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Global issue 20

Arena Sovereignty Communities of the north want their voices heard – security should begin with the people, they say. Dr Maura Hanrahan, special adviser of aboriginal affairs at Memorial University, believes that more questions should be raised as to the level of responsibility the government should be held accountable for. “Harper uses the word ‘security’ but restricts its meaning to the military sense. What if Canada were to expand its understanding of security to include food security and water security? What if Canada were to expand its understanding of development to mean affordable housing, housing that is suitable to northern climates, indigenous language preservation, etc?” Inuit traditional knowledge and insight has been called upon to determine the best way forward in response to a changing Arctic Northern aboriginal communities are faced with the daunting reality of higher suicide rates, higher infant mortality rates and shorter life expectancies than their countrymen further south, and this is coupled with an overall lack of health care, education and jobs. A significant percentage of families are living below the poverty line. In this vulnerable state, community members are asking the government to shift priorities from militarisation, which is seen as a threat to traditional ways of life, to social development in order to retain and support a northern population. Former Premier of Nunavut Eva Aariak states that the “human dimension” is a critical part of maintaining Arctic sovereignty: “It is our communities that face the greatest risks from development and so it follows that we should also receive the greatest benefit.” The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), a representative body for Canadian Inuit, has been a major contributor to promoting Inuit interests and spreading awareness of the issues facing the northern populations for the last few decades. Rosemarie Kuptana, the ITK’s former president, an activist and a prominent Inuit leader, gives an insight into the effect that developing the region would have on the people who have inhabited the land for thousands of years in a documentary film entitled Inuit Voices on Arctic Security: “Inuit security is more about having used and occupied the land… the coastal waters and the oceans for our way of life.” She underlines the importance of being able to access and hold the rights to the land and sea for hunting and fishing – the traditional means of survival. In order to safeguard this, maintaining habitats for sealife and other animals is crucial. Were there to be an increase in activity in the Arctic, these habitats would be impacted greatly in a potentially irreversible way. Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada president Duane Smith says: “Increasingly in recent years, Inuit traditional knowledge and insight has been called upon to determine the best way forward in response to a changing Arctic. Inuit have responded and provided leadership in documenting and 58 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global


Global issue 20
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