There is an Inuit community in northern Quebec and Labrador, and communities there feel ignored by both provincial and federal governments.
North of the 55th parallel, and for the most part above the tree line, the Inuit lived a nomadic life for centuries, following sources of food and coming into contact with traders and missionaries only occasionally. Kuujjuaq, for example, close to Ungava Bay, was a small trading post called Fort Chimo that was home to a U.S. aircraft base in World War II that was taken over by the Canadian Department of Transport as nomadic communities were eventually gathered together in the 1950′s and ’60′s.
After the James Bay agreements the Quebec government began taking a stronger interest in communities that were not covered by the Indian Act and did not have reserve status.
But now these communities find themselves struggling to get the necessary attention of both governments. The population continues to grow at a rapid rate (young women go to Montreal to give birth), and the housing shortage is now critical, about a thousand short of need and demand. Wharves are built, but money isn’t there to maintain them properly. Food is ridiculously expensive, and the new Nutrition North program means many staple products are going to be out of reach of many families. People pay both federal and provincial tax but are on the short end of services.
So Nunavik is not eligible for some federal programmes for “the North”, because these only apply in territories and not provinces.
Yet the problems and challenges will only grow. The recent rejection of a more comprehensive self-government agreement for the region seems to have been built on a sense that it would only lead to more neglect and less accountability.
The challenges ahead are great, so are the opportunities – a people that have shown great courage in the face of hardship will continue to look for the necessary focus and attention that is richly deserved.