'Things are moving very fast,' say Inuit leaders on aboriginal issues in Ottawa
PM has promised to meet with Inuit leaders in January on Truth and Reconciliation
"Things are moving very fast" on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report and the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women but Inuit leaders want to make sure that their specific issues are not ignored in the hustle.
Wednesday was an action-packed day in Ottawa for aboriginal leaders, with meetings and news conferences with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address the next steps on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report and a meeting with key federal ministers on the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
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"This is a very exciting time for Inuit at the federal level," said Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
"There's a lot of discussion about issues that we've been waiting to discuss with the Government of Canada for a long, long time."
He was one of the five aboriginal leaders at the meeting with the prime minister.
"I'm trying to take a practical and pragmatic approach to all this work so that we don't lose anything that we had hoped to get out of these processes and that our Inuit regions benefit from everything," said Obed.
He said the meeting included a discussion about education, language, suicide prevention and housing.
"In this time we can have cautious optimism," said Obed,
"We can reorient a number of programs and services that are already offered to a more Inuit-specific way."
The prime minister has promised to meet with Inuit leaders in January to discuss the next steps.
Obed says in the short term it's a win for Inuit to be recognized as distinct when it comes to programs and services. In the long term he is looking for action on early childhood education, the Inuit languages and a more structured approach to implementing the land claims agreement.
In the news conference, Trudeau stressed his willingness not only to continue to work with aboriginal leaders but also with the provinces and territories to implement the recommendations of the TRC report.
"Nunavut will continue to ensure the history of residential schools is taught in our schools, so our students understand the full extent of this period in our territory's history," stated Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna in a statement released on Wednesday in response to the TRC report.
A need for an Inuit-specific approach
On Wednesday the federal ministers of justice, status of women and Indigenous Affairs also hosted a meeting with aboriginal leaders to discuss action plans on the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
"Things are moving very fast," said Rebecca Kudloo, president of the Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, who was at the meeting.
"There needs to be an Inuit-specific approach to the pre-consultation phase as well as in the inquiry."
Kudloo said she wants to make sure that supports are provided to families during the inquiry, especially for women and children in small and remote Inuit communities with few resources. She said 70 per cent of Inuit communities don't have shelters to support women fleeing from abusive relationships.
"We are willing to work with them," said Kudloo, adding that she's looking forward to a meeting in the near future to hash out plans to support Inuit communities throughout the inquiry.
"We are asking that we are fully involved and Inuit communities be consulted," she added.