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On February 9, Inuit leaders met in Iqaluit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss Inuit priorities and sign the Inuit Nunangat Declaration on Inuit-Crown Partnership. The Declaration commits the Government of Canada, as well as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Makivik Corporation and the Nunatsiavut Government to work together to identify and act on shared priorities through a process called the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee.

The federal government was represented by the Minister of Health, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. Together, Inuit and government identified six broad priority areas for partnership that will constitute the first Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee work plan: land claims agreement implementation, Arctic policy, housing, Inuktut revitalization and promotion, health and wellness, and reconciliation measures.

This meeting was the end result of over a year of Inuit advocacy about how the federal govern­ment could work with Inuit to systematically renew the Inuit-Crown relationship. ITK first proposed the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee to Prime Minister Trudeau in December 2015 in a meeting with other national Indigenous leaders. Inuit advocated for this practical structure because we believe a strong respectful process is the only way to create sustained and coordinated policy action on the issues our people care about.

We understand federal government policies shape our everyday lives, yet we have lived with the reality that Inuit policy priorities have often been of little to no consideration in federal budgets, absent in terms and conditions of many federal programs dedicated to Indigenous issues, and hardly ever considered when federal government departments imagine their own success. Many of the infrastructure, health, and economic gaps that persist between Inuit and most other Canadians stem from this federal marginalization and ignorance. As elementary as it might seem, we regularly educate federal departments who still do not understand the distinctions between Inuit, First Nations, and Metis. The creation of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee allows us an excellent and long overdue opportunity to affect policy, legislation, and programs as a rights-holding Indigenous people within the federal system.

The Committee will meet next on May 18, at which time we will agree on the initial work plan that will commit us to specific scopes of work within the priorities agreed upon in February. The work plan is intended to create accountability and action within a defined timeframe. Our efforts will build on rather than take away from existing Inuit-federal/provincial/territorial work underway.

The success of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee will ultimately depend on how much time and effort both government and Inuit put into the efforts necessary to create systemic, long lasting, positive change in the lives of Inuit. I recognize and understand the fears that people may have in another political process being born out of government rhetoric, but I have reason to be optimistic because of the partnership nature of this structure. I hope the creation of this Committee is a significant positive milestone for Inuit, and that its positive influence will be felt throughout Inuit Nunangat for years to come, and I will do my best to translate the potential we have today into true progress.

THE INUIT-CROWN PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE IS CO-CHAIRED BY THE PRIME MINISTER AND ITK PRESIDENT. THE INUIT PARTICIPANTS ON THE ICPC ALSO INCLUDE THE CHAIR AND CEO OF INUVIALUIT REGIONAL CORPORATION, THE PRESI­DENT OF NUNAVUT TUNNGAVIK INCORPORATED, THE PRESIDENT OF MAKIVIK CORPORATION, AND THE PRESIDENT OF NUNATSIAVUT. THE PRESIDENTS OF THE NATIONAL INUIT YOUTH COUNCIL, INUIT CIRCUMPOLAR COUNCIL-CANADA AND PAUKTUUTIT INUIT WOMEN OF CANADA HAVE OBSERVER STATUS. GOVERNMENT OF CANADA MINISTERIAL PARTICIPANTS MAY VARY FROM TIME TO TIME, BUT IT IS IMAGINED THAT NO FEWER THAN FOUR FEDERAL MINISTERS WILL PARTICIPATE IN EVERY COMMITTEE MEETING AND THAT THE MINISTER OF INDIGENOUS AND NORTHERN AFFAIRS WILL BE A PERMANENT MEMBER.

Natan Obed
President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami