Now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has met with First Nations leaders, the Inuit are putting in their bid for a similar encounter.
“We want our own Inuit-specific meeting to focus on Inuit and Arctic issues,” Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, told the Nunatsiaq News. “We need to talk about some of the critical issues facing Inuit today.”
Her vision is of a meeting in the north between Inuit leaders, Harper, cabinet ministers and the premiers of territories and provinces where Inuit people live, she told the newspaper.
The January 24 Crown–First Nations Gathering, which was historic in being Harper’s first with First Nations since taking office in 2006, showed his willingness to engage with the country’s aboriginals, and Simon said she hopes it carries over to the Inuit.
“From where I was sitting, it sounds like [the summit] was about the renewal of the aboriginal relationship with the Crown,” she said, according to the Nunatsiaq News. “As first peoples, Inuit also want to have a very strong relationship with the government.”
Harper and several cabinet ministers met with more than 400 First Nations leaders in a day-long session preceded by preliminary discussions on January 23. Participants discussed moving forward on issues ranging from poverty to housing to treaty rights and self-governance, with an action plan released at the end.
Simon appeared on CBC News’s One on One with Peter Mansbridge on January 15. Below is a snippet of informal chat they had before officially filming. The entire interview is online at Mansbridge One on One on the CBC News site.