Made in Nunavut

'It was only at the very last minute that the TFN [Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut] leaders who are obviously brilliant poker players realised that the Mulroney government was desperate for some good news on the Aboriginal front, and that creating Nunavut would be a good news story,' said Jack Hicks, one of the authors of Made in Nunavut. (University of British Columbia Press)

Made in Nunavut: An Experiment in Decentralized Government is a new book that reveals the behind-the-scenes negotiations and political issues around the creation of Canada's Inuit-dominated territory in the Arctic.

The book's authors, social research consultant Jack Hicks and University of Toronto professor Graham White, offer a close analysis of what happened in the period between the passage of the Nunavut Act in 1993 and the start-up of the Government of Nunavut in 1999.

The book pays close attention to the Government of Nunavut's decentralization, where various offices and functions which would normally be located in the capital are spread across small communities in the territory.

Overall, Hicks posits that the Government of Nunavut has not been a success.

"I don't know too many people who think that the GN is a shining star of government at this point," Hicks told CBC. "People are disappointed with the quality of services and programs that they're receiving.

"There's a general sense that some programs and services are weaker than they were under the GNWT [Government of Northwest Territories]."

Despite the shortcomings of Nunavut's government thus far, Hicks, who served as the Director of Research for the Nunavut Implementation Commission, said decentralization is not the root of the problem.

"The conclusion that we came to was that decentralization is no more or less successful than other aspects of the GN."

Jack Hicks

'I don't know too many people who think that the GN is a shining star of government at this point,' Hicks told CBC. 'People are disappointed with the quality of services and programs that they're receiving.' (submitted)

Hicks said some of the failure of the GN may be traced back to its genesis. During negotiations around the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which was signed in 1993, the federal government had said the creation of Nunavut was not part of the package. Hicks said the singular focus on the land claims agreement during negotiations made thinking about the organization of the territorial government an afterthought.  

"It was only at the very last minute that the TFN [Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut] leaders, who are obviously brilliant poker players, realised that the Mulroney government was desperate for some good news on the Aboriginal front, and that creating Nunavut would be a good news story," said Hicks.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was not aware of the decision to create Nunavut, explained Hicks. Tom Siddon, Canada's then-minister of Indian Affairs, agreed to the plan, and informed the Prime Minister afterwards.

Community consultations at that time also provided little insight into how to best structure the Government of Nunavut.

"When the NIC [Nunavut Implementation Commission] went out to consult the communities, we didn't get a lot of hard feedback," said Hicks. "The messages were two-fold: one, the government should speak Inuktitut, and don't put everything in the capital."

Despite the dissatisfaction with the GN, Hicks said decentralization is working to some extent.

"I think a credit to the political consensus around decentralization is that so many of the challenges were overcome," said Hicks, adding that "jobs were put out into the communities, and, to a significant extent, kept out in the communities,.