Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Northward course of Empire?

“Inuit leader asserts stake in natural riches.
Newly elected Terry Audla promises to ensure northern communities share in wealth generated off extraction of Arctic resources.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated June 09, 2012 and written by a Gloria Galloway.

Firstly, congratulations to Terry Audla who is now the new leader of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the political organization that oversees all issues pertaining to Canada’s Inuit people. Secondly, like some First Nations leaders, he seems to get it when addressing the plight of his own people. In two words; economic development. After all, the natural riches of the Arctic were regarded very early in the 1900’s.

Enter the book, “A Northward course of Empire,” written by the early 20th century Canadian Arctic explorer, Vilhjalmur Stephansson. The book describes the potential for economic development of Arctic regions. Now, over a century later, an Inuit leader finally gets it.

“There are capped wells in the high arctic and there are oil and gas reserves in the high arctic as well, “ Mr. Audla said this week in a telephone interview on the day after his victory.”

“And the Inuit will definitely be involved in the development of that when the decision is made to do so.”

So, what took so long?

“Mr. Audla said the roots of the ITK go back to a time when the Inuit watched the riches of their land being harvested without them. That cannot happen going forward, he said, especially now that the land claims have been settled.”

In the past, the Inuit were once rich in language and culture only to be disrupted by the establishment of Canada and then having to ironically “re-claim” the land that has always identified their existence. So, what about the future?

“…it is the resources that he believes hold the promise for the future of his people.”

“The Inuit own 50 million hectares of land, which is about the size of Spain, The Nunavut land claim agreement has set the stage for the Inuit to regain the control they once had. This time moving forward into the 21st century, not with spears, igloos,  aglus, umiaks, kayaks or seal skin clothing but with a big difference…money through economic development.

“Mr. Audla said. If you have that much land and control, there’s no reason why you can’t have the economic development based on what you want to do and how you want to do it. If you can control that, it certainly would go towards improving the lives of the Inuit.”

Finally, the new leader of the ITK has realized a northward course of empire.