NEWS: Around the Arctic June 06, 2012 - 5:03 am

ICC Canada ponders its future at Kuujjuaq AGM

“We make connections abroad so that Canadian Inuit can benefit at home"


The temperature in Kuujjuaq was a balmy 22 C under bright, sunny skies, causing many inside the Makivik Corp. board room to fan themselves with documents, as the Canadian wing of the Inuit Circumpolar Council discussed its past year and work-filled future at its June 5 annual general meeting.

Among the landmark events that lie ahead for ICC:

• in 2013, Canada assumes the chair of the Arctic Council until 2015, where ICC sits as one of six permanent participants;

• in 2013, ICC will hold a living resources summit in Greenland;

• in 2014, as part of the Arctic Council’s activities as chair of the council, ICC is involved in the organization of a symposium on indigenous Arctic languages; and,

• also in 2014, ICC will hold its ICC general assembly in Canada.

ICC-Canada president Duane Smith presided over the AGM, which was attended by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Mary Simon, who serves as an ICC vice-president, vice-president Kirt Ejesiak, and presidents from the Inuit organizations of Nunavut, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories, and well as the presidents of the Inuit Youth Council and the Pauktuutit Inuit women’s association.

ICC has two main concerns, Smith, said: to make sure Canadian Inuit have strong ties to Inuit in Russia, Greenland and Alaska and to represent Inuit rights internationally.

“We make connections abroad so that Canadian Inuit can benefit at home. This is especially important because, as last week’s announcement of high Co2 levels showed, challenges in the Arctic very often need to be addressed abroad. And we often call upon our Inuit cousins in other countries to help us,” Smith said in his president’s address.

Smith asked ICC board members to think about the roles of ICC and the Arctic Council, when in 2013 it assumes the chair of the Arctic Council, where ICC sits as one of six indigenous permanent participants.

On their wish-list for Canada’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council is included the idea of an Inuk chair — such as Simon, who leaves her ITK position June 6, and was the first chair of the organization in 1996 — and no new non-Arctic observer states.

ICC worries that if countries like Korea, China, and India join the Arctic Council, their presence will dilute the influence of indigenous permanent participants who participate, but don’t have a vote in decisions made by the international body.

For Simon, the European seal ban should prevent the 27-nation European Union from joining the Arctic Council.

“Until the ban on the seal market is broken, they should not be allowed to be a member of the Arctic Council,” she said, with others around the table, including Inuvialuit Regional Corp. president Nellie Cournoyea, in agreement.

Delegates also talked about ICC’s 2011 resource summit and a continuing ICC study on Inuit health, based on a 2009 Circumpolar Inuit health summit in Yellowknife.

NTI president Cathy Towntongie said Inuit need to revive traditions, while Cournoyea suggested that it might be good if Inuit Nunangat banned soft drinks, asking “how do we get the guts to ban pop?”

Simon said she is alarmed by the rising levels of tuberculosis in her home community of Kangiqsualujjuaq (now at more than 50) and other Canadian Arctic communities.

Ottawa should step in to help Quebec tackle the outbreak in Kangiqsualujjuaq before it gets out of control, Simon said.

But it was also Simon’s last appearance at an ICC meeting as a vice-president. That occasion was marked by a video highlighting her 30-plus years of involvement in Inuit organizations.

At the AGM, board members also approved financial statements that show the ICC had a budget of $1.7 million in 2011.

Of this, $535,724 came from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, $174,055 came from Foreign Affairs and International Trade, $150,733 came from ITK and $135,779 came from Laval university, with some of the balance coming from the Government of Nunavut, NTI, IRC, Trent University and Ducks Unlimited.

Towtongie asked questions about the budget, especially a $474,549 amount spent on consultants, which she said would be better spent on elders for traditional knowledge.

Of ICC’s expenses, another $824,930 went to salaries.

The organization produced a surplus of $256.

On June 6 many of the same participants meet again for ITK’s annual meeting, at which board members will select Terry Audla or Robbie Watt to replace Simon as president.