Territorial Economic Development Strategies in Nunavut: A Hindrance or a Help to Community Economic Development?

Jessy Carlson, Margaret Johnston, Jackie Dawson


Economic development strategies in Nunavut, Canada provide the broad direction for local level development, but communities must establish their own development paths, taking advantage of opportunities where their interests align with those of the regional government. The Nunavut territorial government has a specific concern with enhancing development in the remote and small, mostly coastal, communities that lie across the vast territory and to support the aspirations of Nunavummiut, particularly the Inuit population whose homeland is this territory. Yet, there has been a struggle between supporting large, externally based projects with few local benefits and small-scale projects with largely local economic benefit. This paper explores these issues within the framework of Indigenous nation-building and related community economic development approaches in order to come to an understanding of how the territory’s economic development goals set the scene for local development. This analysis sheds light on the potential strengths and weaknesses of Nunavut’s territorial economic strategies and their support or hindrance of community economic development. Our analysis shows that, for the most part, the territory is in the visioning stage of economic development and is constructing a foundation of guiding principles and intentions. The strength of the documents is in presenting strategic, long-term, big-picture thinking. There is a strong emphasis in some of the strategies on using these foundations for community benefit in order to improve the well-being of Nunavummiut and Inuit specifically. Further, there is a major emphasis on sustainability, an emerging theme that appears in every strategy and is related to both environmental and economic conditions. However, in order to determine the actual impact of the strategies, it will be necessary to explore community and territorial level change stemming directly from individual strategies.

Keywords: economic development, Nunavut, nation-building, communities, strategies

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.