I said goodbye to my children Panigusiq and Jushua at the Iqaluit airport today, just as I have many times during the last three years as I return to my Ottawa-based job as President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). My boys are growing up, now 11 and nine, and while still silly and rambunctious, are turning that quick corner from young children into adolescents, seeking greater independence as they find their place in the world. I love them dearly and know that being apart from them for large parts of the year changes their lives, but hopefully they will understand and accept that there is an honorable purpose in this separation.
We all go through these times, when we reflect on our tangible growth as a person, or how a change in profession makes us see ourselves in categorically new or different ways. My first term as ITK’s president ends in August. I imagine that my friends and family might see differences in me the way I see differences in my children when I come home.
I know I am different than I was before I was elected three years ago, hopefully having evolved and grown for the better. I have heard the truths of so many Inuit who urge Inuit representational organizations to do more for the most vulnerable in our society. I have worked closely with Inuit leaders across Inuit Nunangat: Premiers, Prime Minister Trudeau, and many federal, provincial, and territorial cabinet members on difficult issues that can either end with much needed support, funding, and partnership, or with actions that undermine our ability to make Inuit society better. I have had to accept that I am a public figure who is as likely to be ridiculed as to be praised.
I have found my centre as a politician by being confident that being myself while being open to the views of others is the best way I can effectively do my job. I did not change into the most outgoing, gregarious, and accommodating person in the room to play this political role, because that isn’t the point of politics for me. The point of my participation in politics is to make a positive difference for Inuit the best way I can. My place in politics is to help articulate the path to Inuit self-determination and to do what I can to bring others to this path. My place is to help fill in the details of how reconciliation or a renewal of the Inuit-Crown relationship happens. My place is to help build and maintain unity across Inuit Nunangat.
We are at such an important time as Inuit. I think of my children changing so quickly and think of the rapidly changing world they will be reckoning with as they become adults. I think of the opportunities we have to put one step in front of the other toward self-determination. I think of the groundswell of good people that fight to achieve this every day. I am thankful for my family, my children, and for trust provided to me by my fellow Inuit to work towards our collective advancement.
National Inuit Leader and President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami