Justin Trudeau to meet with national Inuit leaders today
'We've never had a sitting prime minister come meet us on our terms at our office,' says ITK president
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with representatives from national Inuit organizations today in Ottawa and Inuit leaders plan to use the face-time to lobby for funds before the federal budget.
"The meeting with the prime minister is, I believe, a great moment in time for Canadian Inuit," said Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).
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"We've never had a sitting prime minister come meet us on our terms at our office."
Obed said Inuit have struggled in the past 10 to 15 years to be recognized by the previous federal government.
"To have this happen so soon in the new government's mandate really shows a great sense of respect that the Canadian government is giving to Inuit."
Building a constructive dialogue and a meaningful working relationship with the federal government are Obed's main goals at this meeting, but he said advocating for federal funds is also top of mind.
"We're always going to fight for more money for the things that are priorities to us because we know that in a lot of different things it will take money to solve the challenges that we have," said Obed.
"We have land claims, we have protection in the constitution, we have protection through the UN declaration on indigenous rights," said Obed.
"Incorporating all those things into how government works is going to be just as important as new money for things that are important to us."
Nunavut's fair share
"Transportation, marine development, hydro, broadband, and housing, those are the areas we have to put on priority," said Cathy Towtongie, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI).
Towtongie said she sees this as a chance to advocate for Nunavut's share of the infrastructure funds the Liberals said they would deliver if elected.
"We're meeting with the prime minister to ensure that Nunavut receives their fair share of the $125 billion that was promised over the next 10 years."
Support for Nunavut's growing fishing industry is another issue that Towtongie wants to raise with Trudeau.
Towtongie said NTI will be advocating to ensure that Nunavut receives some of the $600 million available through the aboriginal fishing strategy, which has not yet been accessible to Inuit.
Duane Smith, the president of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada who won the election for chair and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation on Monday, said he will be extending an invitation to Trudeau to visit the Beaufort-Delta region again.
"I want to work closely with the federal government, as I said during the campaign, to try and stimulate the economy within this region as they have committed to," Smith said.
With files from David Thurton