ITK pushes for more Inuit-focused federal spending
‘Sometimes real progress is more than just a one-time allocation to an Inuit priority,’ Natan Obed says
The leader of Canada’s national Inuit organization says he’s ready to collaborate with any federal party that can continue to support Inuit-focused investment.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami released its own wish list last week ahead of the Sept. 20 election, calling on party leaders to make the needs of Inuit Nunangat central to their platforms.
Earlier this week, RoseAnn Archibald, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, also released a similar priority list. The AFN included reconciliation, climate change and economic growth as its priorities.
ITK president Natan Obed said his organization hopes to maintain the dialogue, investment and focused legislation it’s achieved with its existing Inuit-Crown partnership.
“We will do whatever we can to work with whatever government is formed to achieve that,” Obed said.
“We want to champion any party that will continue the transformative work that’s been started over the last few years.”
Obed was referring largely to the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, a joint political body formed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017.
Since its creation, Obed said the committee has made important headway on a handful of files, including an Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, the implementation of a new Indigenous Languages Act and efforts to eliminate tuberculosis from the North by 2030.
The committee has also started work on an Inuit Nunangat policy, which would standardize the way federal departments operate when considering any legislation or agreements involving Inuit regions.
“It would allow for the federal government to work in a much more strategic or concerted effort,” Obed said.
“We’re hoping that within the first few months of the new government that this Inuit Nunangat policy can be finalized … and could be implemented immediately.”
ITK has called on the next federal government to take action on other initiatives, including:
- Distinctions-based health legislation, which would recognize Inuit patients’ rights to receive care in Inuktut or receive care close to home. ITK wants the next government to commit to tabling legislation by spring 2022.
- Major new investments in Inuit-led suicide prevention measures, such as housing, shelters and addiction treatment facilities.
- Investments towards food security among Inuit, as identified in the newly released Inuit Nunangat Food Security Strategy
- Major and sustained investments in infrastructure and housing across the North.
“Sometimes real progress is more than just a one-time allocation to an Inuit priority,” Obed said.
So far, Obed has had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while Trudeau visited Iqaluit earlier this week. He hopes to meet with other party leaders to discuss ITK’s priorities before Sept. 20.
Obed called election cycles “nerve-wracking” for organizations like ITK that rely so heavily on political will.
“Every time there’s a federal election, even if the ruling party wins the election, there are significant changes in the way that a government creates its priorities,” he said.
Obed said he’s hopeful that the success of the Inuit-Crown partnership in recent years bodes well for its work going forward.
“It’s so important for members of Parliament who represent Inuit in their ridings to be in solidarity with Inuit and those communities’ needs,” he added.
“I hope Canada as a whole can continue to prioritize reconciliation and building equity amongst all Canadians.”