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Inuit Encouraged to Pursue Traditional Diet Following Contaminants Workshop

NR 05-07 CON ENG Workshop Ends.doc

(February 18, 2005 — Iqaluit, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. wrapped up its Contaminants in Nunavut: Inuit Capacity-Building Workshop today. Conference Chair Thomasie Alikatuktuk and Conference Facilitator Joanasie Akumalik agreed that the workshop was overwhelmingly successful.

The workshop brought together nearly 50 environmental experts to focus for three days on contaminants in country food, and the effect contaminants may have on the health of Inuit and the Nunavut environment.

Participants were provided the opportunity to talk and to listen to many different perspectives. As a result, Inuit who participated in this meeting are now more aware of the issues surrounding contaminants in country food, and how this may affect our health, said Thomasie Alikatuktuk, also the President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. Building capacity like this means Inuit are better able to respond to local concerns about contaminants, and will be able to play a bigger role in influencing how scientific research on contaminants and the environment is conducted in their communities, he said.

Several strong messages were shared among the participants, including the positive health benefits associated with traditional diet, and the reduction in contaminant levels in country foods following bans on pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Akumalik said Elders and scientists agreed that country food is the healthiest diet for Inuit.

Before Inuit modified our diet, we were very healthy people. We had no heart disease or diabetes. These illnesses did not show up until we started to eat less country food. Inuit, and especially our younger generations, need to know they will be healthier if they return to the traditional way of eating, said Akumalik.

Inuit Elders, representatives from NTI, Regional Inuit Associations, Inuit Circumpolar Conference, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Hunters and Trappers Organizations, Wildlife Officers, Community Health Representatives, technical experts and Environmental Technology Program students all participated in the proceedings.

The Government of Canada’s Northern Contaminants Program provided NTI with the funds to host the workshop.

For further information:

Kerry McCluskey
Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
Tel: (867) 975-4914
Cell: (867) 975-1337
Toll-free: 1-888-646-0006