The Making of Eskimo Policy in Canada, 1952-62: The Life and Times of the Eskimo Affairs Committee


  • Peter Clancy



Canada. Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Conference on Eskimo Affairs, Ottawa, May 1952, Economic conditions, Economic policy, Education policy, Eskimo Affairs Committee (Canada), Government, Government relations, History, Hudson's Bay Company, Inuit, Social policy, N.W.T., Nunavut


During the 1950s, a decade of socio-economic turbulence in the arctic area of Canada, the Eskimo Affairs Committee played a significant role in shaping a new set of policy initiatives that Ottawa was framing toward Eskimos. In bringing together representatives of the major arctic field organizations, both public and private, the committee served as a corporatist device for overcoming the limitations of a colonial and underdeveloped state. The members gained a formal avenue of consultation, and a limited power of veto, over the new policy initiatives being framed by the Department of Northern Affairs. The northern administration gained a source of intelligence from several well-established arctic organizations, at a time when the department's own field presence was still embryonic. The committee considered a variety of issues, including the commercial relations of Eskimo trapping, the case for a new field administration, proposals for expanded credit channels and measures to extend the scope of wage employment and small manufacturing. Ultimately it was the need for more conventional channels of popular representation, along with the enlarged capacities of the northern administration, that led to the committee's demise. Nevertheless, the record of the committee's activities offers an unusual reflection of a development administration in the making.

Key words: administration, economic policy, Canadian Eskimo affairs, politics