The federal government has in the past defined involvement in Indigenous health at the federal or provincial/territorial level: “The federal government provides some health services to First Nations on reserve and Inuit, including public health activities, health promotion and the detection and mitigation of hazards to health in the environment” (Health Canada, 2005, p.3).

“The majority of health services available to Inuit, Métis, non-status Indians and status Indians living away from communities are provided by the provinces and territories in the same manner that services are available to all citizens. Some provinces/territories provide innovative, culturally-specific programs and services to meet the particular health needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis” (Health Canada, 2005, p.7).

In 2017, the federal government embarked on an important restructuration. Indigenous Services Canada was co-created with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada from what was formerly Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada. It collaborates with partners in linking First Nations, Inuit and Metis with high quality services (Indigenous Services Canada, 2013, 2018, 2019). As of 2019, the process of transitioning previous programs to Indigenous Services Canada is in progress.


The Department of Health is responsible for health services in Nunavut. Its mission is “[t]o promote, protect and enhance the health and well-being of all Nunavummiut, incorporating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit at all levels of service delivery and design” (Government of Nunavut, n.d.). “Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) is the term used to describe Inuit epistemology or the Indigenous knowledge of the Inuit. The term translates directly as ‘that which Inuit have always known to be true.' Like other Indigenous knowledge systems, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit is recognized to be a unified system of beliefs and knowledge characteristic of the Inuit culture” (National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, 2012, p. 1).

Access to care in Nunavut is limited to prevention services and primary care in most communities. Iqaluit has a hospital facility delivering secondary care. Rankin Inlet has a Regional Health Centre with a limited number of overnight beds. A limited number of family physicians and specialists from southern provinces visit Nunavut communities to provide services. Complex out-of and in-hospital care is accessed in Edmonton, Alberta, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Ottawa, Ontario (Office of the Auditor General of Canada, 2017).

The Public Health Branch of the Department of Health “provides direction and leadership throughout Nunavut regarding the core functions of public health, which include population health assessment, health surveillance, health promotion, disease and injury prevention, health protection and management of public health emergencies” (Government of Nunavut, 2017, p. 124)



  1. Government of Nunavut. (n.d.). About us, Welcome to Health. Retrieved from:

  2. Government of Nunavut. (2017). Business plan 2017-2020. Nunavut. Retrieved from:

  3. Health Canada. (2005). Blueprint on Aboriginal Health. A 10-year Transformative Plan. Retrieved from:

  4. Indigenous Services Canada. (2013). First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. Retrieved from:

  5. Indigenous Services Canada. (2018). Indigenous Services Canada - Departmental Plan 2018-2019. Retrieved from:

  6. Indigenous Services Canada. (2019). Indigenous Services Canada. Retrieved from:

  7. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health. (2012). Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: The role of Indigenous knowledge in supporting wellness in Inuit communities in Nunavut. Prince George, BC. Retrieved from:

  8. Office of the Auditor-General of Canada. (2017). Report—Health Care Services—Nunavut. Retrieved from: