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ITK and University of Saskatchewan sign historic agreement to protect Inuit rights

Press Release

SASKATOON—The University of Saskatchewan (USask) and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) are partnering to prevent the harmful appropriation of Inuit identity, and ensure that individuals who benefit from opportunities at USask based on Inuit identity are Inuit.

The two organizations signed a first-of-its-kind Memorandum of Understanding today that formalizes their commitment to creating an objective and secure process for verifying enrollment of Inuit who apply to USask for Indigenous-specific opportunities or positions.

“The significance of this MOU is tremendous,” says Dr. Angela Jaime (PhD), vice-provost, Indigenous engagement. “There is no other institution in Canada that has this level of agreement with Inuit on the protection of beneficiary status. We are honoured that ITK has partnered with us in this important agreement.

ITK is the national representational organization for 70,000 Inuit in Canada, the majority of whom live in four regions of Canada: the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (Northwest Territories), Nunavut, Nunavik (Northern Quebec), and Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador). These regions in turn are responsible for enrollment under the comprehensive land claim agreements that have been settled in Inuit Nunangat and continue to form a core component of ITK’s mandate. As part of the MOU, ITK will serve as liaison between USask and four Inuit Treaty Organizations:

  • Inuvialuit Regional Corporation
  • Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
  • Makkivik
  • Nunatsiavut Government

“This agreement represents a new era in partnership between Inuit and universities in Canada. It recognizes Inuit as a distinct, rights-holding Indigenous People enrolled under our Constitutionally-protected treaties. We hope this MOU will serve as a model for future agreements, and we thank USask for their leadership on this issue, which is critical to all Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” said ITK President Natan Obed.

“This agreement is truly about recognizing Inuit Treaty Organizations and their right to determine their membership and who they claim,” said Jaime. “It is our job at the university to make sure that the space for Indigenous people is held by Indigenous people.”

Through this agreement, USask and ITK agree to work together to establish processes to ensure that:

  • Students enrolled at USask who are offered awards, financial assistance, positions or other opportunities on Inuit beneficiary status are Inuit
  • Workers who are professionally engaged by the USask based on Inuit beneficiary status are Inuit
  • Research funding designated for Inuit is provided solely to individuals enrolled with an Inuit Treaty Organization
  • Procurement opportunities designated for Inuit are provided solely to individuals enrolled with an Inuit Treaty Organization

This agreement is aligned with the Government of Canada’s Inuit Nunangat Policy, which was co-developed with Inuit.

The agreement is also aligned with USask’s deybwewin | taapwaywin | tapwewin policy, which provides a framework for the implementation of Indigenous membership/citizenship verification with documentation. The university is committed to safeguarding the rights, cultures and integrity of Indigenous peoples, Indigenous values, and Indigenous languages within the university.

“Guided by ohpahotân | oohpaahotaan, the Indigenous Strategy gifted to us, we work to make our campus community the best place it can be for Indigenous students, staff and faculty,” said Peter Stoicheff, president and vice-chancellor of USask. “Our commitment to Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation is unwavering, and partners like ITK strengthen that commitment and ensure that we are honouring Indigenous nations, collectives and their membership rights.”

“My hope is that this is the beginning of a very long relationship,” Jaime said. “A university must create a safe and accountable space we hold and protect. This is about holding space for Inuit.”

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