Nunavumi Angnait Katujiqatigigit

Nunavut Inuit Women’s Association

ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥ ᐊᕐᓇᐃᑦ ᑲᑐᔾᔨᖃᑎᒌᖏᑦ


As part of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan, funded by Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Amautiit Nunavut Inuit Women’s Association reviewed legal protections for women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ (two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual) people.

The 2003 Nunavut Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation, among other grounds. In 2017, that Act was amended to include gender identity and gender expression.

We developed a glossary of terms relating to sex, sexuality and gender in Inuktut and English.

Link to Terminology for Sexuality, Sex, and Gender in Inuktut and English.pdf

We considered the identification documents issued by the Government of Nunavut, which do not comply with the Human Rights Act. We also considered the operations of the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal; we recommend significant changes to its operation and also recommend the creation of a Human Rights Commissioner.


Amautiit Launches Women in Government Poster Campaign

Today marks the launch of the Amautiit Nunavut Inuit Women’s Association’s (Amautiit) Women in Government poster campaign across the territory. This campaign presents current statistics on the number of women who have been elected at a territorial MLA and Federal MP level since the inception of Nunavut to today (1999 – 2023).

Based on data from the IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union), the global proportion of women who are MPs comes in at around 26%, 5% higher than Nunavut’s historical data on the number of elected women MLAs. This statistic is balanced by the positive trend towards female representation at the national level with a rate of 88% Nunavut women MPs since the creation of Nunavut in 1999. Only 16% of Nunavut Premiers and 33% of Deputy Premiers elected since 1999 have been women, and no speakers of the Legislative Assembly have been women.

This aligns with global trends which see higher levels of representation of women elected officials than that of previous years, yet also demonstrates the inequalities between gender and representation that still exist.

Amautiit is committed to improving conditions for Inuit women (Arnait) in Nunavut and their families through research, analysis, and reporting, as well as through building alliances and partnerships with like-minded agents-for-change within and outside of the territory, and by supporting and advocating for governments and service providers to meet the rights and needs of Arnait and their families.

This poster is the first in a series of posters on elected officials in Nunavut, a project that hopes to illuminate current data on the status of women in government using simple infographics and diffuse this information widely across the territory.

For more information contact:

Amautiit launches No Excuse for Child Abuse Poster Campaign

Today marks the launch of the Amautiit Nunavut Inuit Women’s Association’s (Amautiit) No Excuse for Child Abuse poster campaign across the territory, partnering with the Qulliit Status of Women, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association on the project – with Artwork from Charlotte Karetak.  The poster promotes the rights of children to be safe and grow up without threats of violence and harm.

The Auditor General of Canada’s 2023 Child and Family Services in Nunavut Report stated “this report describes a crisis.”  Auditor “concluded that the Department of Family Services consistently failed to take action to protect and support the well-being of vulnerable children, youth, and their families in accordance with legislation, policy, and program requirements.”  The Arctic Children and Youth Foundation (ACYC) has also labeled the territory’s high rate of child sexual abuse as a crisis.

Statistics from 2021 show that Nunavut youth experience abuse at a rate that is 10x higher than the national average. According to an annual report by the Representative of Children and Youth there are 471 registered sexual offenders in the territory in 2021-22, and 54% of sexual offences committed during that period, 259 in total, were registered sexual offenses against children and/or youth. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection reports that upwards of 93% of child/youth abuse cases are never reported to the police or a child welfare agency, such as Family Services. An alarming percentage when considered beside the estimated 104 reported cases to Family Services in 2019-2020.

The experience of the victims of child abuse does not remain in childhood. The two most important findings of 2013 study researchers at the McGill Group for Suicide Studies and McGill’s Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montréal, Quebec, are that mental illness is a substantial risk factor for suicide among Inuit, and that sexual and physical abuse have a serious impact on mental health. The study demonstrated that 47.5% of the 120 individuals represented in the study experienced some form of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse in their childhood, compared to the control group (27.5%). These statistics are in line with the data collected from the Inuit National Health Survey, 2007-2008, which reported 41% of respondents experiencing sexual abuse during childhood.

