ICC will send more aid to Russian aboriginals
DWANE WILKIN< Nunatsiaq News IQALUIT — Canada's Inuit say they will try again to deliver much needed humanitarian assistance to aboriginals living in Russia's Chukotka region. The Inuit Circumpolar Commission (ICC) of Canada resolved unanimously during its annual general meeting June 17 to coordinate fundraising activities at the community level to purchase harvesting equipment for Russian aboriginals living in the far north. "What we're going to do is leave it up to the different regions to do what they feel is the most effective way of raising the funds, whether it be through raffles or bingos or other activities," ICC Canada president Sheila Watt-Cloutier said "And we also leave it up to the corporations like Makivik and IRC and NTI and so on, if they want to pitch in. But we're not putting any figures down, knowing that budgets are tight." Last winter, ICC Canada led a Canadian-sponsored relief mission to northern Russia with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Red Cross. When ICC's proposal for a second, larger mission to deliver $2 million in aid was turned down by CIDA, the Inuit group decided to carry on with phase two of its aid initiative alone. "We have to be part of managing our own crisis," ICC Canada president Watt-Cloutier said. "That's what capacity building is all about." Watt-Cloutier said ICC Canada would like to follow the lead of the North Slope Burough of Alaska, who plan to send $60,000 worth of hunting and fishing equipment to Russia in the next couple of weeks. The Alaskans intend to send a second shipment of supplies into Russia next spring, but Watt-Cloutier said Canadian Inuit aim to ship their own supplies before then. "I would like to see it go in before Christmas, before the winter sets in," she said. ICC Canada said health conditions of Inuit and other aboriginals impoverished by Russia's economic crisis are deplorable and worsening. Watt-Cloutier said ICC Canada will ask corporate donors to match funds that its member organizations can raise in Canadian Inuit communities on their own. The relief mission and money raised will be managed by ICC Canada through a separate foundation known as the ICC Foundation. Russian aboriginal groups have indicated they are in dire need of boats, snowmobiles, hunting and fishing equipment and clothing, Watt-Cloutier said.