Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 46

Arctic Yearbook 2014 46 by the very many federal shackles that constrain us. We look at the agreement that we have negotiated, that will get us almost shackle-free. Will we be better off tomorrow?... The answer is unequivocally yes,” (GNWT Hansard, June 5, 2013: 2854). As Miltenberger alludes to in his speech to the Assembly, historically, Canada’s Arctic and subArctic territories have been the site of both economic exploitation and social incursion driven by Southern Canada. Over the last century and a half, these incursions wrought devastation on Northern Indigenous peoples. Exposed to newcomers, northerners suffered epidemics of influenza and tuberculosis (Canada RCAP 1996). As brought to light by the Qiktani Truth Commission’s work and report, Inuit sled dogs were systemically slaughtered by RCMP officers, limiting hunters’ ability to travel and harvest on the land; communities including Grise Fiord were established as the result of ill-considered High Arctic relocation policies from the federal government (2010). The legacy of the residential school system in the Canadian North has far reaching consequences, shaping how communities today relate to the contemporary territorial education system (Canada RCAP 1996; TRC interim report 2012; Daitch 2013). As articulated in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, On one hand, the North is the part of Canada in which Aboriginal peoples have achieved the most in terms of political influence and institutions appropriate to their cultures and needs. On the other, the North itself is a region with little influence over its own destiny. Most of the levers of political and economic power continue to be held outside the North and, in some cases, outside Canada (1996, Ch. 6, vol. 4 para. 1). Although the Royal Commission report was written in 1996, much of its description still applies to the territorial North today, particularly in a resource driven economy (Conference Board of Canada 2011). In spite of challenges, over the last three decades, northerners in all three territories have worked to exert autonomy within Canada through land claims, self-government and devolution agreements, (Irlbacher-Fox & Mills 2007). Massive resource potential and accompanying plans to develop the North as a resource frontier for Canada complicate this struggle towards autonomy, as rich mineral projections spark interest from around the world (Conference Board of Canada 2011; GNWT Mining Strategy 2013). History has taught us that rapid development will not automatically benefit northerners when the authority for decision-making lies in far removed locations. For example, researchers investigating the legacy of the Giant gold mine near Yellowknife reported that the communities of Ndilo and Dettah saw few benefits from the mine overall. In spite of experiencing limited benefit, due to the location near the mine, community members’ harvesting territory and health were adversely affected by half a century of arsenic exposure. This outcome was a result of decisions that the community had little influence over, but had to live with (Sandlos and Keeling 2011). An additional example of severe consequence from decisions taken far from the Arctic is thawing polar sea ice. The receding ice has serious implications for Canada’s territorial north. The much hyped “Arctic race” for mineral riches has the potential to bring increased wealth to the North but also threatens resources essential to maintaining Indigenous livelihoods (Plouffe 2011; Allard & Lemay 2012).2 As schooling improves (despite the need for more improvements) the next generation Daitch