From colonized region to globalized region? Challenges to addressing social issues in Nunavik in the transition to regional government
In a time of increasing globalization, local knowledge critical to addressing serious social issues is becoming slighted for a more generic, disconnected, and transferable social work practice. Economic forces of globalization have blurred the divide between business strategies and social work, resulting in social work functioning within a “quasi-business discourse.” This transformation of social work into a more tightly scripted, less skilled activity has serious implications for Indigenous communities that rely on local, specialized knowledge to adequately meet social needs. As the Inuit of Nunavik, Canada, move toward regional government in 2011 and take responsibility for the oversight and implementation of social service delivery, attention must be paid to prevent the region’s previously colonial-proscribed approaches to addressing social issues from evolving into globalized approaches.
The Inuit are one of three distinct Indigenous groups in Canada as defined by the Constitution Act, 1982, with distinct cultural heritage and language. Nunavik (population 9,565 Inuit) lies north of the 55th parallel in Quebec and is one of four regions in Canada that comprise Inuit Nunaat (Inuvialuit, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and Nunavut) – Inuit homeland. Two of these four regions have achieved regional government: Nunavut in 1999 and Nunatsiavut in 2005. This paper examines social implications of the intersection between colonization and globalization as Nunavik approaches regional government (planned for 2011) and the social work approaches needed to develop and implement social policies and programs in Inuit communities. The paper briefly reviews globalization in a social context before exploring the political and social contexts of the Inuit in Nunavik and examining the extent to which a regional government with a colonized past can influence a return to more traditional practices and values to address social issues. Alternative paths toward a more respectful and rewarding engagement with Indigenous communities are suggested, based on research findings regarding social work needs and social work approaches in Nunavik’s largest communities.
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