AN OVERVIEW OF THE REGION
Nunavik (which means “the place where we have landed”, in Inuktitut) is the 17th health region. This territory corresponds to the vast Quebec region north of the 55th parallel. It covers about one third of Quebec and is composed of 14 villages scattered along the coasts of Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay. Isolation is underlined by the fact that air transport is the primary connection to other destinations since no land roads are available to either reach these villages or the South. More than half of Nunavik's population is under the age of 26 and 75% of residents have not reached the age of 35. The region's birth rate is one of the highest in Canada.
FROM THE PAST TO THE PRESENT
A long time ago, the first Inuit arrived in America. They walked from Asia to Alaska, and some of them to the Yukon, through the Bering Strait. They were in search of food. If the Native Americans who had arrived before them went south, the Inuit, on the other hand, stayed in the North. For several years, until the early 20th century, the Inuit were nomadic, that is, they moved around steadily, always in search of food. At that time, the Inuit could not have lived without the animals they hunted because they provided them with food, clothing, shelter, tools, etc. Sometimes they had to travel long distances to get to the animals. After all, they could not limit themselves to hunting only one type of animal, because it could not have provided for their people in such an environment.
In this part of the country where it is almost always cold, it snows nine months a year. Since there are no trees in the North, except for Kuujjuarapik, Kuujjuaq and Kangirsualujjuaq which are situated on the limits of the tree line, the Inuit would build their houses out of snow (igloos). During the warmer months, they used caribou and seal fur to make tents. Since the Inuit were nomadic, these tents were easy to transport. During the winter, they could always build igloos no matter where they were. When travelling, the Inuit were often helped by dogs pulling a sled (qamutiik) on which everything the family owned had been put and the children could sit. However, when there was no snow or ice, this means of transportation was of no use to them. During the warmer months, the Inuit lived mainly on the coast and could then move around using kayaks or umiaqs (small boats).These boats were made from sealskins. Clothing was also made from the fur and skin of animals. Caribou, seals, polar bears, foxes, wolves, dogs and hares were the primary sources of fur. The Inuit did not have a gun to hunt these animals. Instead, they used harpoons, bows, rocks or traps. Often, land animals were killed while they were swimming across lakes and rivers or after being lured where the Inuit were hiding in wait. Marine animals, on the other hand, were mainly hunted by kayak. They could be expected on the ice floe or very close to the breathing holes. When it comes to fishing, Inuit love to go to rivers in late spring and late summer, because that's when fish move either to the sea (in spring) or to the lakes two months later (in summer). They would then catch fish mainly with a Kakivak (fork-shaped harpoon) after building rock dams that would direct the fish to shallow places where it was easier to catch them. In winter, the Inuit fished on ice using either a Kakivak with bait or a simple hook made from caribou bone.
The Inuit also knew how to have fun. When they had enough food, they would gather in a large tent or igloo around the qullik (oil lamp) to listen to legends told by the elderly, sing, play games (with bones or sinews that served as strings) or make tools or clothes. Life in the Far North has not always been effortless. Animals were not always abundant and living conditions in the Arctic are deemed severe. Despite everything, the Inuit have adapted very well. The proof is that there are now about two million people living in Canada's Far North, including Nunavik and about the rest of the world (Pierre Philie and Michel Foucault, 1999). In recent decades, the Inuit have had to adapt very quickly to the modern world imposed on them. Today, even though they have all settled down, fishing and hunting continue to play an essential role in their lives. Despite this transition that is not always easy and all the changes they have had to face, some Inuit traditions live on in the very heart of modern life. Among the traditions that remain are the sharing of hunting and fishing products with the entire community, throat singing and the making of traditional clothing.
From the 15th to the 16th centuries: Exploration of the northern territories by British navigators in search of the famous Northwest Passage (Frobisher, Davis M. Hudson, Baffin, etc.)
1667: Creation of the Adventurer Traders Company, which later became the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). The lives of the Inuit were irrevocably changed. From then on, hunting was no longer done solely for subsistence, but to provide hides for traders in exchange for valuable goods such as tea, flour, tobacco, sugar, guns and clothing.
