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Changing the Face of Canada

John Amagoalik tells a story—his story, the story of Nunavut, the story of all Canadians. He begins with his childhood and the tragic events that marked the Inuit in the years after the War; in particular, the relocation of families from Inukjuak to the High Arctic and the slaughter of the sled dogs. He tells about the difficulties Inuit communities had to face—and still do.

John reflects on how the social upheavals of the 1960s led young Inuit to do their own soul searching and then recounts the long road of negotiations that led to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the creation of the new territory. He speaks of the role he played on the national political scene and also describes the backdrop against which other agreements were signed between the federal and provincial governments and the Inuit.

His sentiments spill over on the issue of Inuit language and culture and the importance of preserving them. He shares his passions—especially, reading the newspapers and Toronto Maple Leafs winning games. Through John`s recounting, Nunavut’s first years and the creation of its main political institutions come alive. We learn about the issues of the day and of the hot debates they caused.

Finally, John shares his vision of the future for Nunavut and his ambitions of developing prosperous communities in the North. Zebedee Nungak makes an appearance and engages in a conversation with John about the great constitutional issues debated during the 1980s and the future of Nunavut.

John Amagoalik
For a long, long time Canada was described as a nation founded by two peoples, the English and the French. Eventually, the Indian people of this country started making a lot more noise than they had previously. They started getting some official recognition. Then, Inuit came along, and created this new territory. The creation of Nunavut in some ways has put a native face on the country. People can no longer talk about Canada being a country founded by two nations. Most people now accept the fact that Canadian history has been a three ways partnership between the English, the French and the aboriginal people. In that sense, the creation of Nunavut puts a more accurate face on Canada to the world. It also changes the people sitting around the national table. The Prime Minister calls these First Ministers Conferences to deal with important issues, quite often now, maybe once or twice a year. Instead of having only eleven people sitting around the table, they now have fourteen, and Nunavut has that fourteenth chair. When the national leaders of the country, the Prime Minister with the provincial premiers, meet to discuss important things, Nunavut is there with a seat at the table. It reminds the whole country that we are here! (Chapter 13)