Former ITK president pleased to hear Inuit voices at academic conference

“They made such a huge impact in telling our story”

By SAMANTHA DAWSON

Discussions at an academic conference on Arctic security and sovereignty in Toronto are going well, but Inuit need to be more involved in Arctic talks, said Rosemarie Kuptana, a former president of the Inuit Broadcasting Corp., the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada.

She participated in a panel discussion Jan. 29 on security and sovereignty from an Inuit perspective.

The Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program’s third annual conference, this year called “Arctic Peoples and Security,” is taking place at the University of Toronto until Jan. 30.

“There was a number of young people at the conference, which makes me really hopeful for the future of Inuit,” Kuptana said.

To her, having big conferences on the Arctic can be helpful, because delegates can share ideas and try to understand each other’s positions, rather than being divided on issues.

“I’m very proud of the Inuit and the Inuit organization here because they made such a huge impact in telling our story,” she said.

The ideas she heard about security and sovereignty are “not notions of traditional militarization, but the things that bring up our standard of life in the North.”

That includes talking about food, shelter, clothing, education, access to health and medicine, “these kind of things that can help us address the social problems,” she said.

Security to Kuptana also means being free of substance abuse and having the facilities to address it.

“One of the things I’m really worried about is having a generation of fetal alcohol syndrome children,” she said.

It’s important to look at these issues from an inclusive and wide perspective, Kuptana said.

She attended last year’s conference, which had a theme focused more on the Arctic Council.

But this year conference’s focus is more on what the term “security” means to Inuit.

“And we heard a host of what it means to be secure and sovereign in our own territory,” Kuptana said.

The main issues Inuit have been talking about at the conference are security in the home, in the community, and the stress of family violence or alcohol-related violence.

“These issues are all inter-related… we cannot ignore that as Inuit,” she said.

Conferences are important because they can influence not only government policy, but they are also a good way to inform people about “the Inuit agenda” and to put forward Inuit aspirations.

“Inuit are very different from First Nations. We don’t demonstrate. We don’t go on hunger strikes. We prefer to sit down and negotiate, what the Inuit reality is,” Kuptana said.

In her presentation to conference delegates, Kuptana talked about security of the Inuit homelands.

That means involving Inuit in discussions about future plans for the Arctic regions.

“I was born on the ice and there are governments that are discussing Arctic sovereignty and security from an outside perspective, but they our talking about our Inuit home, without us at the table,” she said.

“I guess we’ll have to remind them in a friendly manner, because that’s the way we are as Inuit, we would like to be at the table.” Kuptana said.

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