Good afternoon (if past noon). My name is Nancy Karetak-Lindell. I was born and raised on the shores of western Hudson Bay in Arviat in the Kivaliq region of Nunavut. I was the Member of Parliament for Nunavut from 1997 to 2008 and since then I have served my community in many capacities. It is the combination of these experiences – my indigenous knowledge from my ancestors and my modern role in Government – that gives me a unique perspective on cooperation in the Arctic. It helps me to understand the necessity of cooperation at many levels and to accept the challenges of establishing these partnerships. By enhancing cooperation, encouraging dialogue and meaningful partnerships, we will be able to build equity in our communities, civil society, industry, governments, and, of course, amongst indigenous peoples. .
Importance of indigenous voice
Of all the stakeholders listed above, it is the voice of the indigenous people that must take a central role in discussions. For millennia, indigenous people have lived around the Arctic Circle, living off the land and preserving it for generation after generation. We were here long before the artificial demarcations known as international borders were put into place. The longevity and care of our stewardship has allowed the countries that now encompass these territories to have a claim to vast and important territories. These countries must look to this global region of commonality and difference: it is unique in the world and unique in the peaceful measures that are employed to collectively govern this shared landscape. This model of peaceful cooperation is one that could be used for other global regions.
Strengths of the ICC
As the ICC Canada President, I serve an international organization with official status within the United Nations, and as a Permanent Participant to the Arctic Council. The ICC gives voice to the160,000 Inuit living in Canada’s north, Greenland, Alaska, and Chukotka – four different political realities – one people. Inuit may have a relatively small population, in a global sense, but our homelands are vast and our collective voice strong through one language and one culture.
Importance of these discussions now
I would like to thank the organizers of this timely meeting for the opportunity to listen, learn, and share discussions about Canadian and Russian cooperation in the Arctic. We are at an important time in the Arctic. A new and startling political context has emerged within which we have to determine how to move Canada – Russia cooperation forward and other emerging new partnerships in the Arctic. There are many factors at work. Climate change has led to a growing interest in developing Arctic shipping routes. There is a greater demand for resources, including oil, natural, gas, minerals, and fisheries. These combined with a growing interest in Arctic tourism will place greater demands on this delicate part of the world. As interest in the Arctic grows, it is imperative that we work together to safeguard our lands against possible damage. We must expand our worldview and influence, recognizing the importance of the Arctic to global environmental services. Indigenous knowledge, gleaned and passed down for generations, provides a crucial fund of information that must not be ignored. By working together, indigenous people of the Arctic can have a greater impact upon the political decisions of their respective national governments.
We are at a crossroads and the decisions we make will shape the future of the Arctic and its peoples and likely influence global realities. It is through discussions such as these, the successful projects we have undertaken in the past and those we will in the coming years — that Inuit will find the new solutions, partnerships, and processes to drive economic development, improve environmental sustainability, human health and wellness, guarantee food security, and protect human rights in the Arctic. As Canada and Russia share most of the Arctic, it is largely our responsibility to work towards improving social conditions in both our countries, guiding Arctic economic development and ensuring environmental cooperation. These accomplishments will not only drive prosperity, but will also support social equity and sustainable futures in our communities.
It is said that Russia’s day starts in Chukotka, an expression that speaks to the importance of the place of Chukotka in Russia’s north….ICC Canada has a long and favourable history with Russiaand our family that resides in Chukotka. ICC Canada has supported in the past the institutional capacity building of ICC Chukotka because if people can participate in building their futures, their futures are better. By creating co-operative, transparent, accessible governance the peoples, the regions, and the nation can better reach its full potential and benefit from a plurality of views of its citizenry.
