Psychologists in Nunavut: A Comparison of the Principles Underlying Inuit Quajimanituqangit and the Canadian Psychological Association Code of Ethics

An Excerpt


The Nunavut territorial government is the first public government in Canada (and possibly the world) to be shaped fundamentally by an Aboriginal world view. When the Nunavut government revises legislation governing the profession to reflect Inuit Qaujimanituqangit (IQ), Inuit traditional knowledge, Nunavut psychologists will need to question very deeply whether the ethics of the profession are compatible with Inuit ethical values. As one of the small number of psychologists registered in Nunavut and a researcher on health-related issues in the territory, this is a very personal ethical dilemma. But it is one that I share with any member of a regulated health profession who is involved in research or practice in Nunavut and who strives to follow the code of ethics established by his/her professional body.

In this paper, I begin an exploration of the compatibility of Inuit values and those of professional psychologists by comparing IQ principles (Arnakak 2002, Department of Health and Social Services 1999) with the Code of Ethicsof the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA 2000). This exercise was helpful to me personally in understanding what I learned during many years spent in Nunavut and in suggesting directions for further investigation of ethical questions and value conflicts. I hope it may prove of assistance to psychologists and other health professionals doing health-related research in Nunavut or in other Indigenous communities with world views similar to that of the Inuit.


According to Arnakak (2002), the guiding principles of IQ were abstracted from extensive interviews with Inuit Elders across Nunavut, and elaborated in an interdepartmental workshop held in September, 1999. The four core principles are: Pijitsirniq, Aajiiqatigiingniq, Pilimmaksarniq, and Piliriquatigiingniq. The Department of Health and Social Services (1999), which is responsible for the licensing legislation for psychologists and other health professionals, has added an additional two principles: Avatimik Kamattiarniq and Inuuqatigiittiarniq. Drawing from Arnakak’s and DHSS’s material, each of these ideas is briefly discussed below. The reader should be aware that these are complex and multi-layered concepts, reflecting the world view of a culture whose history and experience is vastly different than European-derived cultures. This short discussion can only introduce the basic ideas. Further, the order of presentation does not in any sense reflect prioritization, since the Inuit clearly see all of these principles as interrelated. This is in contrast to the CPA Code, where the order of presentation reflects an order of priority if values conflict (CPA 2000).

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