ITK president to skip Indigenous leaders, premiers meeting in Winnipeg
Natan Obed declined invitation because non rights-holding groups will be attending
Inuit Tapariit Kanatami president Natan Obed has declined an invitation to attend a meeting between national Indigenous leaders and premiers in Winnipeg next week, the organization’s spokesperson Sarah Rogers said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.
Obed, who leads the national organization for Inuit in Canada, will not attend the meeting over his organizations’ concerns about other Indigenous groups that do not represent specific land claim regions or Indigenous nations that are participating in the meeting.
The gathering is a three-day meeting of the Council of the Federation, made up of Canada’s premiers, which begins July 10.
Obed declined an interview request. However, he and Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, issued a joint statement Friday.
“ITK generally welcomes any opportunity to share Inuit priorities with territorial and provincial leaders,” Obed was said in the statement, “but any such meeting should be done with clear objectives and be respectful of Inuit governance.”
Specifically, Obed and Caron raised concerns about the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and Native Women’s Association of Canada, whose representatives will be present in Winnipeg.
“These organizations are not recognized by the four Inuit Treaty Organizations which collectively represent all Inuit, or the democratically elected Métis governments which represent Métis citizens across the Homeland in Inuit and Métis relationships with the Crown,” Obed and Caron said.
“Discussions with such organizations are not constructive because only Inuit Treaty Organizations have the mandate or the ability to work on behalf of Inuit, and Métis governments the mandate to represent Métis Nation citizens.
“It is both ITK and MNC who are the duly mandated national representatives who are best placed to collaborate with federal, provincial or territorial governments.”
The statement indicated Caron will attend the meeting to bring that message to the premiers.
It’s “disheartening” to have national Indigenous organizations disagree on who should take part in meetings with premiers and governments, said Kim Beaudin, national vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
Beaudin added the congress has been around since 1971 and predates the creation of both ITK and the Métis National Council.
While the congress is not a rights-holding organization, he said it has been a critical part of advocacy efforts related to the justice system, housing and human rights, especially for Indigenous people including Métis and Inuit who live off-reserve in urban or rural areas across the country.
“When I see these statements written by certain leaders, it’s like the government has chosen them to become the gatekeepers for the majority of [Indigenous] people who live off-reserve,” Beaudin said.
“They’re saying that they are our voice. Well, they’re not … they don’t speak on behalf of me. They don’t certainly speak on behalf of the community in terms of the provincial-territorial organizations [that First Nations are part of].”
Miranda Dubé, a spokesperson for the executive council of the Government of Manitoba which is hosting the meeting, said the Council of the Federation has “pursued meetings with all five national Indigenous organizations” since it was launched in 2004.
“They did so again this year, and four of those national organizations will be meeting with Canada’s premiers on Monday July 10 in Winnipeg — the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Métis National Council,” she said in an email.
“While the meeting would have benefited from the additional participation of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, we respect their decision not to attend, a determination they have made in other meetings in other years.”
The Native Women’s Association of Canada did not respond to Nunatsiaq News’ request for comment.