Our earliest leaders fought for our right to have a voice in discussions that affect our lives. Leaders of today are still fighting to be included in decision-making processes.
By Terry Audla
In the history of our relations with outsiders, inuit opinions have not always been considered, and sometimes not really even heard. We were governed from afar without a say in the laws that determined where and how we lived. ultimately, that’s what forced our earliest land claims negotiators into action.
Under the shadow of residential schools and the relocation of families by the government in the name of sovereignty, our leaders sought a fundamental reassertion and rebalancing of our rights and responsibilities. This work gave way to the completion of agreements governing our rights within a contiguous chain of land stretching from one end of the Canadian Arctic to the other.
Today’s public administrators have learned from the past, and recognize that inuit have rights and that governments, in turn, have a duty to consult us on all matters outlined in our land claims agreements. We are widely represented on boards and advisory committees. But we are often brought to the table only after key decisions have been made.
Though our land claims have been settled and we are represented at every level of government, we are still fighting for our rights. We have the respect of our southern counterparts, but we still often do not have their time or attention.
So it was a pleasure to address the Senate of Canada recently as part of a larger discussion on the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, where our inclusion is still a work in progress. I spoke about our history with the research process and how only recently inuit have assumed a more central role in the design and execution of major projects.
We have a critical role to play in developing platforms and methods of long-term, community driven, and community-based monitoring.
Traditional knowledge provides cultural tools uniquely suited to making precise observations for year-round observation of Arctic ecosystems. Our knowledge is of inherent value and represents a research advantage in its own right.
But there is an ever-increased research burden placed on inuit by this growing Canadian research landscape. inuit, more than ever before, need improved capacity to become involved in all aspects of research in order to become part of the solution, for ourselves, Canadians, and the world.
We know what will happen if we’re not involved — decisions will be made for us from afar. May the New year strengthen our collective voices and once and for all, in all aspects of our lives, allow us finally to be heard.