“The link between childhood sexual and physical abuse and over-arching risk for suicide is something that is very pronounced in the study and it reinforces our concern about these topics,” stated Natan Obed, then director of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s Department of Social and Cultural Development.

Child sexual abuse, family violence and high suicide rates are ongoing challenges which require a constant, focussed response. By working with partner organizations, we can address the causes of these challenges and, in the meantime, provide adequate assistance for the victims and their families.

Pauktuutit supports Amautiit’s ‘No Excuse for Child Abusecampaign, which encourages the right of children in the territory to grow in a safe environment without violence and harm,” says Gerri Sharpe, President. “It is vitally important to keep our children safe.” Amautiit hopes that the launch of this campaign will serve as a reminder to all Inuit to speak up and speak out against child abuse of any kind.

Amautiit Nunavut Inuit Women’s Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing self-determination for Nunavut Arnait [Inuit women] in all areas of life.

For more information contact:

Click here to download posters in English, French, and Inuktitut

NIWA President Madeleine Redfern presents before the Senate Committee on Human Rights – Forced and Coerced Sterilization of Persons in Canada

NIWA President Madeleine Redfern’s testimony transcript from her presentation on Monday, May 9th, 2022 before the Senate Committee on Human Rights re: Forced and Coerced Sterilization of Persons in Canada

See the transcript below.


Amautiit: Nunavut Inuit Women’s Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing self-determination for Nunavut Arnait [Inuit women] in all areas of life.

Amautiit focuses its advocacy efforts to improve conditions for Arnait and their families in Nunavut in thoughtful research and analysis. The organization builds alliances and partnerships with like-minded organizations and individuals outside of Nunavut, as one of its strategies to support and advocate for the rights and needs of Arnait and their families. Amautiit receives financial support from the Government of Canada through NWAC as Territorial Member Association. 

Forced Sterilization

Father Robert Lechat, Roman Catholic priest who worked and lived in Canada’s north including northern Quebec communities of Kangiqsujuaq, Umiujaq, Kuujuuaq, and Igloolik-Sanirajak (Hall Beach) NWT and what would become Nunavut from 1972 to 1995.  In 1970s, Lechat advocated to stop the practice of illegal sterilization of Inuit women when they went south to other provinces for medical care.  An inquiry conducted by the Federal Government in 1976 found that from 1966 7o 1976, 100s of Indigenous women from 52 northern communities were sterilized.  Father Lechat recently passed on this past March, 2022 at the age of 102. 

Dr. Karen Stote, a professor at Wilfred Laurier University has conducted research on reproductive justice, genocide and eugenics in Canada.  Her research specific to Nunavut indicates high sterilization rates in Nunavut (former NWT) and that between 1966-1976 that 70 Inuit women were sterilized:  26% of women in Igloolik, almost 50% Naujaat (Repulse Bay) and 31% of women in Gjoa Haven and 25% of women in Chesterfield Inlet and Kugaaruk. 

Other data from the Minister of National Health and Welfare indicates as many as 470 Inuit and Aboriginal women were sterilized in 1972 alone.  In addition, some men were given vasectomies without knowledge or consent. 

Qikiqtani Truth Commission

I was Executive Director of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, which was set up as an Inuit funded and Inuit led inquiry that looked into Government policies, decisions and affect of those on Inuit in the Eastern Arctic from 1950 to 1975.  A period of dramatic transition for Inuit who lived nomadic lives on the land to moving into permanent settlements but also a period of transition for Canada – as the country introduced universal programs in health, social welfare, old age pension, child tax benefits, disabilities and education. 

The Canadian government was the primary agent of the changes that swept throughout the north based on the notion that they had a duty as a progressive country to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples because their lives were considered primitive and living in abject poverty and barely survival mode.  The purpose was to make life in the north, like that in the south –and Inuit more like southern Canadians. 

