Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada 

Relations Couronne-Autochtones et des Affaires du Nord Canada 

Two cabinet ministers oversee the department: the Minister of Crown–Indigenous relations (whose portfolio includes treaty rights and land negotiations) and the Minister of Northern Affairs. Its headquarters is in Terrasses de la Chaudière, in downtown Gatineau, Quebec. 


Inuit ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, ᐃᓄᒃ, dual: Inuuk, ᐃᓅᒃ) are a group of culturally similar Indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic and subarctic regions of Greenland, Labrador, Quebec, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Alaska. Inuit languages are part of the Eskimo–Aleut languages, also known as Inuit-Yupik-Unangan and Eskaleut. Inuit Sign Language is a critically endangered language isolate used in Nunavut. 

Inuit live throughout most of Northern Canada in the territory of Nunavut, Nunavik in the northern third of Quebec, Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut in Labrador, and in various parts of the Northwest Territories, particularly around the Arctic Ocean, in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.  Except for NunatuKavut, these areas are known, primarily by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as Inuit Nunangat. In Canada, sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 classify Inuit as a distinctive group of Aboriginal Canadians not included under the First Nations or the Métis. 

Greenlandic Inuit are descendants of Thule migrations from Canada by 1100 CE. Although Greenland withdrew from the European Communities in 1985, the Inuit of Greenland are Danish citizens and, as such, remain citizens of the European Union. In the United States, the Alaskan Iñupiat are traditionally located in the Northwest Arctic Borough, on the Alaska North Slope, and Little Diomede Island.

Many individuals who would have historically been referred to as "Eskimo" find that term offensive or forced upon them in a colonial way; "Inuit" is now a common autonym for a large sub-group of these people. The word "Inuit" (varying forms Iñupiat, Inuvialuit, Inughuit, etc.), however, is an ancient self-referential to a group of peoples which includes, at most, the Iñupiat of northern Alaska, the four broad groups of Inuit in Canada, and the Greenlandic Inuit. This usage has long excluded other closely related groups (e.g. Yupik, Aleut). Therefore, the Aleut (Unangan) and Yupik peoples (Alutiiq/Sugpiaq, Central Yup'ik, Siberian Yupik), who live in Alaska and Siberia, at least at an individual and local level, generally do not self-identify as "Inuit."

Inuit are the descendants of what anthropologists call the Thule people, who emerged from western Alaska around 1000 CE. They had split from the related Aleut group about 4,000 years ago and from northeastern Siberian migrants. They spread eastward across the Arctic. They displaced the related Dorset culture, the Tuniit in Inuktitut, the last central Paleo-Eskimo culture.

Inuit legends describe the Tuniit as "giants," people taller and stronger than Inuit. Less frequently, the legends refer to the Dorset as "dwarfs." Researchers believe Inuit society had advantages by adapting to using dogs as transport animals and developing larger weapons and technologies superior to those of the Dorset culture. By 1100 CE, Inuit migrants had reached West Greenland, where they settled. During the 12th century, they also settled in East Greenland.

Faced with population pressures from the Thule and other surrounding groups, such as the Algonquian and Siouan-speaking peoples to the south, the Tuniit gradually receded. The Tuniit were thought to have become completely extinct as a people by about 1400 or 1500. But, in the mid-1950s, researcher Henry B. Collins determined that based on the ruins found at Native Point on Southampton Island, the Sadlermiut were likely the last remnants of the Dorset culture, or Tuniit. The Sadlermiut population survived up until the winter of 1902–1903, when exposure to new infectious diseases brought by contact with Europeans led to their extinction as a people.

In the early 21st century, mitochondrial DNA research supported the continuity theory between the Tuniit and the Sadlermiut peoples. It also provided evidence that a population displacement did not occur within the Aleutian Islands between the Dorset and Thule transition. In contrast to other Tuniit populations, the Aleut and Sadlermiut benefited from geographical isolation and their ability to adopt certain Thule technologies.

In Canada and Greenland, Inuit circulated almost exclusively north of the "Arctic tree line," the adequate southern border of Inuit society. The most southern "officially recognized" Inuit community in the world is Rigolet in Nunatsiavut.

