Inuit leader frustrated with agenda of Oct. 3 first ministers meeting

The head of Canada's national Inuit organization says he's not impressed with the way the Liberal government announced a meeting with premiers and Indigenous leaders next month.

Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, caught off guard by meeting announcement

President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed, right, appears with AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, left, and Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand to speak to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill last December. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The head of Canada's national Inuit organization says he's not impressed with the way the Liberal government announced a meeting with premiers and Indigenous leaders next month  

A news release from the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday said Justin Trudeau will meet with premiers and Indigenous leaders on Oct. 3, with environmentally friendly economic development at the top of the agenda.

The PMO confirmed there will be three meetings: one between the prime minister and premiers; another with the prime minister and Indigenous leaders; and a third with Trudeau, premiers and the Indigenous leaders. The format and duration of the meetings have not been finalized.

The news came as a surprise to Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

"It does frustrate me but it's also just indicative of where we are. If you want it to be about benchmarks about two years in, this is where we are," he told guest host David Cochrane during an interview for CBC Radio's The House.

"I don't accept that the agenda is dictated to Indigenous people about what we will talk about at this meeting. That is not a renewed relationship. That is a paternal way of imagining what the priorities are that one group wants to talk about to another."

Meeting follows summer boycott

Obed said he'll be raising housing, the high rate of tuberculosis amongst the Inuit population, suicide prevention and the implementation of land claims.

"It's the difference between doing things for us or doing things with us. In the month or so, what have we seen? We've seen the splitting of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and that was described in a certain way but it wasn't for Inuit our top priority, per se," he said.

In July, leaders of three Indigenous organizations boycotted the premiers' Council of the Federation meetings in Edmonton, because they were scheduled to take part in separate meetings rather than participate in all sessions as full members.

Natan Obed, the President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, talks about being surprised by the announcement of an upcoming first ministers meeting, and what he wants to put on the agenda. 10:14

At the time, Obed, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and President Clément Chartier of the Métis National Council held a news conference to criticize the format, insisting it was an attempt to sideline and marginalize Indigenous involvement.

Obed said the decision to not participate in the Edmonton meetings came down to how the provinces and territories view national Indigenous participation.

"Hopefully we can get beyond some of those frustrating barriers," he said.

"There is a spot where federal power and provincial and territorial power ends and our Indigenous self-determination and our governance begins in Canada. I think that's a point that's really just lost in all this bluster about 'can we not get along,' or 'what do we want.'"