The Impact of Welfare Colonialism on Inuit Responses to Climate Change in Qikiqtani, Canada

Change log
Mackay, Cameron 

Climate instability in the Arctic poses large challenges for Inuit who live there and whilst climate vulnerability research is effective on many levels, this approach has been critiqued for overlooking the impacts of colonialism. Therefore, a niche exists that investigates how the ongoing issues of welfare colonialism, which refers to the problematic centre-periphery interactions between the state and indigenous groups from the 1950s, affect the ability of Inuit to respond to climate change. To do this, the ‘vulnerability’ term, currently widely used in Canadian Arctic research, was re-framed to ‘community wellness’ in order to offer a more open-ended analysis. Through consulting literature, this study asks: How do the legacies of welfare colonialism in Qikiqtani, Canada affect community wellness in Igloolik and Grise Fiord? It was found that the main factors of community wellness, which include kinship, culture, community, mobility and subsistence, were all adversely impacted by aspects of welfare colonialism such as resettlement and the removal of Inuit from their homes for education and medical treatment. It is suggested that Inuit in Qikiqtani today are less able to respond to challenges due to these legacies of welfare colonialism. Analysis of literature indicates that there is significant overlap between the ongoing impacts of colonialism and non-climatic factors of climate vulnerability in the Canadian Arctic. Because of this, welfare colonialism is argued to affect the human dimensions of climate change in Qikiqtani as it increases the vulnerability of Inuit. It is also noted that the centreperiphery aspects of welfare colonialism can be also be partially seen in the research that is conducted in the Canadian Arctic today and that there is opportunity for future studies to explore ways in which aspects of this research could be decolonised.

Powell, Richard
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge