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Arctic Yearbook 2012
the Arctic in 2005 entitled,
Inuit Nunaat
(Inuit homeland)
The map replaced provincial and territorial
boundaries with cultural borders effectively challenging conventional notions of territory.
Four years later, the ITK took spatial reframing one step further when the association changed the
name of Canada’s Inuit regions from
Inuit Nunaat
Inuit Nunangat
Inuit Nunaat
is a Greenlandic
term that refers to the land only whereas
Inuit Nunangat
, a Canadian Inuktitut term, encompasses
land, marine areas, and ice. “As Canadian Inuit consider the land, water, and ice, of our homeland to
be integral to our culture and our way of life it was felt that “Inuit Nunangat” is a more inclusive and
appropriate term to use when describing our lands” (ITK, 2009). While the significance of the name
change may not be immediately apparent, in fact it could have implications for international law. If
the Inuit concept of land is broadened to include ice and water, this could have implications for
foreign policy including the application of the
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
current dispute over the Northwest Passage. In
A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada
provocatively asks the question – if Canada were to conceptualize territory from an Inuit perspective,
how might this influence international law? “[I]f we were to take on our Northernness and argue
from the position of Inuit legitimacy and Inuit concepts – of stable life involving a joining together
of land an ice or water,” Saul questions, “how would the rest of the world react? Would international
tribunals and courts have trouble with this rectification of names? Of course they would … [b]ut
they would be obliged to consider it and therefore to consider differently the very nature of the
opposing arguments” (Saul, 2008: 302). In other words, how territory is conceptualized can have far-
reaching implications.
In 2009 the ITK used
Inuit Nunangat
to challenge domestic northern policy. In July of 2009 the
Government of Canada released
Canada’s Northern Strategy: Our North, Our Heritage, Our Future.
main map in the document was the conventional political map of Canada’s north featuring the
Yukon, Northwest Territory, and Nunavut. The map completely excluded the Inuit regions of
Nunavik in northern Québec, and Nunatsiavut in Newfoundland and Labrador. Mary Simon, then-
president of the ITK, immediately criticized the government for using a map that did not include all
of the Inuit regions in a federal policy that implicates all northern peoples. Her comments drew
considerable media attention including a half-page article in
The Vancouver Sun
complete with images
of the two competing maps (Boswell, 2009). The Canadian government immediately acknowledged
the oversight, apologized and promised to reprint the
Northern Strategy.
Though Canada’s northern
strategy has never been reprinted as promised, the issue of how the Arctic ought to be