South of Nunatsiavut, the descendants of the southern Labrador Inuit in NunatuKavut continued their traditional transhumant semi-nomadic way of life until the mid-1900s. The Nunatukavummuit people usually moved among islands and bays on a seasonal basis. They did not establish stationary communities. In other areas south of the tree line, non-Inuit Indigenous cultures were well established. The culture and technology of Inuit society that served so well in the Arctic were not suited to subarctic regions, so they did not displace their southern neighbours.

Inuit had trade relations with more southern cultures; boundary disputes were common and gave rise to aggressive actions. Warfare was not uncommon among those Inuit groups with sufficient population density. Inuit, such as the Nunamiut, who inhabited the Mackenzie River delta area, often engaged in warfare. However, the more sparsely settled Inuit in the Central Arctic did so less often.

Their first European contact was with the Vikings, who had settled in Greenland centuries prior. The sagas recorded meeting skrælingar, probably an undifferentiated label for all the Indigenous peoples whom the Norse encountered, whether Tuniit, Inuit, or Beothuk.

After about 1350, the climate grew colder during the period known as the Little Ice Age. During this period, Alaskan natives were able to continue their whaling activities. But, in the high Arctic, Inuit were forced to abandon their hunting and whaling sites as bowhead whales disappeared from Canada and Greenland. These Inuit had to subsist on a much poorer diet and lost access to the essential raw materials for their tools and architecture, which they had previously derived from whaling.

The changing climate forced the Inuit to work their way south, pushing them into marginal niches along the edges of the tree line. These were areas First Nations had not occupied or where they were weak enough for Inuit to live near them. Researchers need help defining when the Inuit stopped this territorial expansion. Evidence shows that the Inuit were still moving into new territory in southern Labrador when they first began interacting with European colonists in the 17th century.

The lives of Paleo-Eskimos of the far north were largely unaffected by the arrival of visiting Norsemen except for mutual trade. The Labrador Inuit have had the most extended continuous contact with Europeans. After the disappearance of the Norse colonies in Greenland, Inuit had no contact with Europeans for at least a century. By the mid-16th century, Basque whalers and fishermen were already working the Labrador coast and had established whaling stations on land, such as the one excavated at Red Bay, Labrador. Inuit do not appear to have interfered with their operations but raided the stations in winter, taking tools and items made of worked iron, which they adapted to their own needs. 

Martin Frobisher's 1576 search for the Northwest Passage was the first well-documented contact between Europeans and Inuit. Frobisher's expedition landed in Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island, near the Iqaluit settlement. Frobisher encountered the Inuit on Resolution Island, where five sailors left the ship, under orders from Frobisher, with instructions to stay clear of the Inuit. They became part of Inuit mythology. Inuit oral tradition tells that the men lived among them for a few years of their own free will until they died attempting to leave Baffin Island in a self-made boat and vanished. In an attempt to find the men, Frobisher captured three Inuits and brought them back to England. They were the first Inuit ever to visit Europe.

The semi-nomadic Inuit were fishermen and hunters harvesting lakes, seas, ice platforms, and tundra. While some allegations that the Inuit were hostile to early French and English explorers, fishermen, and whalers, more recent research suggests that the early relations with whaling stations along the Labrador coast and later James Bay were based on a mutual interest in trade. In the final years of the 18th century, the Moravian Church began missionary activities in Labrador, supported by the British, who were tired of the raids on their whaling stations. The Moravian missionaries could quickly provide the Inuit with the iron and basic materials they had been stealing from whaling outposts, materials whose actual cost to Europeans was almost nothing but whose value to the Inuit was enormous. From then on, contacts between the national groups in Labrador were far more peaceful.

The exchanges that accompanied the arrival and colonization by the Europeans significantly damaged the Inuit way of life. Mass death was caused by the new infectious diseases carried by whalers and explorers, to which the Indigenous peoples had no acquired immunity. The high mortality rate contributed to the enormous social disruptions caused by the distorting effect of Europeans' material wealth and the introduction of different materials. Nonetheless, Inuit society in the higher latitudes largely remained in isolation during the 19th century.