Since the late 90’s, first under Governor Roman Abramovich and now under Governor Roman Kopin, the indigenous peoples of Chukotka and Inuit in particular, have and continue to succeed in establishing a more constructive relationship with the government. This was evident through the decades of Canada – Russia cooperation at the ministerial level and then through two phases of the ICC / CIDA project Canadian Institution Building for Northern Russian Indigenous Peoples (INRIP). This was a unique project supported and managed by four parties: ICC Canada, the Canadian Government, ICC Chukotka and the Russian Government. Also, in 2001 – fifteen years ago – the Government of Chukotka Autonomous Region, the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, and the ICC signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to strengthen cooperation on the issues related to the development of indigenous peoples. This memorandum of Cooperation was based on the principles of mutual respect, integration, and mutual benefit. We must find concrete ways to act on this MOU and the work of INRIP and move the ideals they embrace forward for Russian and Canadian Inuit.
These constructive relationships are worth working towards as they build trust for larger co- operative relations between Canada and Russia. Just as industry uses standards to enhance technical integrity, improve safety, enable cost reductions and reduce the environmental impact of operations worldwide – through creative partnerships with indigenous peoples we can achieve trust, equity and respect. ICC is interested in building co-operation standards that build on these successful partnerships, through new projects that strengthen Inuit in the circumpolar world we can maintain these important ties between our countries – build more – we are stronger together.
As President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada – one of four Presidents that form the leadership of ICC – I believe that co-operation on all levels – economic development, environmental security, sovereignty – can be created through the lens of social equity. We must move towards decision making that envisions a healthy future for our families and our communities. Our challenge is to consider the needs of our collective communities amongst the noise, immediate challenges and all the attention the Arctic is receiving. The Arctic truly has the global consciousness spellbound – those who want to use it, ship through it, explore it, mine it, study it and protect it. We must use these opportunities to expand dialogue and build new partnerships to cut through the noise and push forward. So what can we do to enhance Canada- Russian co-operation?
First, we need to continue to have meetings, such as the one we are participating in today, to bring together stakeholders and to encourage an exchange of views and a development of relationships. It is through personal relationships that we can better understand the different views and needs of everyone involved.
Second, we are fortunate to live at a time when technology can be used to bring together people who are physically distant. Better use of technology to ensure that people from across the Arctic region are able to communicate and share ideas that work is essential. Whether through video- conferencing, Twitter feeds, Youtube video channels, or simple cellphone communication, people who live across the Arctic with access to broadband are better able to communicate now than at any other time in history. We must build on this. The large and growing numbers of young people in the indigenous population will make this process easier as knowledge of these technologies is second nature to the younger generation. Together, we must work to build the broadband infrastructure that will allow Inuit in Canada and Russia to harness this technology and use it to facilitate discussion.
Third, in order to achieve this level of communication, financial and political support is vital to bring together ICC Canada with ICC Chukotka. It is important to be together in person to discuss co-operation, supports, and build true capacity.
Fourth, when looking forward at what we want to achieve, it is important to review what has already been accomplished and to continue to build upon those efforts. The INRIP project was an example of useful collaboration amongst indigenous groups; it is now time to implement its recommendations to develop training programs to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities.
Finally, stakeholders at every level must contribute to the development a new Arctic Foreign Policy for Canada that takes note of the new realities and works to encompass a close and productive relationship between Canada and its Arctic partners. Greater cooperation and collaboration with Arctic countries, and particularly Russia, must be a cornerstone of this new policy.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that we are defined by what we do during challenging times. How will we address the challenges that face us today to create new opportunities? It is time to move beyond the status quo. We must not allow extremism and fear to guide us. We must be first – show the world by example the possibilities that Canada and Russia cooperation can build. We must be bold. We must learn from our past and continually build upon our successes, whether through programs, governance mechanisms or impacts and benefits agreements, to systematically create the conditions for thriving communities in Canada and Russia. Now is the time to be innovative and re-imagine the future of the Arctic, its emerging economies, ensuring sustainable environments, building stronger friendships and creating healthy communities. Let us create partnerships in the Arctic that feed our people, create energy, support our arts and culture, and take advantage of our mineral wealth, in a sustainable manner.
Together we are stronger, together we can meet the challenges of change, together Inuit will thrive in the Arctic from Chukotka, to Alaska, from Greenland to Canada. We are one people.