Group pushes Inuit rights

ICC unveils Arctic sovereignty statement


Inuit leaders from Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Russia unveiled their long-awaited Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Arctic Sovereignty April 28 in Tromsø, Norway.

The declaration says "the rights, roles and responsibilities of Inuit must be fully recognized and accommodated" in discussions on matters linked to Arctic sovereignty, including climate change and resource development.

"We are saying to those who want to use Inuit Nunaat for their own purposes, you must talk to us and respect our rights," Patricia Cochran, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, said in an ICC news release.

The ICC declaration makes a pitch for the respect of internationally-accepted human rights standards, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other international legal instruments. It also calls for closer cooperation and partnerships between Arctic states and Inuit.

Duane Smith, the ICC vice-chair for Canada, said the declaration makes it clear that "it is in the interests of states, industry, and others to make us partners in the new Arctic, and to respect our land claims and self-government agreements."

The declaration says the "issues of sovereignty and sovereign rights in the Arctic have become inextricably linked to issues of self-determination in the Arctic."

It says "Inuit and Arctic states must, therefore, work together closely and constructively to chart the future of the Arctic."

"This is not an Inuit Nunaat declaration of independence, but rather a statement of who we are, what we stand for, and on what terms we are prepared to work together with others," said Aqqaluk Lynge, ICC president for Greenland.

The drafting of the declaration started at an ICC meeting on Arctic sovereignty held last November in Kuujuaq.

ICC decided to launch the declaration in Tromsø this week to coincide with the Arctic Council's meeting of circumpolar foreign ministers and an academic conference on ice melt in the Arctic.

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