Mirage no more: Inuit university in Nunavut takes shape – by Jim Bell (Nunatsiaq News – June 9, 2015)


How about Inuit Nunanganni University Kanatami? That’s “INUK” for short. It’s still a dream — but now an Arctic-based, Inuit-focused university no longer shimmers like a mirage on the edge of an unreachable horizon.

That’s because the powers-that-be now believe the dream could one day be made real.

This past June 2, through acting commissioner Nellie Kusugak’s throne speech, the Government of Nunavut announced the territorial government will start a feasibility study for a university to be located in Nunavut.

It’s too early to tell if the GN is serious or if the study will become a delaying tactic aimed at kicking the can further down the road.

But it’s a sign that GN officials have started listening to those who have pushed the idea for years, such as the members of Nunavut’s Ilitturvik University Society.

It’s also a sign that a $5 million donation the chair of Agnico Eagle Mines promised last year may have sent a jolt of new energy into the discussion.

This past March 18 and March 19, a group of people, mostly educators, academics and public office holders, sat down together at the Francophone Centre in Iqaluit to talk about creating a roadmap that could one day lead to a university for those who live north of the treeline.

That workshop was private. But the report they produced and released last month is public. Within it, the idea of a new Arctic university has become a little less vague and little more defined.

And though there’s still debate over how an Arctic university would work, there’s pretty broad agreement on how it should not work.

One: participants agree it should not become a pan-territorial university serving the three northern territories, an idea the three territorial premiers have floated in the past.

Two: it should not become a beefed-up version of Nunavut Arctic College, or a “University of Nunavut.”

Workshop participants agreed it should become a standalone institution, separate from Arctic College, with its own buildings, infrastructure and governance system.

And what it should become is a university for all the people of Canada’s four Inuit regions: an Inuit Nunangat university.

In that spirit, they even came up with a suggested name: Inuit Nunanganni University Kanatami, which forms an easy and convenient acronym: INUK.

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