Inaugural Hudson Bay Summit underway in Montreal

Greater Hudson Bay region communities join to form network covering three provinces, Nunavut, and the Nunavik and Eeyou marine regions.

Hudson Bay Consortium launched at Montreal event, creating network for communities across the region

From left to right, Arctic Eider Society Executive Director Joel Heath, Lucassie Arragutainaq, co-chair of the Hudson Bay Summit and manager of the Sanikiluaq Hunters and Trappers Association, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo, and Jonathan Solomon, Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief. The men were in Montreal for the start of the inaugural Hudson Bay Summit on Tuesday. (Misha Warbanski)

The greater Hudson Bay region is jurisdictionally complicated — bounded as it is by three provinces and a territory, with overlapping land claims and different federally recognized regions.

Communities across the broad geographical area are found in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nunavut and the Nunavik and Eeyou marine regions.

Approximately 200 people, including representatives from coastal James Bay and Hudson Bay communities around the region, were in Montreal Tuesday for the 2018 Hudson Bay Summit.

The inaugural summit is billed as an effort to help Indigenous people and governments overcome complications, share knowledge and better steward the vast territory and ecosystem.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, opened the three-day event.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed speaks at the Hudson Bay Summit in Montreal. (Evan Warner)

"In western values, the ideal world is a world in which there is no human footprint," Obed said.

"That is a huge departure from the way that Inuit see the world. When we talk about conservation, we can't divorce ourselves and our footprint from all those other footprints and wing beats," Obed said.

"This is where the conversation breaks down".

Obed said Indigenous people can now "push back in a way that we've never pushed back before," adding that he recently challenged the federal ministers of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada to "get out of [the] way" of Indigenous people.

Efforts to remove barriers 'long overdue': MP

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo also spoke at the opening of the summit. He said efforts to remove barriers and work together as Indigenous people are "long overdue," adding everyone involved needs to see "a relinquishment of power" by the federal government and different jurisdictions.

"That's something that all governments seem to have a hard time doing."

Summit organizers also launched the Hudson Bay Consortium, an Indigenous-driven, coordinated-effort among communities in the region to "think about the bay as a whole," and deal with the pressures of development.

The consortium includes communities across the greater Hudson Bay region. The group hopes to hold regular summits like the one started Tuesday in Montreal, and also to use technology and social media to close distances and share information.

The Hudson Bay Consortium was formally recognized at the inaugural 2018 Hudson Bay Summit. (Hudson Bay Consortium)

"People just want to understand exactly what's happening with Hudson Bay, and what's going to happen with the wildlife in the region, marine mammals, eider ducks, that kind of thing." said Lucassie Arragutainaq, co-chair of the summit and manager for the Sanikiluaq Hunters and Trappers Association on Flaherty Island, Nunavut — the largest of the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay.

Arragutainaq said he is excited for the consortium's potential to help Indigenous people work closer together, share information and possibly answer questions surrounding wildlife.

Arragutainaq said he would like to see a closer collaboration with non-Indigenous organizations and authorities, as well as with federal scientists.

"We can monitor and we can observe visually, but it will be up to scientists to understand exactly what is happening," said Arragutainaq.

"The excitement of this consortium is to work together with all jurisdictions and all the stakeholders."

The Hudson Bay Summit continues until Thursday.