Inuit from Canada and abroad are discussing the future of the Arctic and its people at the 11th general assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Council this week in Nuuk, Greenland.
Delegates from Russia, Greenland and the United States are also at the five-day assembly, which began Monday in Greenland’s capital city.
Topics on this week’s agenda include discussions about climate change and the opening of the Arctic to companies seeking oil, gas and minerals.
Mineral and energy development is expected to be a major topic, given Inuit people’s concerns about effects on the environment and wildlife.
Mary Simon, president of the Canadian organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said most Inuit were “much more against development” three decades ago, but that position has changed over time.
“The approach and the position that Inuit are taking is quite different,” Simon told CBC News.
“I think there is more awareness that we need to be involved and in partnership with any developers that come into the North.”
Simons said development is inevitable, and Inuit need to get involved in order to ensure their concerns are heard.
Greenland’s offshore drilling plan examined
One particular concern in Nunavut, which is home to about half of Canada’s Inuit population, is Greenland’s ambition for an offshore oil and gas industry.
Earlier this month, the Greenland government gave formal approvals to Scottish company Cairn Energy to begin drilling the first two of its four planned wells this year in Davis Strait, between Greenland and Nunavut.
“I am a very concerned leader and individual about our environment, but at the same time have a full understanding of the importance of development,” said Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak, who was expected to address the assembly on Monday.
Also on the agenda at the Inuit Circumpolar Council assembly this week are discussions on health, Inuit governance and hunting-related issues.
More than 50,000 Inuit live in Canada, mainly in Nunavut, Labrador, the Northwest Territories and the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, according to the 2006 census.