(March 4, 2005 — Iqaluit, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has learned that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development plans to appoint a non-Inuk as the Executive Director for the Inuit Secretariat.
When Prime Minister Paul Martin announced 11 months ago that he was creating an Inuit Secretariat, we applauded his initiative. We thought that Inuit would finally be appropriately represented in the federal system. But sadly, this may not be the case and today, I am calling on DIAND Minister Andrew Scott to take note that his officials seem poised to turn his positive initiative into a black eye, said NTI President Paul Kaludjak. The Inuit Secretariat is about to become the non-Inuit Secretariat, he said.
Kaludjak’s comments come just one week after the federal government slashed the Inuit Secretariat’s budget by $5 million during the 2005 Budget Speech. DIAND is in the process of undercutting what we truly believed was a promising initiative. This is not the breakthrough we were promised by Paul Martin less than one year ago, said Kaludjak.
Because this position will be a senior federal Public Service position located in the National Capital Region, DIAND officials have indicated they must follow Public Service regulations, and that means English-French bilingualism. This shows that regulations developed in southern Canada to deal with southern Canadian political issues continue to take precedence over Northern needs, even in the North. This top position needs to be held by a person who can communicate in Inuktitut. They seem to place more value on the person’s ability to converse in English and French, said Kaludjak.
Prime Minister Martin first announced the creation of the Inuit Secretariat last April in his opening address to the participants of the Aboriginal Summit in Ottawa. In that address, Martin said, Inuit leaders have for years pointed to the absence of a secretariat in the government that focuses specifically on Inuit issues. And frankly speaking, there has been a gap on our part. Well, we are fixing that. Today, I am happy to announce the creation of a new Inuit Secretariat within Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
There are Inuit qualified to hold this position, but it may be that DIAND doesn’t think so. We will consider this as a slap in the face if DIAND appoints a non-Inuk to the critically important role of executive director, said Kaludjak. We can only hope the Minister will intervene and overturn such a decision. It is getting more difficult by the day to explain to Inuit why they should support the federal government in their initiatives, including the pending development of the Northern Strategy, when they ignore or over-ride Inuit interests he said.
Government officials are expected to travel to Iqaluit next week as part of the ongoing consultation process for the development of the Inuit Secretariat. NTI will repeat its concerns at that time.
For further information:
Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
Tel: (867) 975-4914 Cell: (867) 975-1337