International Inuit Day

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, November 7 is International Inuit Day. In Canada, there are approximately 70,000 Inuit. Most live in 51 communities spread across the Inuit homeland, also known as Nunangat, which encompasses 40% of Canada’s land area and 72% of its coastline.

To date, Inuit communities have settled four comprehensive land claims agreements with the Government of Canada aimed at strengthening their inherent right to self-government and self-determination as well as reclaiming, preserving and protecting their culture, language, land and resources.

The first agreement was the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, Nunavik, in 1975. The second was the Inuvialuit Final Agreement in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in 1984. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement — Nunavut — came in 1999, followed shortly by the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement — Nunatsiavut — in 2005.

In anticipation of November 7, we must reflect and celebrate Inuit and amplify their voices. This year in particular, I want to honour the adaptability, resilience and leadership of Inuit. Among the remarkable individuals who are working tirelessly to improve the lives of their families and communities are our colleague Senator Margaret Dawn Anderson from Tuktoyaktuk and, of course, Governor General Mary Simon from Kangiqsualujjuaq.

Inuit youth are also powerful agents of change. This year, I had the pleasure to welcome Christian Spence, a third-year student in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, who is a beneficiary of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement but also identifies as Cree. I am grateful for his support during this internship and look forward to seeing what he will accomplish in the years to come.

Colleagues, as I pause to recognize and celebrate the remarkable determination of the Inuit, I also reflect on how the violence of colonialism continues to impact their lives. A lack of affordable and safe housing and one of the highest rates of suicide around the world are among their most pressing issues. As parliamentarians, we must do a better job at listening to and amplifying the voices of the Inuit as well as supporting their self-determination. A more strategic and systemic approach is needed to address the root causes of their distinct issues and challenges.

Quyanainniwela’lin, thank you.

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