Nfld. & Labrador

'It showed a true sense of respect;' Trudeau meets with Inuit leaders

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed says that having a meeting with the prime minister on his own terms was a meaningful step in addressing Inuit issues.

'We talked about ways in which to work together'

ITK President Natan Obed and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chat at Tuesday's meeting in Ottawa. (ITK/Submitted Photo)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Inuit leaders at their offices in Ottawa Tuesday to discuss issues facing northern indigenous communities.

"The symbolism of it, [that] the Canadian prime minister would work with Inuit and come to the offices where we work was something that was very meaningful," said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed.

Obed said getting to set the agenda and hold the meeting on his terms with Trudeau showed the value the prime minister holds for Inuit. 

"It showed a true sense of respect on a working level for the way in which Inuit are going to work with the prime minister and the Government of Canada moving forward," he said.

"So, it moves beyond the symbolism of saying we're important, it actually accepts the fact that Inuit have a rightful role to stand with the Canadian government and talk with the Canadian government as equal."

Obed, Trudeau and other Inuit representatives met for about an hour to discuss solutions to issues facing Inuit. Obed said issues like implementing land claims, improved health of Inuit, and economic development and infrastructure development were at the forefront of the discussion. 

"We talked about things like suicide and tuberculous, the overarching social determinants of health. We talked about needing more infrastructure, needing support for growing Inuit Nunangat. We talked about ways in which to work together," he said.

Obed said MP Yvonne Jones and representatives from Nunatsiavut, including President Sarah Leo, were part of the meeting and the group encouraged Trudeau's work on the inquiry in to missing and murdered aboriginal women and implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He said representatives at the meeting built their speaking notes together to represent issues in all Inuit regions and all 53 Inuit communities in Canada 

"I find when Inuit leaders get together to talk about the issues, whether it's in the west in Tuktoyaktuk or in the east in Nain, the issues are very similar and the way in which we want to approach dealing with them is very similar," Obed said. 

Obed said it was exciting to be part of such a meaningful a meeting with the prime minister to find effective solutions to Inuit issues.