Publication Date

Fall 2013


When Canada signed the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in 1993, it committed to create a new territory, Nunavut, as an Inuit homeland in the Canadian Eastern Arctic. Parliament fulfilled this promise with the passage of the Nunavut Act, and the new territory came into existence on April 1, 1999.

Still, the Government of Nunavut remains a creature of statute and has only such powers as Parliament has devolved to it. To date, these devolved powers do not include jurisdiction over lands and resources. Nunavut is the only place in Canada where Canadian citizens may not elect a sub-national legislature empowered to make fundamental decisions about the land beneath their feet.

This Article explores the impact of this citizenship gap on indigenous rights in Nunavut and on Canada's security posture in the Arctic. As the sea ice melts and as much as a trillion dollars of oil and gas becomes profitably extractable, decisions about natural resources will become a focus not only of Canada’s domestic politics, but also of its international engagement. With a comparatively weak military presence in the Arctic, Canadian sovereignty has been borne out primarily in the form of permanent settlement, and the Inuit have played the part of “human flagpoles” in federal Northern policy. This Article argues that devolution, as a means to Inuit self-government, must occur in tandem with assertions of Canadian sovereignty in the Far North.