Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic May 22, 2012 - 1:52 pm

Youth questions pique interest of ITK presidential hopefuls

Leadership styles pit Gandalf The Grey versus Bugs Bunny

Terry Audla, now the chief executive officer at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., is one of two candidates running for the presidency of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. (FILE PHOTO)
Terry Audla, now the chief executive officer at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., is one of two candidates running for the presidency of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. (FILE PHOTO)
Robbie Watt of Kuujjuaq and Ottawa is also running for the presidency of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.  (FILE PHOTO)
Robbie Watt of Kuujjuaq and Ottawa is also running for the presidency of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. (FILE PHOTO)

Inuit youth have weighed in on the upcoming Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami election by submitting five questions for the two candidates seeking the president’s job, Terry Audla of Iqaluit and Robert (Robbie) Watt of Ottawa.

And the National Inuit Youth Council, a group whose president is a member of the ITK board of directors, but has no voting rights, has received answers to the questions submitted May 17.

Those questions — and answers, edited for length — follow:

• What fired you up enough to make you run for the presidency of ITK? Was there a defining moment?

Audla: A defining moment for me was during the ITK 40th Anniversary From Eskimo to Inuit in 40 Years Conference in Ottawa. At that time I found myself in the same conference room as Tagak Curley, Eric Tagoona, Zebedee Nungak, John Amagoalik, Nellie Cournoyea, Pita Aatami and many other inspirational Inuit leaders and to hear the recent history of how Inuit gained recognition from those people was truly inspiring. ITK has a major role in the lives of Inuit today and needs to work towards building consensus among the Regions in the Nunangat of Inuit (Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut) and to rekindle the pride of Inuit that had existed in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Watt: Travelling to many remote Inuit communities in all four Inuit regions in the past year and a half, reinforced what I already knew—the chronic housing shortage and the issues around food security, high rates of school dropout, lack of job opportunities, crime and family violence, and death due to cancer, suicide and even murder—are all indicators of a society that is clearly struggling. It made it increasingly difficult to just sit by complacently and turn a blind eye while thinking:

• What fictional character most exemplifies your leadership style? Why?

Audla: The fictional character the exemplifies my leadership style is “Gandalf The Grey” from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Gandalf is fair, humble, kind and was renewed to greatness (never jaded). His energy and unwavering resolve leads to his successes. This is reflective of my style of leadership where power/authority does not go to my head and I feel every person is equal and needs to be given the same opportunity as everyone deserves. I feel that I am the anti-thesis of the phrase “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The number one trait in any leader is humility. Without humility people become short-sighted and defensive; this type of behaviour becomes a shortcoming of one’s ability to accept mistakes and to learn from those mistakes.

Watt: Bugs Bunny best exemplifies my leadership style because we both exhibit a blended leadership style. Bugs Bunny and I always take the individuals and specific conditions of the situation into account, then tweak it to meet the needs of all involved. Bugs Bunny and I use all of our acquired skills to approach the situation at hand. Many have witnessed how, on many occasions, I took a potentially volatile situation and diffused it by reframing the problem to find a solution. Like Bugs Bunny, I am an effective leader because I do not change “who I am” but instead change how I am going to tackle the problem, use ingenuity to think outside of the box and come up with a clever solution, which turns the problem into an opportunity. Bugs and I are persistent and persuasive and create a climate in which a “win-win” attitude prevails benefiting all.

• Do you think that the average Inuk understands the work of ITK and NIYC? If not, what will you do to change this?

Audla: No, sadly… What I hope with the help of others, including the NIYC, is to get the message across to individual Inuit that ITK’s mandate is complimentary to the regions. An English saying used is “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” I know and understand that ITK and the regions do produce a lot of information in newsletters, annual reports, pre-recorded radio announcements and other mediums to convey their message but the question is, “do Inuit read or seek out this information?” Sadly, for the majority, the answer is no. How can we remedy this? Education, perseverance, and other forms of media will help.

Watt: Knowledge is power. I always say that and firmly believe in synergy and that two or more heads are better than one. With the support and direction of the ITK Board of Directors, I would be committed in ensuring that all national organizations—ITK , NIYC, Pauktuutit and possibly ICC—collaborate to identify creative and innovative approaches to the issues faced by Inuit today

• We often hear that there is little role for ITK now that our land claims are settled. What do you see as ITK’s role today?

Audla: ITK has amazing potential today just as they had in the previous 40 years of its existence. ITK has to become the uniting body to all Inuit in each of the Regions in and in the rest of Canada as it always has. I have never faltered nor do I intend to in working towards improving the standard of living of Inuit Working with the regions, ITK can achieve this.

Watt: ITK is our national voice, the entity that ensures Inuit rights and aspirations are protected, may it be at the community, provincial, territorial, federal and even the international level. Strategically speaking, there is strength in numbers. We need a united front at all times to act for the benefit of all Inuit, considering the fact that we are 55,000 Inuit compared to about 34 million fellow Canadians. Remember, we occupy two-thirds of Canada’s land mass.

• Mary Simon [retiring ITK] president has talked about the importance of bringing in new people, with new energy. What new vision would you bring to the work of ITK?

Audla: I am relatively young in comparison to the other leaders. I have the drive and the energy to make ITK significant to the ordinary Inuk.

Watt: I believe that Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), Inuit Traditional Knowledge, needs to be brought into the 21st century. We have ancient practices, customs, rites and ceremonies, some of which are known but others can be revived and repatriated if need be (many universities throughout North America have extensive anthropological collections). This ancient knowledge can be useful, from the grassroots to national level, to amend outdated government programs and policies to make them more effective and culturally adapted to the realities of Inuit.

The election comes after former ITK president Mary Simon did not elect to run for a third term.

You can find Audla’s full responses here and Watt’s full responses here.

The election is slated for June 6 in Kuujjuaq following an ITK annual general meeting.

The 12 voting members of ITK — the heads of the Inuit birthright organizations from the four Inuit regions in Canada, along with two delegates per region — will chose a new president for ITK June 6 in Kuujjuaq at ITK’s 2012 annual general meeting.

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