The title of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President carries with it many expectations to lead, and also many expectations for the individual who holds the position to reflect values and attributes that present our best Inuit selves to Canadian Inuit and all of Canada.
Whenever we discuss things that are close to our hearts, we get passionate. When we believe our perspective may not be reflected in aspiring leaders, we get fearful. This all played out in and around the ITK election in which I was elected President, especially in relation to my lack of fluency in Inuktut.
The reality is that there are many Inuit like me, and whether our cultural or linguistic weak – nesses are due to colonization, relocation, residential schools, intermarriage with non- Inuit, or other factors, we are still Inuit children of Inuit parents. We have many attributes, and we have many passionate perspectives on Inuit identity. We have the ability to lead just as well as anyone else, and should be fairly considered for the specific task at hand.
I am happy to have my Inuit family with me to support me, ground me, and push me to achieve success and overcome challenges. I am from Nain, Nunatsiavut, and consider it my home no matter how long I’ve been away. My family in Nain is extensive and varied, but always is there for me. I have relatives in Coral Harbour, Nunavut, who gave me a warm welcome when I visited for the first time in 2012. I also have relatives in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik, who I have yet to meet, but even knowing they are there is comforting. My wife Letia’s family comes from Pond Inlet and Iqaluit, Nunavut, so I have many in-laws from Baffin as well.
My far-flung family connections are similar to many Inuit. Our families spread across jurisdictional boundaries. Our bonds are not cemented in our land claim silos, and our love for one another is not confined to cultural or linguistic attributes. We now connect through social media more than ever before, and connect meaningfully despite distance.
An essential part of my job is to build our collective strength, and break down any barriers we may have that push Inuit apart. I believe that ITK can play a galvanizing role in bringing Inuit together. The Inuit rights big bang that created land claim agreements in four Canadian jurisdictions need not keep expanding outward and apart. We can support each other and work together now in ways we never could before, and it is time to try to bring our family back together.
We can have debates about our ethnicity, culture, language, and society without being offensive or adversarial. We can dream about an Inuit future that overcomes the negative effects of colonization, that allows us to reach our true potential, that can be met through inclusivity, positivity, love and hope.
President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami