Nunavut, Labrador want renewed air link

“There are so few of us, we need to stick together.”



Officials from Nunavut and Nunatsiavut pledged to work closely together and be good neighbours, after a series of working meetings in Iqaluit this week.

”In the North, Inuit are one family,” Tony Andersen, First Minister of the Government of Nunatsiavut, said on Monday afternoon inside Nunavut’s legislative assembly. “There are so few of us, we need to stick together.”

“This is the start, hopefully, of many meetings to come,” said Nunavut’s premier, Paul Okalik.

Okalik said he plans to visit Labrador, for the first time, later this year.

But right now Nunavum­miut who wish to visit their Nunatsiavut neighbours won’t be able to do so via a direct air link, which was scrapped several years ago.

Air Labrador provided a flight between Iqaluit, Labrador and Newfoundland from March 2003 until April 2004, when the route was cancelled for lack of passengers and cargo.

The possibility of reopening an air link between Nunavut and Labrador is already being examined by the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce, which is conducting a study on whether an air link between Nunavut, Greenland and Labrador would be profitable.

John Hickey, Newfound­land’s minister of transportation and Labrador affairs, said renewing the air link is a “huge issue” and said he would sit down and listen to any airline interested taking on the route.

As well, Nunavut and Newfoundland officials each agreed to stand together against animal rights activists, who continue to push for a European Union ban on seal skin imports.

“We don’t have to go around with our heads down, like we’re criminals,” said Tom Rideout, Newfound­land’s deputy premier and minister of fisheries.

Seal skins in Nunavut are presently going unsold, Okalik said, because of the stigma against wearing fur.

Nunatsiavut, home to about 4,000 Labrador Inuit, came into being when its constitution was ratified on Dec. 1, 2005, becoming the last Inuit region in Canada to sign off on a self-government deal.

Andersen said on Monday the land claim meant Inuit in Labrador are “now able to take our rightful place in Canada.”

Unlike the Nunavut land claim agreement, Nunat­siavut’s land claim keeps the region as part of Labrador and Newfoundland, but provides limited autonomy to Inuit through a third level of government.

The Government of Nunatsiavut is expected to be responsible for health, education and cultural affairs.
While Inuit don’t own the whole area – 72,520 square kilometres – encompassed by Nunatsiavut, they do possess special rights to hunt and fish in the area.

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