John Amagoalik

John Amagoalik’s fight for Inuit political rights has changed Canada forever. As the Chief Commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission, he is responsible for the single greatest restructuring of the Canadian political system since Confederation. The creation of the new Territory of Nunavut in 1999 means that a land mass one-third the size of Canada will be governed by Aboriginal people. For his vital contribution towards this process, Mr. Amagoalik has been affectionately referred to as “John A.” and the “Father of Nunavut.” But his 25-year fight for Inuit rights was borne from tragedy and betrayal. Many of Mr. Amagoalik’s family and friends died from exposure and starvation when the Canadian government forced them to relocate to the High Arctic from their homes in Northern Quebec. Canada finally apologized and reached a settlement for the “High Arctic Exiles” in 1995, largely due to his tireless efforts. Mr. Amagoalik’s efforts for the Inuit have benefited all Aboriginal people, as he was instrumental in Aboriginal people being recognized in the Canadian Constitution while president of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC). He was a driving force in the creation of the Inukshuk Project, a precursor to the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation. In 1994, he received the ITC’s 20th Anniversary Award for Notable Contribution to Inuit Political Rights in Canada.