While most officials convinced themselves that they were acting in the best interests of Inuit, their plans were frequently mismanaged or underfunded, and were designed and implemented without consulting Inuit or even really caring about the short-term to long-term effects.  All too often their careers, the needs of southern Canadians, and the goal of government efficiency came first. Another major factor or contributor to not doing things properly – was to save the government money, at least by spending the least amount of money on Indigenous peoples. 

It is important to understand that there existed and exists today – an unbalanced and unhealthy power dynamic between Inuit and Government.  Almost every aspect of Inuit life from 1950s was dictated or decided by government officials – everything from where Inuit lived, who got housing, who got training, who got jobs, sending children to school including away from their families/community, whether they got health care, including diagnosis and/or type of treatment. 

QTC: Forced Sterilization

One reason it is hard to know exactly how many Inuit women were sterilized is that sterilization often happened when women were sent south for other medical reasons including those presenting or suffering from TB.  In most cases, administrators, health professionals and social workers simply decided and dictated what would happen to Inuit – unfortunately something that many Inuit still happens today. 

Language and cultural barriers between government administrators, health professionals and social workers and Inuit posed huge issues and problems including ensuring that Inuit patients and family members knew what the government was doing including sending people south for treatment, where, length of trip, what kind of treatment, purpose, value, risks, options, and consent.

Barry Gunn, a former regional administrator in Iqaluit, claimed women “agreed” to sterilization procedures by signing forms to that effect but due to language barriers, almost certainly most did not realize what they were agreeing to. 

Medical personnel have explained or argued that the policy was not rooted in malice and that women were not forced. 

Yet, J.R. Lotz of NANR wrote “despite the demand by the government for people to go north and develop the area, the same government manages to give the impression that there are too many Eskimos and Indians.  And that high infant mortality in the north, squalid living conditions, reduced health services-initiated birth control services – however no amount of propaganda would change women’s minds or behaviour to help keep the population down.  There was government preoccupation about how to keep native people from reproducing.” 

1970s to Today

It is exceedingly hard to know exactly how many Inuit women were sterilized, especially since many were not asked or did not understand that sterilization procedure was being suggested, proposed or done. 

Often the paternalistic attitude has not stopped or gone away especially by some in the health profession.  We know better or best mindset exists.  Usually, this stems from a notion that Inuit are still too uneducated/under educated, living in overcrowded housing, living in poverty, and that the humane thing to do is to lessen the burden, hardship and challenges by adding another child or more children into the same family and household or even community. 


A related issue and problem, as it stems from the individual woman’s ability to have autonomy over her body is anything to do with reproductive rights that includes the right to abortion.  Some Inuit women have complained that the health professionals from nurses to doctors repeatedly ask “are you sure you want an abortion?”.  This almost certainly stems from a Canadian health and legal perspective that requires consent not to be given just once but verified repeatedly right up until the time of the procedure.  Notion is that a woman may wish to change her mind or that undue pressure or unawareness of the consequences has made the profession more concerned about true consent and the right to withdraw consent. 

Several Inuit women have said that this fails to understand that when an Inuk woman has made her decision, she has made her decision and does not want to revisit it including the associated feelings and context that has led to her this decision.  She does not want to feel belittled and disrespected – as if she is either uncertain or has made the wrong decision or a decision not liked or supported by the health professionals. 

Requested Sterilization

Equally problematic is when an Inuk woman wants to be sterilized but is not permitted to make that decision.  Several women have said that they wished to be sterilized, usually after having a number of children and have decided that they do not want anymore but do not want to be on other forms of birth control.  This too goes against an individual woman’s choice over her autonomy. 


Until Nunavut have sufficient number of Inuit health professionals including nurses and doctors, there will continue to be challenges related to language and culture.  If the patient speaks English, even not proficiently, there is an inclination not to use interpreters. 

There are not enough medical interpreters for the Nunavut health system in the territory or in the southern hospitals or health clinics.  As a result, family members who are with the patient are often expected to interpret despite that medical terminology is unique and the need to get interpretation correct is extremely important.  The former Nunavut Language Commissioner Sandra Inutiq, who issued report in October 2015[1] called “If you cannot community with your patient, your patient is not safe” – “being able to speak in one’s mother tongue when it concerns health is not asking a favour of health care professionals or organizations.  On the contrary, it is basic issue of accessibility, safety, quality and equality of services.” 

There is a desperate requirement to educate, train and hire as many Inuit in the health profession. 

Unfortunately, there is not enough commitment to allocating resources and time, to ensure some solid cultural orientation. 

Inuit health care client liaison and heath care advocates may also be able to play a role in helping bridge the cultural gap that currently exists between Inuit and their predominantly non-Inuit health care providers. 

It is extremely important to recognize that colonialism is real, not just in the distant past but continues today.  Paternalism is real and continues to perpetuate the power imbalance between governmental officials, health professionals and Inuit.  Effectively removing the right and restricting the freedom, choices and responsibilities of the Inuit and by forcing them to be subjected to or subordinate to others who think they know better or best – even though it is the patient or in this case Inuit women who have to bear the consequences. 

Nunavut Inuit women and families have the right to determine their own medical treatments which includes understanding the options: pros and cons, the different treatments, the risks, the effects, and the consequences. 

These are basic tenets in a democratic state where individuals have freedom of choice irrespective of their race, colour, ancestry, creed, place of origin, ethnicity, gender, age, marital status, family status, disability or economic status.  When anyone including government or government officials decide to undermine, coerce, threaten, manipulate or violate anyone’s right including over any aspect of their reproductive system – this is not only against the law – it is usually done because of attitudes of racism and sexism. 

Decisions and actions that are racist and sexist – are based on a sense of superiority over someone else deemed inferior – and by those definitions are never in the best interest of the affected person or persons. 

And yet- racism and sexism continue to exist within Nunavut health care system because we have yet to face our history including in health care and face the power dynamics and cultural disconnections between those who are to provide health services to our people in our communities. 

It’s an uncomfortable topic and as such, we have largely avoided the important and necessary discussion on how to bring about systemic change.  We must stop presuming these actions and attitudes are a thing of the past.  A lot of Indigenous women continue to be marginalized, disrespected, violated and harmed – in the name and practice of Canadian “health care”. 


Circle of Care Dementia Project: Next Steps

With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada Dementia Community Investment Fund, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and Amautiit Nunavut Inuit Women’s Association sought input on a toolkit to help family members and friends caring for people living with dementia. Amautiit interviewed family caregivers across Nunavut to understand more about the key messages they would like to convey and the kinds of advice and information that would be helpful in the toolkit. Our next step will be a circle meeting by phone with the people we interviewed to confirm that their thoughts and knowledge have been captured accurately.

In 2021-2, Amautiit and NWA are planning an in-person event in Nunavut for the next phase of the Circle of Care Dementia Project.

If you are interested in learning more about the project or about Amautiit,  please subscribe to our mailing list or email Amautiit at

Circle of Care Dementia Project: seeking Inuit caregivers to share advice

With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada Dementia Community Investment Fund, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and Amautiit Nunavut Inuit Women’s Association are seeking input on the contents of a toolkit to help family members and friends caring for people living with dementia.*

Are you a caregiver who would be interested in being interviewed? If so, please contact us as soon as possible so we can set up an interview. An honorarium will be offered. The interviews will be conducted by phone by bilingual English-Inuktut interviewers hired for the project. The interviews will probably last about 90-120 minutes. Confidentially and consent protocols have been set up for the project. NWAC and Amautiit are also committed to ensuring that the results of this work are made available to everyone who participates.

If you are caring for someone with dementia and would like to be interviewed (honorarium of $150), please contact: Priscilla Kuksuk, (English and Inuktitut) or Julie Harris, Amautiit, at

**What is dementia? Dementia is an umbrella term for a variety of brain disorders. Symptoms include loss of memory, judgement and reasoning, and changes in mood and behaviour. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with a person’s ability to function at work, in relationships or in everyday activities.