The Hudson's Bay Company opened trading posts such as Great Whale River (1820), today the site of the twin villages of Whapmagoostui and Kuujjuarapik, where whale products of the commercial whale hunt were processed and furs traded. The expedition of 1821–23 to the Northwest Passage led by Commander William Edward Parry twice over-wintered in Foxe Basin. It provided the first informed, sympathetic and well-documented account of the economic, social and religious life of the Inuit. Parry stayed in what is now Igloolik over the second winter. Parry's writings, with pen and ink illustrations of Inuit everyday life, and those of George Francis Lyon were widely read after they were both published in 1824. Captain George Comer's Inuk wife, Shoofly, known for her sewing skills and elegant attire, convinced him to acquire more sewing accessories and beads for trade with the Inuit.

As of the 2016 Canadian census, 65,025 people identified as Inuit living in Canada. This was up 29.1% from the 2006 Canadian census. Close to three-quarters (72.8%) of Inuit lived in one of the four regions comprising Inuit Nunangat (Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and Inuvialuit Settlement Region). From 2006 to 2016, the Inuit population grew by 20.1% inside Inuit Nunangat.

The largest population of Inuit in Canada as of 2016 live in Nunavut, with 30,140 Inuit out of a total population of 35,580 residents. Between 2006 and 2016, the Inuit population of Nunavut grew by 22.5%. In Nunavut, the Inuit population forms a majority in all communities and is the only jurisdiction of Canada where Aboriginal peoples form a majority.

As of 2016, 13,945 Inuit were living in Quebec. The majority, about 11,795, live in Nunavik. The Inuit population of Nunavik grew 23.3% between the 2006 and 2016 censuses. This was the fastest growth among all four regions of Inuit Nunangat.

The 2016 Canada Census found 6,450 Inuit live in Newfoundland and Labrador, including 2,285 in Nunatsiavut. In Nunatsiavut, the Inuit population grew 6.0% between 2006 and 2016.

As of 2016, 4,080 Inuit were living in the Northwest Territories. The majority, 3,110, live in the six communities of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. Inuit population growth in the region was essentially flat between 2006 and 2016.

Outside of Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit population was 17,695 as of 2016. This was a growth of 61.9% between the 2006 and 2016 censuses. The highest populations of Inuit outside of Inuit Nunangat lived in the Atlantic provinces (30.6%), with 23.5% living in Newfoundland and Labrador. A further 21.8% outside of Inuit Nunangat lived in Ontario, 28.7% in the western provinces, 12.1% in Quebec, and 6.8% in the Northwest Territories (not including the Inuvialuit region) and Yukon.

Included in the population of Newfoundland and Labrador outside of Inuit Nunangat is the unrecognized Inuit territory of NunatuKavut, where about 6,000 NunatuKavut people (Labrador Metis or Inuit-metis) reside in southern Labrador

While Inuit Nunangat is within Canada, and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami oversees only the four official regions, it remains NunatuKavut in southern Labrador. NunatuKavummuit has retained a treaty with the Crown since 1765, and the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) oversees governance in this region.

The Inuvialuit are western Canadian Inuit who remained in the Northwest Territories when Nunavut split off. They live primarily in the Mackenzie River Delta, Banks Island, and parts of Victoria Island in the Northwest Territories. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation officially represents them and, in 1984, received a comprehensive land claims settlement, the first in Northern Canada, with the signing of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement.

The TFN worked for ten years and, in September 1992, reached a final agreement with the Government of Canada. This agreement called for separating the Northwest Territories into an eastern territory whose Aboriginal population would be predominately Inuit, the future Nunavut, and a rump Northwest Territories in the west. It was the most significant land claim agreement in Canadian history. In November 1992, nearly 85% of the Inuit approved the Nunavut Final Agreement of what would become Nunavut. As the final step in this long process, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was signed on May 25, 1993, in Iqaluit by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and by Paul Quassa, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which replaced the TFN with the ratification of the Nunavut Final Agreement. The Canadian Parliament passed the supporting legislation in June of the same year, enabling the 1999 establishment of Nunavut as a territorial entity.

The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was implemented in 1993 between the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement Area and the Government of Canada subject to the Constitution Act 1982. The territory of Nunavut was formed in 1999. INAC has significant responsibilities for managing the lands and resources of Nunavut.

Concerning the Inuit of Nunavut, the department and its Minister have the challenge of implementing the Conciliator's Final Report, dated March 1, 2006, on the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Implementation Contract Negotiations for the Second Planning Period 2003-2013 "The Nunavut Project" authored by Thomas Berger. This report recommends increasing Inuit participation in Nunavut's federal and territorial public service.

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