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Education (6-12)

University of Sask. signs historic agreement for process to verify Inuit identity

June 28, 2024

Agreement is first of kind in Canada: Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed 

signing paper
From left, U of S provost Airini, ITK president Natan Obed and U of S president Peter Stoicheff. (CBC)

CBC Indigenous: The University of Saskatchewan has formally recognized that it’s the right of Inuit to decide who is Inuit.

The university signed a memorandum of understanding Friday with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national group representing 70,000 Inuit in Canada.

The agree came a day after a judge in a Nunavut courtroom sentenced a woman to three years in prison for the Inuit identity fraud she carried out to get her twin daughters scholarships and business opportunities that were supposed to only be available to Inuit.

ITK president Natan Obed said the agreement is the first of its kind in Canada.

“We are here as the national voice for Canadian Inuit, to mark our space and to protect the rights of Inuit across this country,” he said..

“Unfortunately in this country, especially in the last 30 years, being an indigenous person has seen in some ways as a commodification of opportunity. People can gain advantage that they would not otherwise in society by claiming to be Inuit, First Nations or Metis.”

The agreement allows, for the purposes of accessing benefits, for Inuit to decide who is Inuit — as opposed, say, to an academic institution.

“This agreement is truly about recognizing Inuit Treaty Organizations and their sovereign and inherent rights to determine their membership and who they claim,” said Angela Jaime, vice-provost of Indigenous engagement at the U of S.

“It is our job at the university to make sure that the space for Indigenous people is held for Indigenous people.”

People who want to access benefits may apply through a confidential portal at the U of S where the credentials are verified.

Friday’s signing formalizes a process that began in February 2023, Jaime said.

“We’re utilizing what they told us to accept as the verification,” she said.

“Since that date, we’ve been accepting applicants into the verification process and have nearly 3,000.”