(Photo posted by Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Hunter Tootoo (left) on his Twitter account with ITK President Natan Obed in Washington.)
APTN National News
WASHINGTON — The president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the organization that represents about 55,000 people living in Canada’s north was among the delegates who attended a State luncheon in Washington, D.C. hosted by Senator John Kerry.
Natan Obed attended the luncheon as part of the state visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Hopefully people will see this as an evolution of the way Indigenous People are respected and included in the way in which Canada does business with the world,” Obed told APTN National News.
Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. and Canada endorsed a continental climate change strategy that will try to alleviate the affect climate change is having on the arctic.
Obed said he was honoured to participate in the luncheon alongside his Indigenous Federal counterparts Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould as well as Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna.
“I was sitting at a table with Minister McKenna and high ranking officials from the U.S. and I had a great conversation about the potential this agreement produces and the willingness of both Canada and the U.S. to bring people Indigenous into the conversation to talk about shared climate issues and also shared arctic issues in relation to this,” said Obed.
Canada’s Arctic is warming at twice the global rate and Obed said Indigenous People there are witnessing drastic and life threatening changes to the environment.
ITK helped to draft the section of the agreement titled “A Shared Arctic leadership model” that outlined ways in which to reduce greenhouse gas emission predicted to have an “outsized impact on the long-term health of the global Arctic.”
Obed said the undertaking was an example of the Trudeau Government putting its nation to nation building vision into practice.
“The fact that ITK was able to shape the wording in this agreement related to the Arctic and related to the Indigenous People was something that really showed the trust and the respect that the Canadian government has before us when it’s talking about our lands and our people,” he said.
He went on to say that he is happy that the concerns of the Inuit People on the climate crisis is being heard around the world. And Canada and the U.S. are committing to utilizing Indigenous knowledge to find solutions.
“The terminology (in the joint-statement) around our knowledge is such that it respects our knowledge and Indigenous knowledge. That is a step forward from the terminology that has been used in the past, which put our knowledge into a little box on the side.”
He said funding was announced to help address some of the coinciding socio and economic challenges faced by people living in the Arctic.
“The way that this agreement is implemented still remains to be seen. But we have no reason to believe that the Canadian government is not going to include us as partners,” said Obed. “And also allow us to talk about the issue and not just as people who are affected, but as people who have solutions, people who have something that is meaningful to give to all of Canada.”
His comments are contrary to concerns raised by Canada chiefs who attended a climate meeting between Trudeau, premiers and territorial leaders in Vancouver last week. Chiefs called the meeting a failure of the governments to engage them on the climate crisis.
Natan said he did not receive an invite to attend the elaborate state dinner planned at the Whitehouse Thursday evening, but, chuckled and said he has faith in Tootoo to represent.
“I’m sure Hunter Tootoo will represent the Inuit very well at the state dinner…I’ll leave him to that.”