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ICC Canada President Duane Smith speaks during the 2010 ICC General Assembly in Nuuk, Greenland, against a background of flags representing the host country, as well as Canada, the United States and Russia.

by Terry Audla

Part of my role as President of ITK includes serving as National Vice-President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada). Just as Canada’s four regional Inuit organizations come together under the national umbrella of ITK, ICC Canada joins regional offices in Greenland, Alaska and the Chukotka district of Russia to form an international network of Inuit known simply as ICC.

This year, ICC Canada assumes the rotating chairmanship of the international body. By tradition, the host country names the ICC Chair, and so the presidents of our four land claims organizations, who form the voting membership of the ICC Canada board of directors, formally nominated Okalik Eegeesiak of Iqaluit to lead ICC for the next four years — through its 40th anniversary in 2017.

Eegeesiak assumes her post at the close of the ICC General Assembly in Inuvik in July. At the same time, ICC regional offices will appoint two representatives to the nine-member ICC executive council. ICC Canada’s next President and International Vice-President will be elected during ICC Canada’s annual general meeting, held just days before the General Assembly.

In the face of all this excitement and change, I am proud to lead the Canadian delegation to the 12th ICC General Assembly, whose theme, in Inuvialuktun, is Ukiuqtaqtumi Hivuniptingnun or One Arctic, One Future.

The four-day assembly will cover five wide-ranging topics: Economic Development, including a discussion on ICC’s breakthrough Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Resource Development in Canada’s Arctic; Environment, including biodiversity, contaminants and traditional knowledge; Health and Well-Being, including children and youth, and the Inuit language; Hunting and Food Security, including management of wildlife resources and impediments to trade posed by animal rights groups; and Governance, including Arctic
sovereignty.

Delegates will also review and adopt the Kittigaryuit Declaration, a set of guiding principles that will direct ICC’s work over the next four years. It will replace the Nuuk Declaration, which came into force during the 2010 General Assembly in Greenland.

The Nuuk Declaration mandated the organization to meaningfully engage children, youth and elders in the work of ICC, to promote circumpolar sharing of Inuit-specific media including television, radio and social media, and to begin an ICC archival initiative to aid transnational Inuit unity and cooperative Inuit policy making.

It’s important for Inuit to know the history of ICC, and its founder Eben Hopsen Sr., who decided in 1977 to invite his circumpolar cousins to his hometown of Barrow, Alaska, to discuss the looming prospect of offshore drilling.

ICC collaborated with the Saami Council and other indigenous groups to draft the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, lobbied for the creation of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and helped draft the Stockholm Convention on the Elimination of Persistent Organic Pollutants. It has been a permanent participant in the Arctic Council since the Council was created in 1996.

ICC continues to be a leading voice for Inuit around the world, but perhaps most importantly, it allows us to truly connect with our fellow Inuit around the world and to celebrate our common culture and our common Arctic homeland.

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