Monday January 19, 2009 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Inuit leaders were in Winnipeg Manitoba on Friday January 16, 2009, to attend the National Polar Bear Roundtable hosted by the Federal Minister of Environment, Jim Prentice. The Roundtable also included government, non- government organizations, Wildlife Management Boards, and scientists to address Canada’s Polar Bear listing, management, research, and conservation concerns.

“Based on the Minister’s comments at the meeting, we now expect that Inuit from all of the four Inuit land claimant regions and all relevant co-management boards in Canada will be substantially consulted in the Minister’s listing decision for the Polar Bear on SARA within the next two years”, stated Duane Smith, President of ICC Canada. “The Roundtable was a starting point and we are hopeful that Inuit in Canada will be closely and transparently engaged and that the consultations will be an on-going feature on aspects beyond the listing process as well.”

One key concern raised at the Roundtable was the need for governments and scientists to respect, recognize, and include Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit Traditional Knowledge) along with Western Science. A more effective collaboration is needed in order to improve human knowledge of Polar Bears and to ensure better informed decisions are made that have every potential to affect the species and impact Inuit.

“For such a collaboration to be successful, it requires the mutual commitment and respect of Inuit, scientists, and government to work together and make possible what is a very difficult objective to achieve”, stated Duane Smith. “We must find ways for our perspectives to respectfully and meaningfully mesh and support each other, which is a big challenge on the Polar Bear issue.”

“In order to make constructive and trust-building solutions possible, there is a need to reduce or avoid rhetoric, hype, and alarmist claims related to Polar Bear extinctions and over-hunting, including the condemnation of the sport hunt as anti-conservation,” stated Duane Smith. “All of our land claims agreements including our cultural values and ethics bind us to the principle and rule of conservation, which is what makes our co-existence with and sustainable use of Polar Bears possible to this day.”

“Inuit have land claims agreements and wildlife management systems largely in place, the population of Polar Bears has doubled over the past 30 or 40 years, and there are Inuit hunters and knowledge holders,” stated ITK President Mary Simon. “We are not working from scratch and it is an absolute advantage for this to be the case because it is a matter of building upon what we have already implemented in Canada.”

Inuit concerns for Polar Bear also extended to the international arena where Canada has important responsibilities as a country that contains two-thirds of the world’s Polar Bears. It must effectively represent not only the species but also the rights and interests of Inuit as Canadians where impacts to such rights and interests may arise as result of actions or decisions made by other nations.

“We have to work within the international context and advocate effectively on this level, and one of the things we would like to support is an MOU on shared Polar Bear populations between Canada and Greenland with Inuit involvement,” stated Mr. Smith. “Our involvement is crucial,

whether it’s in the development of a larger working group or a process that deals with issues arising in other countries and regions regarding the Polar Bear as well as other species that we depend upon for food, livelihood, and culture.”

ITK and ICC both recognize the need to address increasing Polar Bear-Human interactions that are posing safety and property damage concerns for Inuit.

ITK and ICC believe that global climate change needs to be addressed by Canada on the world stage in order to reduce the impact being felt by Inuit communities on an everyday basis.

Contact:

Corinne Gray
Executive Director
ICC Canada
Tel: 613.563.2642 cgray@inuitcircumpolar.com

Stephen Hendrie Communications Director

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Cell: 613.277.3178

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hendrie@itk.ca