‘Yes’ to development but on our terms, say Canada’s Inuit

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An Arctic oil rig. Canadian Inuit leaders say development brings jobs and opportunities desperately needed by people in the North. (The Canadian Press)
An Arctic oil rig. Canadian Inuit leaders say development brings jobs and opportunities desperately needed by people in the North. (The Canadian Press)

Indigenous leaders from several regions around the world released a declaration this week calling for an end to Arctic resource development.

The groups released the statement jointly with the environmental group Greenpeace in advance of the Arctic Council meeting in Kiruna, Sweden, where chairmanship of the organization passed from Sweden to Canada on May 15th.

But signatures from leaders of the world’s major Inuit organizations were absent. Canadian Inuit leaders swiftly denounced the declaration.

“Inuit have not endorsed this statement and position, which appears to be a Greenpeace-orchestrated campaign against resource development in our very own lands and waters,” said Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s national Inuit organization in a statement earlier this week. “We collectively reject Greenpeace’s questionable use of the Indigenous voice as a front for its own campaign.”

Inuit want and need the jobs and opportunities that northern development will bring, as long as they are part of the decision-making process, Audla said.

Duane Smith, president of the Canadian office of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, an organization representing Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia, said Inuit reject outside “meddling” on issues related to their lands and resources.

“We are the stewards of our own Arctic homeland, we are the negotiators of what takes place in our own back yards, and we will weigh and determine the cost-benefit of development for ourselves as a people. We certainly have no need or appetite to invite environmentalist groups to come to the Arctic and do the work under their logos and on our behalf.”

To find out more,  Eilís Quinn spoke with Duane Smith this week.

To listen, click here

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project.

Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the violent death of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on violence and trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

Twitter: @Arctic_EQ

Email: eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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