Inuit Compromise and Resurgence: The Legacies of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement
DELO, AMY M.
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Tension between Anglophone and Francophone Canadians is well documented, and these disparate parts have been infamously dubbed the “two solitudes.” However, there is another, often ignored solitude - the Indigenous population of Canada. When construction began on the James Bay Hydroelectric facility in the early 70s, the Inuit and Cree of Northern Québec allied to take the provincial government to court for failing to properly consult them before undertaking this project on Indigenous lands. The James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA) was reached in 1975. This is arguably the first modern land claims agreement in Canadian history and is often considered one of the most successful agreements for Indigenous peoples in terms of monetary compensation. For the Inuit of Northern Québec (the Nunavimmiut), this agreement resulted in $90 million in compensation as well as provisions for hunting and fishing rights, and the creation of governance institutions for the Nunavimmiut including the establishment of the Makivik Corporation and the Kativik Regional Government. While these were remarkable achievements for the Inuit negotiation team, the JBNQA has a nuanced legacy. Even today, over 40 years after the signing of the JBNQA, there is still tension and dissatisfaction among Inuit communities over the results of this agreement. How can we explain the paradoxical status of the JBNQA as both a success and a disappointment in the eyes of the Nunavimmiut? How can we better understand the disagreement surrounding the legacy of the JBNQA and the tensions that continue to exist today over this agreement? This paper argues that examining the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement through a framework of settler colonialism and resurgence explains these seemingly contradictory legacies.