‘This is part of our job’: Obed wants to have the hard conversations

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president makes keynote address at Northern Lights conference and trade show

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed delivers a keynote address Thursday at the Northern Lights conference and trade show in Ottawa. (Photo by Cedric Gallant, special to Nunatsiaq News)

By Cedric Gallant
Special to Nunatsiaq News

Having difficult conversations is an important step toward progress, Natan Obed said Thursday in a speech at the Northern Lights conference and trade show in Ottawa.

Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, spoke before hundreds of Inuit leaders, government officials and businesspeople gathered for the five-day conference.

“I think of the moments in Iqaluit, when we were all in a gym and there were over 100 Inuit who were directly affected by residential school and the Catholic Church,” he said, of the visit by Pope Francis to Iqaluit on July 29 last year.

“They got to tell their stories to the Pope directly, in Inuktitut,” Obed said of the day, which was part of the Pope’s weeklong visit to Canada to address the harms caused to Indigenous Peoples by the residential school system and the government’s forced separations of Indigenous families.

Using the Pope’s visit as an example, Obed spoke of the past and how it can influence the future.

He called it the type of thing to celebrate.

“We should stop and acknowledge how big those moments are, not only for the world to see what is happening but also for our journey to reconcile with the past,” Obed said, adding he believes these conversations can lead to a better Canadian society.

Using other examples like the need for more and better infrastructure, language legislation, and increased use of green energy, Obed argued Indigenous communities have broached these topics in conversations with federal and other government leaders, and by doing so were able to better themselves.

He admitted it can be difficult, pointing to the ongoing challenge of pressuring the federal government to provide drinkable water to Canada’s remote Indigenous communities.

Obed said there were 298 boil water advisories between 2015 and 2020, including four that went on for more than a year and 50 that lasted more than three months.

“This is part of our job,” he said of keeping Canadian government leaders accountable to fix these problems.

“Our job is to articulate and quantify what it means to eliminate an infrastructure gap. These require billions of dollars, new relationships, and on ongoing effort where you tweak it over time.”

Obed’s noontime speech followed the theme of Day 3 of the conference, which was economic development.

Nunavik Tourism Association board member George Berthe and Travel Nunavut training co-ordinator Tetra Aaluk spoke on the growing tourism market in the Arctic, as well as difficulties communities face in providing enough accommodations for visitors.

As well, Tiivi Dupuis, co-director of Makivik Corp.’s department of economic development, and Harry Flaherty, president and CEO of Qikiqtaaluk Corp., spoke on the various investments and developments that are in the works for the Inuit economy.

The Northern Lights conference, which opened Tuesday, will wrap up Saturday.


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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by No Moniker on

    Want to have a difficult conversation? Let’s discuss the system wide incompetence, corruption and apathy that are at the root of every single one of our ‘water emergencies.’

    Why does Obed always look to and blame the federal government? Is it habit? Learned helplessness? The acceptance of the superiority and paternalism of the Colonial state?

    Let’s have a “serious conversation” Natan? Or do you really just want to panhandle a little more cash under the guise of a moral lecture.

    • Posted by Steve on

      Acting as the panhandle Er is a large part of the role of the ITK. It is more than that but someone has to accept the cheques on behalf of Inuit.

      • Posted by No Moniker on

        It seems there are a lot of groups hoping to see their names on those cheques for “Inuit.”

        Lack of transparency or results can make it appear they aren’t doing much more than ensuring the survival of their institutions though. Granted, those are a source of status, wealth and privilege for themselves and generations to come.

        So, you’re right, an organization like ITK has at least one goal—extracting cash from the government. Beyond that, do they have any real strategies or plans?

        If Natan wants to have a “hard conversation” there’s a lot to ask around the accountability of his organization in how and where development monies will be acquired and distributed, and why they should run through his organization at all.

        Of course, that is not what he is after, his role is to lecture the world over the necessity of ITK in that process. Or, to put it differently, to keep the money rolling in.

  2. Posted by Stephen on

    Speaking of “boil water advisories” there are necessary ones and precaution ones. The latter being when weekly water sample were missed, not taken in a village. It can often be traced back to an employee (s) that failed to take samples and get those sent to the lab. Working on the details would improve the overall larger picture.

