Speech of Minister Carolyn Bennett to the Northern Lights Conference
From Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
January 31, 2018
Greetings – Bonjour, Ullukkut. Kwey.
This is a huge honour and very exciting to be with all of the leadership in this room.
Premier Quassa, congratulations again. This is very exciting in terms of us getting to work together with Aluki, and I look forward to the panel we’re going to do later today as the signatories to the land claims. It’s good to have a conversation about how we’re doing and where we’re going. That’s very exciting.
I also of course acknowledge that we gather together today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people and welcome the Ministers here as well and Her Worship Madeleine Redfern, all the regional Inuit presidents, MP Tootoo, our ministerial special representative Maatalii, and all the industry reps.
I think this has been very important in terms of this opportunity here in the South to come together to have these really important conversations.
My friend, and I guess, first ambassador to the North for me, Nancy Keratek-Lindell who really was part of us forming an Arctic caucus which allowed me to have my first trip North 20 years ago. I’ve been back ever since. We thank all of you.
I also wanted in this partnership to let everybody know it’s not just about me. I did want our team from Northern Affairs, Stephen Van Dine and Regional Director General David, Elizabeth, if you wouldn’t mind standing, everybody that works as a true partner from the government of Canada in the North.
This is one of my favourite things, to be in a room with people who love the North. This is a passion that we want to be even more contagious. We want even more Canadians to understand what they don’t know yet about the gift and the integrity and the identity that is part of the Canadian North.
It’s a real pleasure to be among people who share a passion for the future of Canada’s North.
When we look through this year’s conference and we congratulate the organizers and the chairs – you can only be struck by the growth and success of Northern Lights. In ten short years the conference has grown into a must-attend event for anyone interested in the North and Canada’s Arctic region.
Again this year the conference features compelling presentations and truly important discussions about the top issues and latest developments in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and the Northwestern Territories. From women and youth leaders such as Nellie Cournoyea and Elizabeth Sheutiapik, Mary Simon, Nancy Keratek-Lindell, Eva Aariak and the students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut.
It’s really a place where all of us come to hear from you and to learn. To academics and business leaders like Dr. Robert Greenwood and Perrin Beatty – this is going to be I think really important few days together. As well as of course the provincial and territorial Premiers, presidents and the CEO’s of the private companies together with the academics and researchers.
Delegates, I think now, have this opportunity to hear about Northerners’ plans and Northerners’ ideas for the future. It’s very exciting also to see that Inuit art and culture is being featured prominently at Northern Lights. We all know that art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, to inspire, to motivate and above all to heal.
I know everyone here is looking forward to seeing the arts and culture pavilion on February 3rd. It is really important for us to understand this year, this time, demarcates a real change. It was close to 40 years ago that Nellie Cournoyea, one of our national treasures, laid out the core challenge of our history that we must confront to be successful when she said paternalism has been a total failure.
I remember at the time seeing that from the women’s movement, but I now see it as the Minister responsible for the North as a very important statement and a very important situation that we now have the opportunity to break out from. It has been paternalism that has guided the history of Northern governance and it still has a federal Minister to administer its affairs.
It is telling that Canadians appreciate that ours is a Northern country but relatively few of those born in the South ever get to travel to the North or see what is up there. In fact the numbers are pretty clear that almost 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the American border. Where my cottage is, 100 miles north of Toronto, there are newspapers talking about the new North.
It is again what people’s idea of the North is, is somewhat misguided. We try to explain to people that Baker Lake is actually in the centre of Canada. This is a bit of education that we’ve got to do. As we in the South imagine it and even romanticize it, we are trying to say that unless you get there and listen to people you will not understand it. You have to experience it for yourself but you have to listen.
For decades we in the South have tried to manage it and many of us in the South grew up with the ideas of the North that were based on books and movies and works of art portraying it as a stark and barren place, an untamed and unforgiving wilderness. Years ago and I think some of you – I’ve talked to some of you about this – my brother-in-law John O’Brien, an art historian that was at Harvard and now at University of British Columbia, explained that the famous Group of Seven artists Lauren Harris and A.Y. Jackson had been invited onto the coast guard ice breakers to paint our North as an expression of Canadian sovereignty.
The Group of Seven works defined a popular imagination of the Canadian landscape and yet finally in the 1960’s the Inuit artists began to reflect their homeland, the Inuit Nunangat throughout Canada and explain it was more than just a landscape.
Unless you go North you cannot understand the majesty of the land and the water and the ice but you also cannot understand the dignity of the people.
