Project 3d

Project Completed, May 2011

Building empirically-based economic models in the Arctic: A look at Igloolik, NU

Completed Thesis: Toward a New Northern "Development System"

Research Team
Sheena Kennedy, School of Public Policy & Administration, Carleton University (Masters Student)  Email:
Frances Abele, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University (Project Lead)


The recently released Government of Nunavut (GN) report card makes clear that Nunavummiut feel there is much room for improvement in their government and in their communities. There are three particularly interesting themes echoed throughout the reports' recommendations: self-reliance, education and community wellness.1 These three common themes are, themselves, interrelated and indicate that something much more complex than a lack of employment or business opportunities (as perhaps the "new" federal Northern strategy might have us believe) is at work across the territory, particularly outside the larger wage centres. By conventional measures, the North is often considered to be one of Canada's poorest regions: unemployment and social transfers are high and health and formal education indicators are dismal compared to the South. While these indicators are important, they do not tell the whole story and in fact, lead us to define "the problem" as being related to poverty (defined conventionally as the lack of earned income). The solution to this problem involves job training and job creation. If, instead, we define the problem as socio-economic exclusion,2 we are forced to ask deeper questions and the policy options become more numerous.

Project Description:


The objective of this project is to develop an empirically-based model of the current Igloolik economy, taking into account all formal and informal economic activity, with criteria to be developed in collaboration with the community government. There will be three phases to the project. First, the researcher will assemble all existing socio-economic statistical and historical data on the community, using the Census, the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics files, and internet research. Once the data is assembled, the information will be presented to community representatives in the form of an electronic file, a written report, and an oral presentation. Second, research will be conducted in Igloolik, with the support of staff at the Hamlet Council and a co-researcher who is a member of the community. Third, a final report will be prepared for use by the community. It will be validated in a review by key informants of the community, then revised and translated. In addition, after this process has been completed, an academic publication will be prepared that is co-authored with Frances Abele and Jack Hicks. This research will also form the basis of a research paper for a directed study for Sheena Kennedy's Master's in Public Administration.


This research project will entail preparation of a community history, and socio-economic baselines study of the community of Igloolik. This community is interesting in a number of respects. For many years, it has had a significant research presence, and a number of research and cultural institutions that are neither directly state supported nor associated with small business. It is a community where wage income is relatively low (compared to other communities of similar size) and where harvesting activity is important. Empirical information will be collected that supports an analysis of the changing nature of both formal and informal social economy institutions in Igloolik over the last few decades.


Information will be collected during May 2009, with validation and further information gathering in winter 2010.

Documentary Review

This phase of the project is underway and does not involve any direct contact with community participants. Information has been collected -
 both qualitative and quantitative in nature - to build a community profile from existing data and literature to help inform the community survey questions and the final report to the community.

A community survey will be administered to a 25 - 50% sample of community households. (While a 50% sample would be ideal, it may not be feasible.) The sample will be determined based on data from the Aboriginal Peoples' Survey and the Census and a walking survey of the community. The specific method of survey administration will be decided in consultation with my community research partner. When this has been determined, the  researcher will submit an update of the method to the Ethics Committee for their review. The survey respondents' identities will be confidential and no record of respondents' identity will be kept. The survey questions will concern household income and expenditure and members' harvesting patterns.

Informal Interviews will also take place throughout the course of the research. These interviews will concern similar information to the community survey but will offer respondents an opportunity to make additional comments and/or observations in an informal setting. Informal interviews will also provide the researcher with a means to test impressions and identify any possible gaps in the initial list of questions. A sample list of questions has been appended, as well as an oral script that will be used to confirm the informed consent of informal interview participants.

Survey Analysis and Community Report

A preliminary analysis of the survey results will be prepared and this combined with information gathered from the documentary review and informal interviews to create a preliminary report. The report will be submitted to key informants in the community who will provide feedback. The community informants will be officials and any interviewees who wish to undertake this. On the basis of feedback and further reflection, the report will be revised to create a final report. The final report will be transmitted to community in English and Inuktitut, and if invited, the researcher will return with the report to discuss the results.

Business Survey

Small businesses and cooperatives in the community will be surveyed for information about their economic impact.


I started this paper arguing that a new development system in needed in Nunavut. Despite having de-facto self-government, economic development in the territory is still very much modeled on southern (Euro-Canadian) market-oriented principles, which, quite simply, are not working. These conventional economic strategies focus on labour market attachment and business development initiatives. That is, underdevelopment is characterized as the lack of physical and financial assets; and poverty in this case is narrowly defined as the lack of financial (earned) income. Bringing people out of poverty in this model then involves paid employment. I proposed that if we expand the definition of the problem to be addressed from poverty to "social exclusion" then the range of policy options would also expand.

By characterizing underdevelopment in this way (that is, more broadly) we open up space for discussion about many of the other difficult issues prevalent in contemporary Northern communities such as low literacy levels, overcrowding, and poor health, all of which impact (but are left out of) conventional economic development. Thinking in this expanded way also opens up space to measure and include all the productive activities taking place in a particular community allowing us to see a much larger and more inclusive picture of the local community economy.

Social exclusion is effectively the combination of poverty, disempowerment and disengagement. The effects of social exclusion are felt throughout the household and the community at large. Whereas policies that try to address poverty focus almost exclusively on physical and financial assets, those that seek to work towards social inclusion focus also on human and social assets. Social inclusion as a policy objective appears in the GN's recent report card priorities as "self-reliance, community wellness and education".

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