Media Centre

What is the role of ITK in the post land claims era and what are the challenges that lie ahead?


From Eskimo to Inuit in 40 Years

Thursday, November 3, 2011

National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario

1:30-3 p.m. Panel Discussion

The World We Want

What is the role of ITK in the post land claims era and what are the challenges that lie ahead?


Pita Aatami, Nellie Cournoyea, Cathy Towtongie, Jim Lyall

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, distinguished co-panelists, Mary Simon, and conference participants.

· My name is Cathy Towtongie and I am president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the land claims organization responsible for overseeing full implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

· I am honoured to attend this prestigious conference, celebrating our history, and looking to the future of Inuit Tapirisat Kanatami.

· As President of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., I sit as one of the four board members that direct ITK.

· I take this responsibility very seriously, as I must ensure ITK’s mandate is developed from the communities up, not the other way around.

· I believe ITK is an essential tool that Inuit have to protect our rights and advocate for our most pressing concerns.

· But like any tool, it must be understood and used correctly to be effective.

· At this conference we have heard from many amazing people who have played influential roles in ITK’s evolution over the past 40 years, so I will focus on what ITK must do to further evolve as we move into the future.

· I will speak to two issues: national Inuit representation and ITK’s purpose.

· The continued success of national Inuit representation can be ensured by ITK playing a central role in creating a truly united national Inuit governance model.

· Our strength has always been in our unity.

· We see other Aboriginal Canadians fighting over representation and it confuses us.

· We must never fracture in this way.

· Currently the national Inuit representational landscape includes ITK, ICC-Canada, the National Inuit Youth Council, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.

· In the next 40 years, our population will grow considerably and there will be more and more urban Inuit whose voices must be respected.

· If we are not diligent in representing all of our Beneficiaries, there will be those people that seek alternatives to the current models.

· We must do everything we can to protect the concept of one national voice for Canadian Inuit, always ensuring that our representation is an unbroken chain from Inuit communities to ITK and ICC-Canada.

· If we do not protect this model, our representational role can be questioned.

· Who would question us?

· Well, it was only a couple of years ago that staff from the Inuit Relations Secretariat questioned the legitimacy of ITK as the national Inuit representational organization.

· Let us not forget that since well before the days of the E number, the federal government has been in the business of deciding who is Inuk and how Inuit will be governed.

· Let us not forget that it is currently the federal government, not Inuit, that for the most part funds the operations of ITK.

· It is in our best interests, then, as the ITK Board of Directors, to do all we can to create a strong, united Inuit representational structure.

· We must do all we can to bring Pauktuutit and NIYC closer to us, not to consume them, but to provide the best possible united national voice.

· We must work hard to advance and promote our rightful representational role for Inuit domestically and internationally, utilizing and working with organizations that respect us and desire to work with us to achieve our goals.

· We must ensure that ICC-Canada and ITK are not separated in purpose, and that from the community to the international level, we are governed by the same level of oversight and regional input.

· We must also think seriously about how to become more autonomous from the federal government.

· At NTI, I cannot imagine being at the mercy of Government for our funding.

· It is not preferable to operate in this manner at the national level.

· The ITK Board of Directors must think long and hard about these representational issues as we march into the next 40 years at the helm of ITK.

· Not because we want to build empires, but because we are here to dutifully serve Inuit in communities, and we must never forget that.

· Now that we’ve solved that simple issue, let’s talk about our purpose.

· The heading of this panel is misleading in one way.

· We are not in a post-land claim era.

· It just seems that way sometimes when trying to implement our land claims.

· We are actually in the land claims era, which is a wonderful thing.

· And even though each settlement region handles its own specific implementation, perhaps there is an enhanced role for ITK to advocate on the principles of the land claims era, such as meaningful implementation.

· But what drives ITK now?

· What is ITK’s purpose?

· Most of the work centers around advocacy, as the federal system repeatedly fails to adequately address Inuit issues and include Inuit in the development of programs and public policy.

· And every day, ITK seeks to inform, correct and advise, a system that is far too inflexible.

· And then, every four years or less, the government of the day changes and Inuit must retrace their steps with a new government.

· ITK must move beyond being primarily focused on the never-ending amnesia of federal Canadian party politics cycles and on the largely ignorant public service.

· After all, our major goals 40 years ago have not changed since 1971.

· We want to play a primary role in the conservation of our environment and all beings that live within it.

· We want Inuit-specific education.

· We want the necessary support to live our lives speaking the Inuit language.

· We want to be healthy, food secure and economically productive.

· We want to succeed in Canada while achieving and maintaining a vibrant Inuit language and culture.

· What is the difference between then and now?

· Now we have an enormous amount of resources to actually make a difference ourselves, whereas in 1971 all we had was potential and a great deal of reliance on government.

· In addition to the advocacy function with government, ITK should be a place where Inuit regions come together to create a better future for Inuit, on our own terms.

· We should spend less time worried about what we could lose and more time working to make gains across Inuit regions on our common concerns and common opportunities.

· As the world, from the U.S., European Union, to China and elsewhere, are turning their attention to the Arctic for their future opportunities, it is the time for Inuit to seize the leading role in the Arctic

· It is, or can be, the Inuit century, where Inuit lead on Arctic conservation and economic development, with a strong and healthy Inuit population.

· So let’s put everything on the table, and create a new and improved purpose for ITK in the years to come.

· After all, nobody in 1971 came together with the intention of splitting the Inuit homeland in four pieces operating in isolation..

· ITK is a living legacy of this shared concept of national unity, and it is our duty to make sure we move forward together, as Canadian Inuit.

· Qujannamiik, thank you.

For further information:
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated