The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) will work with whatever party forms government on October 21, according to its president Natan Obed.
“I do hope that no matter what government is formed that reconciliation and the urgency around improving socio-economic status, implementing land claims, respecting Inuit and Indigenous peoples rights is at the heart of any mandate of any government that’s formed,” he told APTN News Wednesday in Ottawa.
The ITK says that social infrastructure, suicide prevention and family violence shelters and housing are among the issues the next federal government must address in the north.
“ITK calls on all parties to commit to implementing an Inuit Nunangat policy throughout government, to ensure that Inuit are able to access and benefit from policies, programs and initiatives that are intended to benefit our people,” said Obed.
“Relationship-building and bringing about systemic change within the machinery of government are key to creating social and economic equity for Inuit, as well as for ensuring that federal investments in Inuit Nunangat are efficient and impactful in advancing nation building.”
Obed did praise the Trudeau government for its promise to eliminate tuberculosis by 2030, and for apologies to survivors who went to residential schools in Labrador and to those who were forced to relocate into non-traditional communities.
However, he did express disappoint in the Indigenous Languages Act, which he has criticized in the past as having a lack of Inuit-specific provisions.
But he called the access to the Prime Minister and his cabinet unprecedented.
“We have been able to have a relationship with the prime minister and with ministers in a way that Inuit had never had at the federal level with any previous government.”
Obed would not endorse any party in particular but on climate change he did note that both the Green and Liberal party environment platforms were positive steps forward.
“We do have concerns about undoing some of the work that’s been happening over the past number of years in relation to climate action.”
The ITK wants the government elected on Oct. 21 to take on these projects with the idea of nation building similar to the “the development of the trans-Canadian highway or the trans-national railway connected Western and Eastern Canada.”
Inuit Nunangat encompasses nearly one third of Canada’s landmass, its entire Arctic coastline, and significant offshore areas. Obed believes this will give Inuit some clout moving forward.
“A lot of the conversations that are happening in this country around sovereignty, around climate change, around shipping, the Arctic and Inuit Nunangat will play a central role in the way Canada responds to and takes advantage of any opportunities in the 21st Century.”
The ITK said that there are long standing challenges in the Arctic and gap between Inuit Nunangat, and “the rest of Canada are impediments to the prosperity of Inuit and the sustainability of the region.”
“Inuit experience extreme inequity compared to other Canadians, and to other Canadians within Inuit Nunangat. Addressing social and economic inequity, both between Inuit Nunangat and within Inuit Nunangat itself, is a necessary pre-condition to the development of a healthy, resilient and secure Inuit Nunangat,” said Obed.
According to the statement, one-third of Inuit are under the age of 14.
“Canadian policy should commit to ambitious investments throughout Inuit Nunangat, with the goal of eliminating infrastructure gaps and social and economic inequities throughout the region.
According to the release, these are the priorities for the ITK.
*Social infrastructure and suicide prevention (including Inuit mental health, family violence shelters and transitional housing, and addictions treatment centres)
*Renewable energy and climate action
*Infrastructure and economic self-reliance (including marine and air infrastructure, and telecommunications infrastructure)
*National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls to Action
*Poverty reduction and food security
*Advancing Inuit self-determination in research
Obed says to date, none of the federal parties have approached the ITK to discuss the issues facing Inuit.