It is the people in communities that Southerners don’t really understand. The colonizer’s attitude of superiority still prevails, that somehow others know what would be best for the North and Northerners.
It was only in the 1960’s that Inuit people entered the consciousness of Canadians. Inuk artist Ashevak and her fellow artists at the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative taught us to see the North differently.
The iconic piece “The Enchanted Owl” presented another Northern vision, one of boldness and strength, of rich tradition and culture, and the late Annie Pootoogook took us to the next step portraying the reality of daily lives in today’s Arctic both its strengths and its challenges.
Some of her works touch on the difficulties Northern families face and highlight life in the North. The exhibition “Cutting Ice” is at the McMichael Gallery near Toronto until February 11th and celebrates the strength, contemporaneity and the influence of Pootoogook’s work. This is an example of how courageous art can inspire us all to be a positive force for change.
The simple truth is that no-one knows the North better than Northerners.
We in the South will fail over and over again to support the North if we do not listen to the North.
When I visited the Franklin Expedition exhibit in Greenwich at the National Maritime Museum in London it was truly impressive how the curators took us into that time but importantly into the perspectives of Inuit.
There was this voice recording, a hundred year old voice recording which was so revealing. The Inuk Elder’s voice described their first impressions of the strange people that had been handed down through oral history. Three times in this very short tape it said “and their hats weren’t attached to their coats.”
Then he said again, “and their hats weren’t attached to their coats” and then one more time.
It explains perhaps why Inuit were more than skeptical about these foreigners who had come to their land, and I must say that to me as the Minister why it’s so infuriating to Indigenous people in our country that settlers thought their ways were superior. Paternalism has always been a total failure so it’s time to change our ways.
That’s precisely why the Government of Canada is now working closely with Northerners to develop an Arctic Policy Framework to replace Canada’s Northern Strategy.
At the Arctic Circle meeting in Reykjavik Iceland this past fall we were concerned with participants from Southern countries expressing their view that the Arctic was a common good.
As Canadians we expressed that we are of the view that Arctic policy must represent the priorities of the people who live there. We also know that’s why the Arctic policy must have both domestic and international components if we’re going to get this right. Right now we’re conducting the innovative co-development process with Northerners, territorial and provincial governments and Indigenous peoples most of whom in the North are self-governing or on their way to it.
Two weeks ago I spent time in Iqaluit with the group of emerging young leaders and elders where we had a frank discussion about Northern priorities. One of the participants expressed his healthy skepticism in the South’s ability to make decisions for the North. He asked me what I will do to put the power to make decisions in the hands of Northerners.
The spirit of his question must be the spirit of the Arctic Policy Framework. The decisions about the North must be made in the North. The Arctic Policy Framework will demarcate the change. The days of paternalism are over. We will go forward co-developing the policy framework.
We must make sure the policies about the North are made by the North.
The Framework has generated a lot of interest on social media and the Web, so much so that the deadline for public to make submissions has been extended a month to the end of February so we can make sure we are listening to the voices of all Northerners who want to contribute. That is at Canada.ca/arctic-together.
Our work is building on the amazing work of Mary Simon, a brilliant and inspirational leader.
As you know she consulted broadly with Northerners and published a report on what she heard.
Her report, “A Shared Arctic Leadership Model,” captured the spirit of the problem we are now working with Northerners to solve. “The simple fact is that Arctic strategies throughout my lifetime have rarely matched or addressed the magnitude of the basic gaps between what exists in the Arctic and what other Canadians take for granted. Closing these gaps is what Northerners across the Arctic want to speak to me about as an urgent priority.”
If our actions are grounded in the fervent belief that the future of the North must be shaped by Northerners – and they are – I believe we will be successful in not just closing the gaps but creating an environment for strong Northern communities to prosper and thrive.
This is how we end the history of paternalism.
We listen and we empower people to make decisions about their lands and resources.
What we are doing is building on the work we’ve already started with Indigenous communities in the North. We’re focused on community building, strong governance that stands in stark contrast to the paternalism and colonialism that the South brought to the North. Most Indigenous communities in the North hold modern treaties and many are self-governing. They are a shining example to First Nations and to others seeking to get out from under the Indian Act.
The Inuit land claim is settled and we are working together on its full implementation.
These agreements break the paternalistic colonial model by working as democratic institutions to implement the priorities of their people.
Since Budget 2016 the government funds Inuit in Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and elsewhere to deliver housing for their communities.
Our government now supports the Tłı̨chǫ government in their delivery of culturally appropriate health programs such as home and community care in communities of Behchokǫ̀, Gamètì, Whatì and Wekweètì in the Northwest Territories.