Creation of a Medical Services Branch within the Department of Indian Affairs. This event marks the beginning of an official federal government concern for the health of Aboriginal people: By treaty, the territory, currently identified as northern Quebec, becomes the property of the province of Quebec.
Beginning of the Eastern Arctic Patrol. Boats such as the RSM Nascopie and the C.G.S.S. Arctic will supply Hudson's Bay Company stores each summer. A doctor was added to the crew and used the stopovers to provide care for the Inuit on site. Some Inuit with chronic diseases are brought back to the South for hospitalization. These annual medical tours will be carried out almost continuously until travel nurses are hired by the federal government to go through northern regions. The Administration of Indian and Inuit medical services is transferred to the Department of National Health and Welfare. Beginning of a systematic anti-tuberculosis campaign conducted during the annual medical examination by boat. It is from this moment that large-scale evacuations are undertaken to facilities in the South for prolonged hospitalizations. At the peak of this campaign, about one in seven Inuks was hospitalized in the South for tuberculosis.
1948: Opening of the first dispensary in Inukjuak with the permanent nursing staff. Other dispensaries were subsequently built in Kuujjuaq (1950), Puvirnituq (1960), Salluit (1961) and Kuujjuaraapik (1962). The current villages will gradually take shape, with the settlement of the Inuit furthered by the arrival of these new services, the single-family housing construction program and the distribution of social benefits. Relocation of the Kuujjuaq village of Old Chimo to the current site, a former US army base abandoned after the end of the Second World War. First federal housing program called matchboxes.
Beginning of federal-provincial competition, particularly in the areas of education and health. Clinics are being built in villages where the federal government has not installed any. Opening of a small 11-bed hospital in Kuujjuaq on the premises of the provincial government pavilion. A dental clinic is then set up. Medical visits are organized in the villages of Ungava Bay, as well as radiology visits for tuberculosis screening.
Signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Kuujjuaq Hospital asks the Centre hospitalier de l'Université Laval (CHUL), which already receives the majority of patients transferred from Ungava, to increase and diversify visits of experts to the North. Given the extent of the development of health services by the Quebec government in Ungava Bay, the federal government decides to withdraw completely. Training of 15 Inuit nursing assistants in Kuujjuaq. Municipalization of most Inuit communities. Completion of construction of the Ungava Tulattavik Health Centre (15 acute care beds and 10 long-term beds), and relocation to new premises. Three Inuits graduate as nurses.
It was around 1852 that the establishment of Moravian missionaries began in Fort Chimo (now Kuujjuaq). They are the ones who introduced syllabics and translated the Bible into Inuktitut. Then, in 1871, still in Fort Chimo, there was the permanent establishment of a Catholic and an Anglican mission in Fort Chimo. The majority of Inuit practice the Anglican religion. You will find an Anglican church in each village. Recently the Pentecostal Church has gained in popularity. There are only two Catholic missions in the Ungava Bay area, one in Kuujjuaq and the other in Kangiqsujuaq. Father Jules Dion o.m.i. of the Catholic mission in Kangiqsujuaq visits some of these communities regularly.
The first school was opened in Inukjuak in 1948. At that time, teaching took place only in English. Today, the Kativik School Board is responsible for the education system. At the elementary level, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd-grade courses are taught only in Inuktitut. After that, education is offered in the second language chosen by the parents (English or French). School, up to Secondary V, is available in all localities. To continue to college and/or university, you must enrol in institutions in the South. The Adult Education Department also offers a variety of courses such as pre-employment, hairdressing, translation, etc.
Dispute resolution is different in Nunavik. There is no permanent court but rather an itinerant court system that sits in each village several times during the year. There is a Crown representative (the prosecutor) and a defence lawyer (legal aid) permanently residing in Kuujjuaq. All legal services can therefore be obtained during the itinerant court whether it is adult and juvenile criminal trials or civil dispute resolution.
The Kativik Regional Police Force (KRPF) is the agency responsible for law enforcement throughout Nunavik. There is a police station in each of the fourteen (14) villages and the headquarters is located in Kuujjuaq. There is a minimum of two police officers per village and each of the police stations is equipped with detention cells. The Sûreté du Québec is also present in the territory and their headquarters is located in Kuujjuaq. The members of the Security Department are responsible for enforcing provincial regulations and assisting the KRPF during large-scale events.