The architects of the Meech Lake agreement were understandably anxious to end Québec’s exclusion from the 1982 Constitution. How could they say "yes to Québec and no to the North?" asked the northern premier who concluded with ample reason, "Other federal democracies, including the United States, India, and Australia require only their federal government and a territory to agree. Alaska, for example, became a state by act of Congress and did not require Rhode Island’s permission or consent. Neither should the Yukon or the Northwest Territories require Prince Edward Island’s consent." His logic and history inferences are as unassailable as the accord was weak.

Erik Nielsen, the former Yukon Member of Parliament, was equally blunt in his autobiography, The House is Not a Home: "...the Meech Lake Accord flies in the face of everything I have fought for throughout my political life. It dismisses the rights and privileges of Canadians living north of the 60th parallel out of hand by denying them the opportunity forever to form one or more new provinces within the Canadian federation ... and it contradicts the publicly declared policy of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada as propounded by John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield, and Joe Clark, and by formal resolutions adopted by the party itself at successive conventions."

Audrey McLaughlin, the NDP national leader, made essentially the same point: "... the Yukon and the Northwest Territories have effectively been cut out of potential future provincehood ... There is a very strong feeling in the North.. . the feeling that people have been left out, that they have been treated unfairly and that Canadian justice does not apply to those north of 60°."

What a former Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, Gordon Robertson, has called the northern "holy grail: provincial status," might in fact not be in the best interests of northerners for now. Robertson’s 1985 monograph, Northern Provinces: A Mistaken Goal, makes a persuasive case. The Nunavut region would have fewer than 14,000 residents and lacks resources to provide employment and development. Denendeh in the Western Arctic would see Indians and Métis residents become approximately a one-third minority in the region. In the Yukon, provincial status is often seen as an ultimate step: a new statute could complete the provincetype powers already held by the territorial assembly and council. Most Yukon Indians, however, appear to prefer another form of self-government which would link resource use and development, the preservation of game stocks, and the environment to their indigenous culture. Finally, concludes Robertson, the legislative and administrative powers of the two territorial governments are already much the same as those of the provinces. There are few other differences relating to health services, criminal prosecutions, specific roads, and, most importantly, to northern Crown lands that are still owned and administered by Ottawa.

It is not clear that a majority of residents in either territory want provincehood, although opinion is clearly more favourable in the Yukon than in the Northwest Territories. Northerners are Canadian citizens and are thus entitled to the full provincial rights and self-determination other Canadians enjoy. The subsidies that northerners enjoy could be paid to two or more new provincial governments in the North. After all, if the Yukon and Northwest Territories administrators today operate as provincial governments, why not extend to them the full constitutional authority of all other provinces?

The North is undergoing complex and far-reaching changes and it will require years before we can assess their full implications. One of the forces that set them in motion was a growing understanding on the part of southern Canadians that decisions about the North must be taken by or with the consent of Northerners. Particularly, native Northerners have for too long been denied any meaningful input in the decision-making concerning their homeland. The North has to be fully integrated into our national union: it will enrich Canada by its diversity and uniqueness.


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