ITK, truth commission members agree on Inuit sub-group

“Nothing will be done in the Arctic without Inuit involvement”


(Updated July 16)

Officials with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the three members of the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission announced July 16 that they have reached an agreement-in-principle on the creation of an Inuit sub-commission.

“It is my expectation that nothing will be done in the Arctic without Inuit involvement. The three commissioners have always intended to ensure that Inuit will have a process that is specific to Inuit needs,” Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the commission, said in a news release.

Sinclair said truth commissions in other countries, such as Australia and South Africa, have used sub-commissions to ensure that all groups are included.

And Sinclair said his commission acknowledges “the distinctive Inuit language, culture and way of life and that Inuit were profoundly affected by the residential school experience.”

The agreement-in-principle arose out of meetings held July 15 in Ottawa.

Some Inuit residential school survivors have complained that no Inuit were named to sit on the the three-person commission, and called on other Inuit to boycott the body and to push for the creation of an Inuit-only truth commission to deal with the residential school experience.

But Mary Simon, the ITK president, has rejected a boycott and has advanced the idea of an Inuit sub-commission, which Inuit leaders endorsed at ITK’s annual general meeting this past June.

“I am pleased that the commissioners understand the need to establish a forum for Inuit survivors to tell their stories in their own language, in their own communities,” Simon said in a news release.

ITK and the truth commission still have to work out the details of how an Inuit sub-commission would work, including its budget. The bodies will now work on a proposal that would be done by September.

The July 16 statement says any Inuit-specific work will operate under the commission and will not duplicate any of the commission’s work.

Marie Wilson of Yellowknife and Wilton Littlechild of Alberta sit on the commission with Sinclair.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Uqi Williams of Iqaluit will serve on a 10-member committee of residential school survivors set up to advise the truth and reconciliation commission. John Banksland, an Inuvialuit elder from Akalavik, was also named to the survivor committee.

A July 15 announcement issued from the office of Chuck Strahl, the Indian and northern affairs minister, says the survivor committee comprises seven First Nations people, two Inuit and one Métis.

The other eight members of the committee are: Barney Williams Jr., Doris Young, Eugene Arcand, Gordon Williams, John Morrisseau, Lottie May Johnson, Raymond Arcand and Terri Brown.

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