Sandra Inutiq writes about the level of damage having a highly transient, mostly white population, does to Nunavut. (Elyse Skura/CBC) This was originally published on Facebook and on the Yellowhead Institute web page. It has been edited for CBC’s style.
Dear Qallunaat (white people),
We have been living in the same Nunavut cities and towns for some time now. In fact, the collective relationship is sometimes held up as innovative governance and Inuit self-determination .
Yet, you, the non-Inuit in our territory, rarely reflect that assumption, rather, the opposite. I have thought a lot about the level of damage having a highly transient, mostly white population does to Nunavut. Part of the process of achieving equity in Nunavut means making space for Inuit, whether physically on the land, in policy and decision-making, economically or through employment, Inutiq says. (David Gunn/CBC) The indifference to social conditions, the policy inertia and all the collective microaggressions that maintain an impoverished Inuit population. (I think these trends are palpable on other Indigenous territories as well.)
So for those interested in changing this state of affairs, here are ways that maybe you can be a better white person or, may I suggest, an ally.
As a preface to this letter, let me say that I do not dislike or hate you; it is out of love for myself and communities that I share it. More, even though this is primarily addressed to white people, white supremacy is common among people of all backgrounds — including Inuit (even me) — either to get ahead or not be left behind. This letter is addressed to those readers, too. I hope that it stimulates a healthy discussion.
1. You are a visitor on Inuit homelands. No matter how long your family has been in Canada or Nunavut, you are a settler on Inuit land.
2. Being close to Inuit, being proximate, does not make you an expert and voice for Inuit.
This includes those with Inuit children, an Inuk spouse, family or friends. Nor does having lived in or travelled back and forth to the North for a number of years, even knowing some Inuktitut. These situations do not give you Inuit identity, the right to claim authority over the subject of Inuitness or defining answers for Inuit. Neither does travelling to other "exotic" places make you automatically sensitive to Inuit culture.
Asking other non-Inuit how long they have been here is a common question to seemingly test legitimacy in the North, as if competing for expertise. Stop.
3. It is common for white professionals like you to use working in Nunavut or with Inuit to embellish a resume.
After working with or studying Inuit, many suddenly become an "expert" on Inuit or Inuit Nunangat. These situations make people appear to be more "equitably minded" or "culturally sensitive," therefore more appealing to hire or work with in other Indigenous territories.
We have planeloads of consultations arriving on daily flights from the South, a lot of men with white heads, who exploit and then move on to the next per diem. ‘It is a public government!’ This statement, Inutiq says, sanctions racism. (CBC)
4. Meritocracy is a system that assumes everyone is on a level playing field — i.e. education, skills and experience — and are considered based on their qualifications.
Yet, it’s a system that rewards white people with those privileges of education and certain types of work experience. When those non-Inuit add "cultural competency," they are further rewarded.
Meanwhile, Inuit are relegated to lacklustre employment equity programs, with little regard for alternative qualifications. Equity must take into account these structural barriers to genuinely […]
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