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President’s Report: Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Annual General Meeting

By September 12, 2019 No Comments

President’s Report: Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Annual General Meeting

Rankin Inlet, NU

September 9, 2019

Check against delivery

The 2018-2019 fiscal year marked the beginning of my second term as President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. I am humbled to be a part of this era of renewed Inuit self-determination, and I am deeply proud of ITK’s accomplishments over the past four years.

I would like to thank the ITK Board of Directors for their efforts in support of Inuit unity. The decisions that our board makes through resolution direct all the work that ITK does, and actualizes our self-determination at the national level. I believe Zebedee Nungak would refer to this as “Inuit Nationalism.” Advocating for Inuit priorities at the national level has proven rewarding in 2018-2019 as we continue to work toward reconciliation with Canada and creating prosperity for our people.

Our organization has advanced  many files this year. ITK developed and released two foundational strategies: the Inuit Nunangat Housing Strategy was released in April 2019, and the National Inuit Climate Change Strategy was released in June 2019.

The National Inuit Climate Change Strategy, which was released in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, is the second ITK strategy to be released with implementation funding from the federal government on day one.

We also made progress on better supporting and protecting children with the announcement of the Inuit Child First Initiative in September 2018, as well as through the co-development of the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework, also in September 2018, and the co-development of federal indigenous child welfare legislation, which received royal ascent in June 2019 and will come into force in its entirety on January 1, 2020.

On reconciliation, three events marked a positive shift toward rebuilding the relationship between Inuit and Canada: In January, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett delivered an apology to the Ahiarmiut of Ennadai Lake for multiple relocations from the 1940s to 1960s. And in March 2019 in Iqaluit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered an apology  to Inuit for mistreatment during the tuberculosis epidemic in the 1950s.

In June 2019, the final report of the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released, including its associated Calls to Justice. ITK was a party with standing, and supported the inquiry through our official submissions to the inquiry as well as through our legal counsel that participated in all MMIWG hearings.

The Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee (ICPC), in its third year, has proven to be an effective forum for high-level decision making. The National Inuit Housing Strategy was the first strategy developed jointly with the federal government through the ICPC. The ICPC convened three times in the reporting period, in November 2018 and April and June of this year.

Funding through the Child First Initiative has begun flowing to Inuit families, with more than $1 million in products and services for Inuit children across Canada approved between April 1 and July 31, 2019.

And we have made strides on creating awareness of, and begun laying the path to, eliminating TB in Inuit Nunangat. ITK released the Inuit Tuberculosis Elimination Framework in December 2018. The priorities identified for action and investment in the Framework will be used by the four Inuit regions to design and implement TB elimination action plans that are customized to reflect each region’s priorities, needs and strengths.

It is an election year for the federal government and, regardless of the outcome, the strides we have made in Inuit-Crown partnership will be difficult to reverse by any future government. We have worked hard to ensure that the priorities of the ICPC reflect Inuit realities on issues such as housing, education, Inuktut, climate change and the environment, and infrastructure. Our expectation for any government is for the Crown to maintain and build on the solid foundation of progress achieved by the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee.

ITK can only be successful if the work we do has a direct, positive impact on our people. This involves advancing respect and support for Inuit self-determination in all aspects of federal policy and program development and delivery, including through the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee, as well as by working to secure major Inuit-specific investments in Inuit Nunangat.

The success of the advocacy and representation work that we do at ITK is partially reflected in federal budgets. The numbers of Inuit-specific federal budget investments has increased along with the recognition of Inuit in federal budgets. For example, Budget 2018 and 2019 together include the largest number of references to Inuit and the largest Inuit-specific investment announcements in the last decade.

At the same time, public awareness about ITK and our priorities has grown. This is reflected in metrics related to media and social media. For example, on Facebook, our page likes have tripled over the past three years. On Twitter, our followers have nearly doubled in the same time frame.

A Taste of the Arctic in May was yet again sold out; this year, we reached maximum capacity of 650 guests close to two weeks before the event. It is a successful model for sharing our culture that many other organizations have tried to duplicate.

Also in the past year we have graduated two cohorts of senior federal officials through our Executive Training Program which this year traveled to Nunavik and the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut.

Our Inuit Nunangat Taimannganit video storytelling project has gathered another 45 stories, either published or in post-production.  This project is primarily about Inuit unity and about demonstrating our connections to each other through our connections to our land.

We are collectively advancing Inuit self-determination, resulting in progress on priority areas identified by this Board of Directors. For example, in the past year alone, the ITK Board of Directors self-determined how more than $375 million in Inuit-specific federal investments should be allocated among the four regions of Inuit Nunangat. This is a radical yet positive departure from the way federal funding allocations that are intended to benefit Inuit took place in the past.

However, we know that we still have an immense amount of work to do for our people.

The challenges faced by Inuit with disabilities, and the failure of governments to uphold their legal obligations to them, constitutes a profound and inexcusable policy gap and humans rights violation that we can take action to address. We know that throughout Inuit Nunangat, many Inuit students with disabilities are simply not being diagnosed and thus not receiving the services they require. We know that this can contribute to lifelong risk, including risk for low educational attainment, violence, and incarceration.

We know that housing and other gaps in basic infrastructure are growing, at a time of renewed global interest in our homeland. In order to help remedy these challenges, ITK has articulated a coherent vision for our homeland through the development and release of an Inuit Nunangat chapter of the federal government’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, announced yesterday.

The chapter was developed as a deliverable of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee to guide how the long-awaited Arctic and Northern Policy Framework’s goals and objectives are implemented in Inuit Nunangat. The chapter identifies four objectives for federal action and investment:

  1. Infrastructure and economic self-reliance
  2. Inuit self-determination in research
  3. Education
  4. Wildlife and food security

We must also strengthen Inuit unity and governance in response to immediate and future challenges and opportunities associated with the opening of the Arctic to increasing shipping, tourisms, resource extraction, fisheries, and military activity throughout Inuit Nunangat.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has approximately fifty staff, who work with government, with Inuit land claim organizations, and with other partners to implement our board mandate. I thank them for their dedication to helping advance Inuit self-determination.

We will have more to say about these and other issues throughout the course of this meeting. Please also take a moment to review our annual report. Printed copies are available, and it has also been posted to our website and shared on our social media channels.