Inuit leaders “encouraged” by meeting with PM
“We will continue to push for action on the priorities that we outlined at today’s meeting”
Inuit leaders say they’ve taken an important first step in renewing their relationship with the federal government — a relationship that leaders hope will work to address Inuit-specific issues.
Canada’s national Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, hosted a sit-down meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Jan. 26 at its Ottawa office, a first for ITK.
The afternoon meeting included leaders from each of the four regions of the Inuit Nunangat regions, including youth and women’s group representatives, who shared their goals with federal ministers on issues ranging from education to food security, health care, housing and increased Inuit engagement in Arctic politics.
“Food and shelter are basic necessities of life, and are foundational to the development of our communities,” said ITK President Natan Obed in a Jan. 26 release.
“We agree with the government that there needs to be a cognitive shift which acknowledges the importance of investing in — not just spending on — these needs.”
Alongside Obed, leaders of Inuit birthright organizations, including Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and Nunavik’s Makivik Corp., pressed the importance of Inuit land claims as vital to that renewed relationship between Inuit and Ottawa.
The full implementation of those land claims in Canada’s Inuit regions would help address many of the social and economic challenges Inuit face, leaders told Trudeau and other federal ministers who joined the Jan. 27 meeting.
But Inuit leaders said they left the event feeling as through their needs were heard.
“We are encouraged by the engagement of the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues with Inuit, and the respectful tone they have taken,” Obed said.
“We will continue to push for action on the priorities that we outlined at today’s meeting.”
In a Jan. 26 release form the Prime Minister’s office, Trudeau characterized his government’s relationship with Inuit as one based on “respect, rights, cooperation and partnership.”
“I am eager to bring about positive change in the lives of Inuit across Canada and work together to unleash the North’s amazing potential,” he said.
The meeting this week included NTI President Cathy Towtongie, Makivik President Jobie Tukkiapik, Nunatsiavut President Sarah Leo, outgoing and newly-elected chairs of the Inuvialuit Regional Corp., Nellie Cournoyea and Duane Smith, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada president Rebecca Kudloo and National Inuit Youth Council president Maatalii Okalik.
Joining Trudeau were Indigenous and Northern Affairs minister Carolyn Bennett, Fisheries and Oceans minister and Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo, along with Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod.