Session 1: Embarking on the Journey to a Better Multiculturalism

Inuit in Multi-cultural Canada: Shameless Democracy, Shameful Results

Dr. Karla Jessen Williamson

This presentation starts off with an Inuit creation story on how the aningaaq /moon and seqineq/sun became. The ancient story is weaved in and out addressing the terms “Indigeneity” as defined by the United Nations while problematizing the meaning and processes of “democracy” in relation to Inuit access to Canadian political power. Statistical information indicates that Inuit in multicultural Canadian settings are consistently denied equal social standing compared to settler/immigrant Canadians. The inequality is deeply entrenched among the settler/immigrants Canadians who access the resources as the electoral majority, seemingly incapable of sharing resources with the original inhabitants. This reality calls for redefinition of democracy in ways that befit the aspirations of Inuit and other Indigenous peoples. Treaties, land scripts and land claims, each explicitly desired good well between the crown and the sovereign peoples. Their sentiment must be an integral part of a unique ‘Canadian democracy’ that is well grounded on lands given by original inhabitants to meet Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation. 

Dr. Karla Jessen Williamson is an Assistant Professor at Educational Foundations, University of Saskatchewan. She is a kalaaleq, an Inuk born in Appamiut, western coast of Greenland, and grew up in Maniitsoq. She speaks her Inuktut dialect fully as she was totally immersed into the worldview of the Inuit. As a matriarch she has two adult children and three grandchildren. The latter are fluent speakers of their grandmother’s Inuktut language while growing up in Iqaluit, Nunavut. As an Indigenous researcher she focuses on the well being of Indigenous children, their families and communities, and always looks for ways in which the aspirations for their autonomous rights are materialized. She speaks and writes about Indigenous paradigms and philosophies and remains committed to making contributions to Indigenous ancestors’ insights into humanity. Karla is well appreciated locally, nationally and internationally and involved in significant bodies nationally and internationally emphasizing decolonization processes. She is also an accomplished poet.

Nunangat in Canada: Acculturation and Inuit Identity within the Multicultural Framework

Rita Nandori

This presentation will address the complex issues regarding multiculturalism and Indigeneity, and what it means to be Inuit in Canada and share a national identity with a culturally diverse population. By exploring how acculturation affects lifestyle, customs, language, and literature, the shift in Inuit cultural identity within the fabric of the Canadian multicultural ethos will be assessed. As an investigative tool, Berry’s model has been employed to consider the impact of acculturation and examine if a composite Canadian identity can emerge, and the role of territoriality in establishing and asserting cultural identity will also be explored. Through a survey completed by Inuit education professionals, the possibility of further amending the K-12 school curriculum in order to foster the formation of cultural identity will be considered. Finally, some crucial issues regarding the compatibility of multiculturalism and Indigenous issues will be addressed in the prominent featuring of Inuit intellectual culture in school curriculum.

Rita Nandori is a part-time instructor in the Department of North American Studies and the Institute of English and American Studies, both at the University of Debrecen in Debrecen, Hungary. Having completed her studies at UBC, she became interested in Inuit storytelling after an extended stay in Nunavut working as a teacher. She is now pursuing a PhD in Canadian Studies at the University of Debrecen, focusing on Inuit intellectual culture and specifically on the significance of homeland, traditions and identity in Inuit poetry. Her scholarly articles have been published, among others, in the Central European Journal of Canadian Studies and the Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies, and she is a member of the Central European Association for Canadian Studies. As a Hungarian-born Canadian, she researches the field of Inuit studies with utmost empathy, respect and care.

A Voyage of Reconciliation?: Canada and the C3 Expedition

Dr. Daisy Raphael

This presentation will examine the Canada C3 Expedition, an expedition through the Northwest Passage lasting 150 days to mark the sesquicentennial of Confederation in 2017. Described by its creator, Canadian explorer Geoff Green, as a “voyage of reconciliation”, the C3 Expedition is a rich case study for analyzing Canadian articulations of multiculturalism in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Designed from its outset to tell a story of Canadian sovereignty in a contested region, the expedition was rebranded as a “voyage of reconciliation” only after the election of the Trudeau Liberals in 2015, reflecting the new government’s emphasis on diversity, reconciliation, and inclusion. That the language of reconciliation could be appended to a project designed to tell a story of Canadian sovereignty is indicative of the Canadian state’s approach to reconciliation as a discourse that fails to re-imagine Canadian and Indigenous sovereignties as related and overlapping. Drawing upon the work of Indigenous studies and critical-race feminist scholars, Dr. Raphael will argue that the slippage from diversity to reconciliation signals a need to critique these as interrelated discourses that are productive of white settler subjectivity and supportive of Canadian state-making.

Dr. Daisy Raphael recently successfully defended her PhD dissertation, “A Landmark Celebration: Canada 150, Settler-Colonialism, and the Politics of Diversity & Reconciliation” within the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. In the context of social movement calls to end national commemorative projects that reflect the aims of white national state-building, her research explores the question of whether more diverse national commemorations have the potential to bring about more socially-just relations.