Case study: Inuit - language learners version

Context card

Black and white photo of an Inuit family.
Source: NWT Archives, Archibald Fleming fonds, N-1979-050-1122


Inuit are a distinct Indigenous people. Their homelands are in northern Canada. For thousands of years, they have governed themselves.

Much of the Arctic, where Inuit live, became part of Canada in the 1880s. Inuit got the right to vote in federal elections in 1950.

Today, Inuit are active in Canada’s elections and democracy.

Activity cards


Black and white photo of a group of Inuit in Kuujjuarapik, Nunavik, Quebec.
Source: A.P. Low, Library and Archives Canada, PA-051445


Canada expands its borders to include the Arctic lands where Inuit live. Inuit are not asked about this change. Canada’s laws do not say whether Inuit can vote.

Inuit continue to govern themselves in their own ways.


Black and white photo of the House of Commons Chamber.
Source: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque, Library and Archives Canada, PA-801205


Parliament creates a new law. The law makes it clear that Inuit are not allowed to vote. This is the same as the rules for First Nations peoples.


Black and white photo of a cabinet meeting. A group of parliamentarians are seated at a large oval table.
Source: C. Lund, National Film Board of Canada, Library and Archives Canada, PA-196460


Inuit gain the right to vote in federal elections. The federal government makes this decision.


Black and white photo taken in Labrador (Nunatsiavut) during an election. Returning officer Harry Nosworthy swears in Joe Millik as an election official.
Source: 1953 – National Film Board of Canada


Inuit vote for the first time in a federal election. Some communities have voting places, but others do not.

In this photo from Labrador, Joe Millik is trained as an election worker.


Black and white photo of a group of Inuit watching a helicopter taking off in Salluit, Nunavik, Quebec.
Source: Wilfred Doucette, National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque, Library and Archives Canada, PA-111207


Voting services are expanded to all Inuit communities. Voting materials arrive by ship, helicopter and even parachute.


Black and white campaign photo of Peter Ittinuar.
Source: Courtesy of Peter Ittinuar


Peter Ittinuar is the first Inuk in Canada to be elected as a member of Parliament.


Dépliant d’information en inuktitut produit par Élections Canada. Il y a quatre images de personnes. À côté de chaque image, il y a du texte en inuktitut.
Source: Courtesy of Elections Canada


Elections Canada provides voting information in Inuktitut. This is the language that Inuit people speak.


Map of Canada where the four Inuit regions, commonly called Inuit Nunangat, are listed and colored: Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik et Nunatsiavut.


All four Inuit regions now have formal land agreements with Canada. Inuit vote for leaders in their own Inuit regions. Like other Canadians, they also vote in federal and other elections.


Photo of Leona Aglukkaq in the House of Commons.
Source: The Canadian Press/Fred Chartrand


Leona Aglukkaq is the first Inuk cabinet minister. She is elected in the riding of Nunavut. She is the federal Minister of Health.

Time immemorial to the present

Lithograph print in the shape of a circle. Hills make up the outer edge of the circle. Within are scenes of Arctic life throughout the seasons, such as hunting, kayaking, and dog sledding. Several animals are shown, including a wolf, raven, caribou and owl. At the centre are the sun, moon and stars.
Source: Nunavut (Our Land), Kenojuak Ashevak, 1992, Lithograph on paper, 230 x 370.5 cm. Reproduced with permission from Dorset Fine Arts. Image courtesy of the Canadian Museum of History, UN CD 1993-001, IMG2009-0063-0040-Dm


For thousands of years, Inuit have governed themselves in their homelands. Traditionally, the heads of families took on different leadership roles. Today, leaders are elected.