Trudeau talks guns, health and wellness in first trip to Inuit community of Nain

With handshakes and ceremony, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was welcomed into the Inuit community of Nain on the Labrador coast Friday.

It’s the first time a prime minister has made the trip to the community.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said the trip is “a long time in the making.”

“I’ve been inviting the prime minister to my hometown of Nunatsiavut since 2015,” Obed said in his opening remarks.

Obed grew up in Nain, and he describes Trudeau’s trip as “momentous.”

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami represents Inuit in Canada and Obed sat next to Trudeau at the head of the table, with federal cabinet ministers and Inuit leaders in the other seats.

Nain, population 1,100, sits on Unity Bay – a small inlet located about 400 km as the birds fly north of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The view from Mt. Sophie of the Labrador Sea and the town of Nain, N.L. on Friday, May 12, 2023. Photo: Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press.

It’s the site of this year’s meeting between the prime minister and the Inuit Crown Partnership Committee which meets to discuss issues related to Inuit in Canada.

On the agenda were 14 ongoing issues including housing, health, wellness and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Trudeau said “an awful lot of progress” has been made since the committee’s first meeting in 2017 but there is “so much more to do.”

The Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee meeting is closed to the media and to the public.

Participants in Friday’s meeting included Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Marc Miller and Dan Vandal, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, Justice Minister David Lametti, Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe, Gerri Sharpe, president, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and National Inuit Youth Council President Brian Pottle.

Trudeau said the meeting provides leadership and community members and opportunity to meet face-to-face.

“So much of reconciliation involves not just figuring out all the answers in Ottawa, but making sure we’re figuring them out in partnership with people right across the country,” said Trudeau.

Following the afternoon meeting, Trudeau met with the media to talk about, among other things, the government’s proposed gun legislation that may affect local hunters who rely on wild game for sustenance.

“We will always respect section 35 (of the Constitution) and that includes the right for people to hunt,” Trudeau said. “Nothing in our gun legislation will limit or abrogate, ensure that we’re taking extra time to engage directly with indigenous communities.”

Trudeau attended a community feast later in the day.

With files from the Canadian Press

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