Bathurst Mandate

The Bathurst Mandate (Pinasuaqtavut, translated as "that which we've set out to do") is an eight-page document that sets out the Nunavut government's priorities for the first five years of its existence (1999-2004) and also includes a vision for Nunavut in the year 2020. The document was developed by the 19 elected members of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly and tabled at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly on October 21, 1999.

The Bathurst Mandate outlines the social, political, and economic direction of the Nunavut government. The document will have a significant impact on policy development in Nunavut since all policies will be reviewed according to criteria set down by the Bathurst Mandate.

The contents of the Bathurst Mandate are organized under four broad headings: Inuuqatigiittiarniq (healthy communities); Pijarnirniqsat Katujjiqatigiinnirlu (simplicity and unity); Namminiq Makitajunnarniq (self-reliance); and Ilippallianginnarniq (continuing learning). Each section contains some principles, a vision for Nunavut in the year 2020, and objectives to be met during the first five-year term of the government (1999-2004).

Inuuqatigiittiarniq: "Healthy Communities"

The Nunavut government vision is that by the year 2020, it will respond to all the basic needs of individuals and families to ensure that all Nunavut communities are "healthy." Thus, by the year 2020 it is expected the Nunavummiut (the people of Nunavut) will have improved health and social conditions equal to or better than the Canadian average, while present social housing deficiencies will be resolved. To achieve these long-term goals, the government intends to put additional funding to train nurses and to build over 200 new houses by the year 2004.

There is a shortage in health human resources. Nunavut only has about 130 nurses for a population of 28,000 residents (85% are Inuit). There is also a high turnover among medical personnel and no Inuit nurses. This makes it difficult to provide for an efficient and culturally sensitive health care. The government intends to train around 30 new nurses, most of them Inuit, and build two new regional hospitals by the year 2004.

Housing is one of the two primary commitments (along with education) of the government. Crowded housing conditions have contributed to social and health problems. The number of persons per dwelling was higher for Nunavut (3.84) compared to the Canadian average (2.65) (2000 estimate, CBC). There were about 1100 families (15% of the population) waiting for some form of housing (2000 estimate, CBC). To keep up with housing demands, about 260 new homes need to be built each year for the next five years (1999-2004). At this juncture, the government objective is to improve the conditions of existing homes and to construct over 200 housing units between 1999 and 2004. A housing Strategy Committee has been created (year 2001) to coordinate all housing challenges. However, the demand for new housing will still be high by the year 2005.

Pijarnirniqsat Katujjiqatigiinnirlu: "Simplicity and Unity"

By the year 2020, the Nunavut government will reflect Inuit culture and traditions. Inuktitut, the Inuit language, will be the working language of the government. Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit ("the Inuit way of doing things," and often translated to mean Inuit traditional knowledge) will provide the context under which government programs, policies, and legislation will be drafted. Achieving these goals will make the government friendlier to the majority of the Inuit population, simplify access by the public to government services, and reinforce unity among all Nunavummiut.

To make sure that Nunavut eventually operates with Inuit norms and values, a policy to hire more Inuit government employees has been put forward (in 2001, only 43% of the 2700 government employees were Inuit). Further, a Workshop Report released by the Nunavut government in September 1999 recommends that non-Inuit staff attend Inuktitut language lessons and that mandatory orientation sessions, with Inuit elders, be provided to all government employees.

Another important initiative put forward to answer the visions expressed in this section was the creation of Maligarnit Qimirrujiit in October 1999 ("The Nunavut Law Review Commission"), whose task is to make recommendations so that Nunavut's laws will be more in tune with Inuit values.

Namminiq Makitajunnarniq: "Self-Reliance"

By the year 2020, the government of Nunavut expects to be economically self-reliant. Nunavummiut will enjoy a growing economic prosperity. It is hoped that unemployment figures will be reduced considerably and that Nunavummiut will enjoy low levels of dependency on government income support programs. During its first term (1999-2004), the government intends to help build local employment through continuing government decentralization, to ensure an increased number of Inuit employees within the government, and to start talk with the federal government in order to obtain a fairer share of resource royalties coming from Nunavut's lands and waters.

The unemployment rate in Nunavut is about 28% (1999 estimate, Nunavut Bureau of Statistics). The Nunavut government is by far the largest single employer in Nunavut (40% of all jobs). In an effort to improve the local economy, the Nunavut administration is being decentralized so that government employment can benefit as many communities as possible.

Nunavut hopes to have achieved full decentralization by the year 2004. However, the success of decentralization and the increased representation of Inuit employees in the government will depend heavily on the availability of Inuit trained personnel, who are still significantly lacking. As for resource royalties, the land in Nunavut is mostly owned by the federal government and all resource royalties flow to the Canadian government. Talks have yet to start between federal and Nunavut officials on this issue.

Ilippallianginnarniq: "Continuing Learning"

By the year 2020, there will be a full range of education programs in Inuktitut, while the education curriculum will reflect Inuit culture and values. To achieve these goals, Nunavut intends, during its first five-year term, to train an increased number of Inuit elementary and high school teachers while the Nunavut Education Act will be reviewed to emphasize Inuit cultural relevance in the school curriculum. By 2004, the government wants a new Education Act in place.

Education is the second major commitment of the government (the other is housing). Inuit need to be trained urgently to run the government. In 1999, only 4% of Inuit had a high school diploma and only about 15 Inuit from a population of 21,000 held a university degree (1996 estimate, Statistics Canada). The Nunavut government wants more students to graduate and to have Inuktitut taught more regularly in classes. A working group has been created (September 2000) to consult with the population and to bring forward its recommendations by 2003.


The Bathurst Mandate outlines the social, political, and economic direction of the Nunavut government, sets long-term goals to be achieved by the year 2020, and establishes objectives to be fulfilled during the first five-year term of the government (1999-2004). The vision of the government is to reverse the current trend and to have a territory where unemployment is low, education levels are high, and social and health issues have significantly improved.

André Légaré See also Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit; Nunavut

Further Reading

CBC (Conference Board of Canada), Nunavut Economic

Outlook, Ottawa: CBC, 2000 Government of Nunavut, The Bathurst Mandate Pinasuaqtavut: That Which We've Set Out to Do, Iqaluit: Nunavut Legislative Assembly, 1999

-, Throne Speech, Third Session, First Assembly, Iqaluit:

Nunavut Legislative Assembly, 1999 Jull, Peter, "Indigenous self-government in Canada: the Bathurst

Mandate." Indigenous Law Bulletin, 4(27) (2000): 14-18 Légaré, André, "Our land: the challenges of an Inuit government in Nunavut." Hemisphere, 9(3) (2001): 28-31

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