Sandra Inutiq’s speech at the GN public forum (2011, en)

March 20, 2011

I would like to talk about an important void in these discussions on
mining, which is sustainability. Sustainability includes having a
clear vision for Nunavut as a healthy ecosystem, a healthy and vibrant
society that is strong in its cultural roots. The very basis of Inuit
culture is sustainability which includes respect for all that is
around us specifically our land, sea and wildlife.

The driving force behind our land claim agreements was control over
our lands and other cultural rights like hunting, and controlling
these rights on our terms. Now that we have a land claim, we face
external pressures to exploit our lands, and internal pressures of the
need to deal with poverty and the political oppression that goes along
with poverty. The systems in place to ensure Inuit views are heard are
failing us. In my opinion the land use plan and impact review boards
need to step it up as they are who we rely on for their objective and
clear analysis in ultimately protecting the exploitation of our

We discuss and make decisions about the land  in communities and
inside buildings within the confines of institutional culture and
policies which can be so disconnected to the reality of what the
wisdom of the land has to teach us about sustainability.  To me these
decisions would be very different if they were made out on the land as
any Inuk who depends on the well being of the land for food and
cultural sustainability knows. We are most conscious that the land is
what defines who we are. We know instinctively that what we do to the
land we do to ourselves as we ourselves are an extension of that land.

In not focusing on longer term sustainability needs for Nunavut leaves
vital discussions out on issues such as education, social well being
giving and caters only to the mining sector needs. We must focus on
how we as a people have come to this displaced place where we now are
so desperate that even one of the most destructive mining practices in
the world has now become appealing to us. We must address issues of
decolonizing and ultimately work to believe in ourselves and the more
sustainable choices we can make; that we can have an analytically
thinking society that is not only reliant on damaging our lands in
order to have an economy. We haven’t even started the process of
exploring innovative ways in which we as a people can become self
reliant. Let us not be in haste to only go this route before we
destroy the very land which has sustained us for millennia.

By omitting vital sustainability issues at a time when the Arctic’s
ecosystem is undergoing monumental challenges we risk to deepen the
issues of health impacts, social impacts, impacts on the ecosystem of
mining. We focus on only extraction and profits part of mining.
Cumulative impacts of one or several mines are not considered. We
cannot discuss the issues of mining as a way out of our despair
without discussing these very issues. This is what is happening now,
with the type of mining that has questionable ethical uses not to
mention safety of it, and that is uranium. We should learn from what
is going on in the world just as the hunter learns by reading the
conditions of the elements around him. We are losing our moral compass
if we go blinding into this storm.

The Nunavut Land Claim agreement foresaw that Inuit would be included
in the decision making processes, Inuit would be included in important
discussions. The Kivalliq land use plan stated the people of Kivalliq
would decide whether uranium mining should happen or not. Given the
history of resistance to have uranium mining, this means a vote. Let’s
settle the matter once and for all and have a vote for Nunavut!