January 26, 2016, Ottawa, ON – Inuit leaders met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss Inuit challenges and opportunities at the national level. It was the first time a sitting Prime Minister had visited Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s (ITK), the National Inuit Organization, office. The historic meeting was hosted by ITK President Natan Obed, who was accompanied by the ITK Board: Cathy Towtongie, President of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated; Jobie Tukkiapik, President of Makivik Corporation; Sarah Leo, President of Nunatsiavut; Nellie Cournoyea, outgoing Chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and Duane Smith, newly-elected Chair of the Inuvialuit Corporation; Rebecca Kudloo, President of Pauktuutit: Inuit Women of Canada; and Maatalii Okalik, President of the National Inuit Youth Council.
The Prime Minister was joined by the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; the Honourable Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard; Yvonne Jones, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories; and Larry Bagnell, Member of Parliament for Yukon.
With a packed agenda, Inuit leaders address a number of priority items including a renewed Inuit-to-Crown relationship comprising Inuit engagement in governance and Arctic affairs, social development such as suicide prevention, education and food security, and economic development including skills advancement and training, housing, infrastructure needs and Arctic resources.
“Food and shelter are basic necessities of life, and are foundational to the development of our communities” said ITK President Natan Obed. “We agree with the government that there needs to be a cognitive shift which acknowledges the importance of investing in - not just spending on - these needs.”
President Obed and other Inuit leaders addressed the primacy of Inuit land claims agreements as fundamental to the renewed Inuit to Crown relationship; the full implementation of the land claims in the four Inuit regions would help address many of the social and economic development challenges facing Inuit Nunangat.
“Inuit strength is in our unity and our pragmatism,” continued Obed. “We are encouraged by the engagement of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues with Inuit, and the respectful tone they have taken. We will continue to push for action on the priorities that we outlined at today’s meeting.”
The Inuit leadership also invited the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to visit Inuit Nunangat where they promised to host the Prime Minister and his colleagues and provide them with first-hand insight into life in the Inuit homeland.
For more information:
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Communications
613-238-8181 ext 276
*photo credit: PMO Photographer Adam Scotti