    As well With a young population as we have, supporting the youth, giving our time and showing greater interest in youth would bring about rapid improvement in a few years. Using the autonomy that we have that allows for more freedom to decide what is important locally and to act on that, to bring online programs and services. With the dry February initiative underway that too would mean an effort by all of us to drink less, to live a more healthy life.

  3. Posted by Rita on

    Move on, buddy. Stop being a puppet. More pressing issues at hand.

  4. Posted by Arnaq on

    I was there too, Natan. I was standing in the papal audience while you, Aluki, our Premier and all the other important people sat in the front rows. And I watched you walk off in time for your 7pm dinner before His Holiness finished his address. Was it really that momentous and historic for you? It was for me and I , along with many others, stayed till His Holiness finished speaking. But I guess your dinner was waiting.

    • Posted by Chat on

      Ouch, the man is taken down a notch, walking out on the pope when he is still speaking.

    • Posted by oh ima on

      I guess Aluki is learning from Majory Taylor Greene of being disrespectful

  5. Posted by 867 on

    Here’s a tough conversation: why are inuit still being failed, both from the top and from the bottom? What needs to be done to fix the broken record ?

  6. Posted by lip service on

    I really don’t see anything concrete coming out of ITK, just merely words from Natan blaming the feds and yes moral lecture. Natan gets paid to attend conferences and recycles his speeches but nothing comes out of it.

  7. Posted by Harry Sr. on

    If you were serious about talking and making a real effort to help us, lets talk about suicide. We need help and where are all of you, study after study has been done with what results, where are the programs, the elders that can help. Stop all the studies and start implementing programs, get people talking – the HARD discussions slash TALK that you are so good at. People are dying waiting for help and all you guys do is more studies!!! TIRED OF WAITING FOR SOME REAL DIRECTION.

  8. Posted by Hard Conversation on

    Lets have a hard conversation and make an actual goal post for “reconciliation”. When will it be over, and what will be your purpose and function when it has been accomplished? My guess is the goal is to never let this happen, since there is an entire industry built and staffed on government dollars to beat the horse until it is sent to oblivion.

  9. Posted by Juanasi on

    Hard conversation eh?!
    – Teen pregnancy, is a contributing factor to over crowding homes, and elder dependency. It’s also contributing to mental health issues, kids having kids with no education, no jobs, will make a massive impact to both the teens and their child.
    – Social welfare, our people seem to take advantage of the social welfare system. Make more babies so you can get more money, more child tax and be bumped up the social housing list.
    – Post secondary education, many youth aren’t taking advantage of FANS and getting their degrees or college certificates for free.
    – Housing, there needs to be incentives for home owners and people who are working that want to own a house.
    – Why don’t we have roads to Nunavut, this would help bring the cost of living down and break the isolation we are all effect by. Nations like Iceland and Norway are able to create roads, why can’t we?

    • Posted by 867 on

      Woops I guess u didn’t get the memo. Those are the things that were supposed to hide under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.

    • Posted by valid points on

      all very good points, Juanasi. For the last part re: roads, because whenever NU gets money for anything, 3/4 of it goes to redundant studies instead of doing the actual work! its sickening how many times housing issues have been “studied” but nothing done with it.

  10. Posted by Taxpayer on

    Prior to the 1947 Leduc oil strike, Alberta was one of the poorest places in Canada. By focusing on natural resources, and keeping Ottawa out of the way, Alberta is now the richest place in Canada.

    Alberta has the lowest poverty rate, highest median total income, and lowest GINI co-efficient in Canada. It has the highest inter-provincial migration rate as more Canadians flock there than anywhere else. It has the fourth most diversified economy in Canada, more so than Ontario or BC. Alberta has the highest human development index (quality of life) score of anywhere in Canada.

    In comparison, if Nunavut were its own country, it would score 46th in the world on the quality of life scale. For the rest of Canada, it almost seems that the more government spending there is, the worse off people actually are.

    Being headquartered in Ottawa, ITK is clearly barking up the wrong tree. For a place that has ample resources and a small but growing population, Nunavut has all it needs already to fix our own problems, minus the meddling of the federal government.

    • Posted by Taxpayer on

      Furthermore, of the 298 boil water advisories of which Obed spoke, 4 are in Alberta; Kapawe’no First Nation, Whitefish Lake, Frog Lake, and Kehewin Cree Nation.

      In a sea of prosperity that is Alberta today, 4 First Nations without proper drinking water.

      Brought to you courtesy of Government of Canada Indian Act administration.

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