'Things haven't changed': NTI to fund Inuit training programs with federal lawsuit money

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is making its first public call for funding applications for Inuit training programs since receiving the $255 million settlement.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. earmarked $175 million from the $255 million settlement for training

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is making a request for funding proposals public next week. There is no cap set on how much organizations can ask for, according to NTI President Aluki Kotierk. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is making its first public call for funding applications for Inuit training programs since receiving $255.5 million from the federal government — earmarked mostly for that purpose — in 2015.

NTI was awarded the money as part of an out-of-court settlement with the federal government, where NTI alleged the government failed to live up to the terms of the Nunavut Agreement.

In the lawsuit, NTI argued the government had underfunded education, and as a result failed in its Article 23 responsibility to improve Inuit representation in public service jobs.

While Inuit make up about 84 per cent Nunavut's population, they only hold 51 per cent of government jobs in the territory.

Last week, NTI released a report showing Inuit employment numbers in the government have not changed significantly since it launched the lawsuit in 2006. 

Wow, things have not changed.- Aluki Kotierk , NTI president

Back then, NTI was seeking $1 billion in damages from the federal government; the report says Inuit in Nunavut stand to lose more than $1 billion in wages over the next six years if the status quo continues. 

"It's quite disappointing that the reports are showing that things haven't changed that much ... There's expectations that things will change," said NTI President Aluki Kotierk.

"I think that's the whole point of releasing a report is to say 'Wow, things have not changed.'"

Adult job skills training

When NTI received the settlement money in 2015, it earmarked $175 million for training programs that would help Inuit make strides in getting hired or promoted in government.

In the two years since then, NTI has created the Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation to manage the money, and has spent approximately $4.5 million via 16 organizations it invited to make funding requests.

Next week, it will release the details of its request for proposals, for which any organization can apply. There is no cap set on how much organizations can ask for, according to Kotierk.

NTI is looking for proposals in four areas: early learning systems, wrap-around support for kindergarten through grade 12, foundational skill development for adults and advanced training and post-secondary education in key sectors.

"The money that NTI was able to get through the settlement agreement was to complement any obligations government has; it's not to replace what they are already obligated to do," Kotierk said.

She said NTI is especially interested in skills development programs for adults without high school diplomas, as graduation rates for Inuit have remained static at around 59 per cent since 2006, according to NTI's report.

Training road map

Kotierk said she hopes this $60,000 report will push both the federal and territorial governments to create detailed department-by-department plans for how they will reach their target of 84 percent Inuit in public service jobs.

According to the report, those plans could include job descriptions that only require the level of education necessary to do the job, and take into consideration the value of cultural knowledge.

The report says implementing a representational workforce could save the government half a billion dollars, mainly by reducing the need for housing subsidies.

If the territorial and federal governments follow through on NTI's recommendations to make K-12 education a fully bilingual, bicultural experience, Kotierk says NTI's focus would shift away from foundational skills for adults.

Currently, the Makigiaqta corporation has a long-term funding plan that stretches out twenty years, with reviews expected next year and in 10 years to adjust for changes.