NEWS: Around the Arctic May 01, 2012 - 1:00 pm

“I’m not running:” ITK president Mary Simon

The 12 voting members of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami will chose a new president June 6


Mary Simon, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, has decided not to seek re-election in June.

“I’m not running,” she said in a May 1 interview from Ottawa. “I’ve had two terms, which is six years, [and] I just feel it’s always important to encourage the people to take on this type of work.”

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.

Simon said there are young Inuit who are interested in taking on the responsibility of leading ITK.

Names circulating for possible ITK nominations (which close May 10) include Udloriak Hanson, now ITK’s executive director, but Simon said she “doesn’t know who’s running.”

No matter who takes over the presidency of the organization, ITK is on a solid footing, she said, despite the recent cutback of 40 per cent to its budget for health activities. This cutback has led to nine layoffs, she said.

And, although she said some may think differently, Simon believes ITK remains relevant to all Inuit, although the organization’s role is different it was years ago before the land claims were negotiated.

ITK now can speaks out against policy changes that affect Inuit in Canada, Simon said, and “we try to bring the views of the grassroots to the forefront.”

While some have criticized the way the ITK new president will be elected — that is, by the 12 delegates to the ITK annual meeting, Simon said it’s simply too expensive to mount a cross-Canada election.

For this election, it’s too late to change the bylaws to allow any other selection process, she said.

As for her post-ITK future, Simon said she wants to do some berry-picking this summer, see her nine grandchildren, and relax a bit after 47 years of work in travel-filled jobs.

Simon said she plans to continue working to improve education and mental health services in Inuit communities.

“I’m not disappearing from Inuit politics,” said Simon, who has previously served as president of Makivik Corp., the Inuit Circumpolar Council and Canada’s Arctic ambassador and ambassador to Denmark. “I’m just leaving this position.”