Posted on 19 February 2010
February 18, 2010 - Senator Bill Rompkey says that excluding Inuit and First Nations from future discussions on cooperation in the Arctic shows the same old colonialist mentality.
Foreign minister Lawrence Cannon has invited counterparts from Russia, the United States, Norway, and Denmark to meet March 29 in Chelsea, Quebec, while leaving out aboriginal organizations.
“This is really saying that land claims mean nothing; that self-government means nothing; that historical occupancy of the Arctic for thousands of years means nothing,” Rompkey charges. “It reveals that the government meant all along to pay only lip service to aboriginal rights in the Arctic.”
Rompkey is calling on Cannon to invite aboriginal representation at the meeting, as also urged by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and Arctic Athabaskan Council.
Nothing of significance is going to happen in the Arctic, Rompkey says, without the direct involvement and cooperation of the Inuit and First Nations. Recent history reveals this clearly from the Mackenzie Delta to the Labrador Sea.
“The Voisey’s Bay project in Labrador would not have happened without the consent and the direct involvement of the Inuit; the Lower Churchill will not happen without the consent and the direct involvement of the Innu,” Rompkey says. “There is similar evidence all across the north. Hello! Are the lights on in Foreign Affairs? Is anybody listening?”
The Senator asks how the government can invite foreign nations to formulate future Arctic policy and not aboriginal peoples whose land and waters are being discussed. He points out that this may have worked 20 years ago, but will not work in 2010; now the Inuit have law and history on their side.
“Fortunately for us the aboriginal peoples of our North are Canadian. They should be at the table when the future of their territory and our territory is being discussed.”
The government appears to be backing away from the Arctic Council, which includes indigenous organizations as well as Arctic states, Rompkey says. It has also shut down Canada’s Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, a position that should be restored.