Speak louder, NTI delegates tell Ottawa leaders
“They do not want the Kelowna Accord. They want the Colonial Accord.”
Speak louder on our behalf.
That’s what delegates at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s annual general meeting in Iqaluit last week told two prominent Ottawa-based Inuit leaders: Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell and ITK president Mary Simon.
This past Thursday, the two leaders made oral presentations to delegates and took part in question-and-answer sessions, which Inuit delegates from across Nunavut used to fill the air with comments on numerous issues, such as the impending European sealskin ban, the Conservative government’s opposition to the Kelowna Accord, climate change, health care and infrastructure.
Iqaluit’s representative Sytukie Joamie said he believes governments are now “testing” the resolve of the Inuit to control their own destiny within their homelands, but that Inuit will eventually “rise again.”
While urging Simon and Karetak-Lindell to fight harder for Inuit rights, he heaped scorn on the Conservative government’s abandonment of the Kelowna Accord.
“They do not want the Kelowna Accord. They want the Colonial Accord,” Joamie said of the Tories.
Joamie suggested that in their quest for self-determination, Inuit face opposition from a variety of fronts, even the Nunavut government.
“We’re at war with our own government over wildlife regulations,” Joamie said.
And Joamie urged Nancy Karetak-Lindell to pursuade more parliamentarians to come north, saying “your colleagues should come North to find out what it’s like here.
James Arreak, an ex-officio delegate representing the Nunavut Trust, pointed out that the average life-expectancy for Inuit is only 68 years, a fact that governments cannot be allowed to ignore.
“The priorities of the prime minister do not include Inuit priorities… You too have to speak louder in Ottawa,” Arreak said to Mary Simon.
NTI executive members also joined in. Raymond Ningeocheak, the second vice-president, said the Inuit voice must be raised against threats like the impending European ban on seal products, and a conservation campaign aimed at restricting polar bear hunting.
James Eetoolook, the first vice president, told Nancy Karetak-Lindell that the main national political parties – the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats – all have “their own agendas,” but Inuit need voices who will advance their agenda.
At the end of her session, Mary Simon said she was grateful to hear what delegates had to say.
“If I wasn’t willing to be given direction by you, I shouldn’t be sitting here. I believe everything that was said,” Simon told delegates.
At the end of their meeting, this past Friday morning, NTI delegates passed a resolution asking the federal government to help Inuit fight European import bans on seal products.