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Canadian Inuit Call for Direct Say on Arctic Sovereignty

2 June 2008, Inuvik – Canadian Inuit say that the foreign ministers of five Arctic nations that met in Ilulissat, Greenland last week to discuss Arctic sovereignty forgot about the fiduciary obligations toward Inuit in the Ilulissat Declaration they signed.

“Our Canadian land claims and self-government processes makes it mandatory for the Federal Government to include us”, said Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) President, Duane Smith, “yet the Declaration that Minister Lunn signed on behalf of Canada ignores the role we should be playing”.

The Ilulissat Declaration mentions that by virtue of the five nations’ “sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in large areas of the Arctic ocean”, that they are in a unique position to address the Arctic Ocean’s “threshold of significant changes”. While the Declaration mentions that shipping disasters and pollution of the Arctic marine environment may cause “major harm to the livelihoods of indigenous peoples”, it falls short of inviting them to be part of future sovereignty talks.

While Canadian Inuit did not sit on the Canadian delegation, the President of ICC’s Greenland chapter, Aqqaluk Lynge, was asked to address the five ministers in a keynote address. He told them that much of the Arctic belonged to Inuit, and reminded them that Arctic landmarks like Hans Island, Ellesmere Island had Inuit names which reflected the sense of collective Inuit ownership of much of the Arctic. He also recalled the many forced relocations of Inuit across the Arctic “in the name of sovereignty”.

“We understand that foreign ministers of the five Arctic nations that have jurisdiction over the Arctic Ocean would want to meet on this issue”, added Duane Smith, “but the next time, I call for Inuit to have a separate seat at the negotiating table.”

ICC is the organization that represents Inuit from Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland on international matters and celebrates Inuit unity across these countries. ICC Canada is mandated by Canadian Inuit to be that voice within Canada. ICC is also the Inuit representative at the Arctic Council. The issue of Arctic sovereignty has been an important priority of work for ICC Canada for several years. Apart from its pan-Inuit work on this issue, ICC Canada has named it one of its top priorities of the Inuit Action Plan (IAP)’s International Dimension. The IAP is joint effort between the Federal government and Canadian Inuit.

This November in Kuujjuaq, ICC Canada will host Inuit from all four countries to discuss how to collectively respond to the increasing sovereignty claims over their lands and seas.

For more information, contact: Corinne Gray
Executive Director
613. 563. 2642

The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is an Indigenous Peoples’ Organization (IPO), founded in 1977 to promote and celebrate the unity of 180,000 Inuit from Alaska (USA), Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). ICC works to promote Inuit rights, safeguard the Arctic environment, and protect and promote the Inuit way of life. In regard to climate change, we believe that it is crucial for world leaders and governments to recognize, respect and fully implement the human rights of Inuit and all other Indigenous peoples across the globe.