A new national Inuit research strategy is aiming to put Inuit-specific research in the hands of its people.
The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), an advocacy group representing 65,000 Inuit across the country, is leading the plan and calling for an end to exploitative research that ignores Inuit needs.
ITK president Natan Obed said there’s plenty of existing research on the Inuit Nunangat, the four northern regions representing the Inuit homeland. For every three Inuit, there’s one study, he said.
“There’s been a focus on Inuit Nunangat in that research. But there has not been a focus on Inuit participation,” he said.
Early research on Inuit Nunangat, he said, has served to show differences in how the northern societies function, as a means of proving the Inuit’s “inferiority.”
“Over the last 100 years, Canada has used the Arctic, and research in the Arctic, for sovereignty or for resource development concerns,” he said.
“We’re hoping to change that and the research focus be on our society and our people and the research questions that our society needs answered,” he said, “especially in this time of climate change and social inequity and such challenges we have in relation to things like suicide.”
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the government supports Inuit-directed research in northern communities.
“The Arctic is for the people who live there,” she said.
The 2018 federal budget earmarks $82 million over 10 years for an Inuit health survey to be co-created by the federal government and the Inuit. Obed said he hopes this lays the groundwork for future partnerships.