Retired senator says Nunavut on its way to achieving government powers similar to provinces

It was a day for the history books in Nunavut as the territory moved one step closer to gaining the same government powers as a Canadian province.

“I actually think it’s an act of decolonization because the remote colonial administration in Ottawa, maybe well-intentioned though they’ve been, have been running our affairs without us having control,” Dennis Patterson, the recently retired senator for the territory, told APTN’s Nation to Nation. “To me its decolonization and it’s a giant leap forward.”

Patterson was speaking from Iqaluit where he attended what was called a “devolution” signing ceremony between the territory and the Trudeau government that took place earlier in the day.

This signing included Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., President Aluki Kotierk and Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal.

Inuit languages

An Ottawa-based organization that provides grassroots Indigenous language services to Inuit people living in the city says it is struggling to cope with government funding cuts.

This in spite of the fact the window is rapidly closing if Ottawa is serious about Indigenous language revitalization, according to Isaruit Inuit Arts program coordinator Ben Illauq.

“Our knowledge keepers are all oral based,” he said. “So as soon as they’ve passed on, the whole knowledge piece passes on too.”

In spite of the financial challenges, staffers at Isaruit Inuit Arts say they are determined to keep its doors open.

What’s ahead for the AFN?

One of Canada’s most respected and seasoned journalists says it would be a mistake to think the Assembly of First Nations will continue to be anything other than a status quo organization after the recent election of Cindy Woodhouse as national chief.

“Cindy’s (Woodhouse) is a fairly establishment type of leader,” said Doug Cuthand, a columnist with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. “She’ll be working with the chiefs, with the government and I don’t see that much change from when Perry Bellegarde (former national chief from 2014 to 2021) was leader.

“RoseAnne Archibald (former national chief 2021 to 2023) tried to shake things up and get more activist but I think there’s resistance from the chiefs to move in that direction. They seem to have hit a plateau and that’s where I think Cindy Woodhouse continues on that path.”

Since Bellegarde was elected national chief in 2014, the AFN has been known for its very strong ties to the Liberal party and then Trudeau government when it came to power in late 2015.

Archibald appeared to want to distance the organization from the federal government and establish a more independent body from Ottawa’s grasp.

However, within less than a year of her mandate allegations of harassment were coming forward from some AFN staffers and by July 2022 the executive of the organization was making moves to remove her as national chief prior to any formal investigation.

Fast forward a year later to an assembly in Halifax last summer and the executive was successful in getting a resolution passed to officially oust Archibald.

This was after media reported an external report confirmed staff harassment by the national chief but it is not clear whether it called for the national chief to be removed from her position as the report has not been publicly released.

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