We’re hopeful to celebrate the conclusion of new agreements in the coming year for the Inuvialuit region and for the communities in Sahtu.
An important aspect of responsible development as Northerners have been telling us for years is clean energy. The Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity Program lovingly known as REACHE is centered on the idea that Northerners know best what their communities need to thrive.
Community based proposals like Iqaluit’s district energy system to capture waste heat for the aquatic centre and the Kluane Lake Wind Project in Yukon are transforming the North.
Budget 2017 committed more than $53 million to the Northern REACHE program.
The Government of Canada also provides $400 million in the Arctic Energy Fund and supports energy security for Northern communities. These investments will help Canada achieve its goal to advance clean energy and support the leadership in Indigenous remote communities in the North in creating their own clean energy transition.
There is still a long way to go but we are determined to get there, working in collaboration with Indigenous leadership, territorial governments and all our partners.
Even as we take these important steps, climate change remains an issue that has a major impact in the North.
Residents of communities across the North report that the sea-ice conditions are increasingly dangerous and unpredictable.
In Canada’s western Arctic the permafrost is thawing. That’s perma as in permanent; and the landscape is eroding into the Mackenzie River and into the ocean.
I remember the first time I went to Tuktoyaktuk in 1999 we visited a community freezer dug into the permafrost.
Climbing down the ladder into it we could see the rivulets of water drizzling down the walls.
We knew then that the permafrost was melting.
The government is determined that Canada’s policies on climate change be informed by the views of Indigenous people who live in the North.
We need policies grounded in Indigenous knowledge and community experience. Canada has invested significant amounts in two programs to tap into this type of Indigenous knowledge. $25 million will support Indigenous organizations participate in the development of domestic climate change policy. More than $83 million will help to integrate traditional Indigenous knowledge into community based climate monitoring and climate change adaptation.
By giving a greater voice to Northerners in how we develop policies and how we invest in the North we are dismantling old paternal approaches piece by piece.
But still we must do more.
As you know the Prime Minister made a decision to dissolve the old colonial Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and to establish in its place two new departments.
As the first Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs it’s my job to ensure that we are building two new ministries – form follows function.
That means that both Indigenous Services with Dr. Philpott and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs must be created as structures with processes that respond to the needs of our partners.
My new responsibilities also include working with all ministries with provinces and territories to decolonize…moving from denial to a Recognition of Rights Framework and to self-determination.
As we institute this transition across government I am reminded of another quote by Nellie Cournoyea when she said in an interview several years ago “we need to challenge ourselves to find ways to engage the mind and spirit of a generation of Northerners.”
I think there is inspiration all around Canada. Zita Cobb, I think some of you know of the successful Fogo Island project, speaks of economic and cultural resiliency. As you know she is the successful entrepreneur who reinvested her money and energy into her community.
The Fogo Island Inn project built a booming tourism industry on Fogo Island and the Shorefast Foundation is now the biggest employer on the island.
Visitors can hire community guides and the entire community benefits.
What was very interesting as she presented to Cabinet in St. John’s was that her approach to community building through economic nutrition labels.
This label identifies the products labour materials and packaging costs as well as the surplus made with each sale and what percentage for every dollar is going back into the region.
In the cards that are at the hotel or the Fogo Island Inn or of the furniture, on the back are nutrition labels just like they would be for food labeling that show you how much money stayed in the region in terms of any investment that is made.
To Zita transparency is the new green.
What this ‘economic nutrition’ labeling shows is a response to what we as Northern Ministers had unfortunately given the name of “economic leakage.”
It was actually to respond to the fact that we need economic activity in the North to lead to an economic benefit in the North.
The money needs to stay in the North and not literally go South.
Growth in tourism in the North also comes at an auspicious time in Canada’s history as Canadians began to embrace reconciliation with Indigenous people.
Properly managed tourism can be a powerful force for reconciliation. Non-Indigenous people learn firsthand what we never learned in school… First Nations, Inuit and Métis culture, their ways of knowing, world view.
The respectful presentation and sharing of authentic experiences and the understanding of the importance of the land and the water and the ice can help to raise awareness of Indigenous culture among Canadians as well as our international visitors.
It’s not surprising on the label here for Northern Lights that there’s the aurora borealis, the polar bear, the Northern star and these are things that we believe you shouldn’t have to be an MP to get to go and see firsthand. I did want to share with you that in my hotel room in Reykjavik there was a dormer window here such that all night you could see the sky if you wanted to.
We know that tourism also helps to forge links between the history and the future First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation.
Also it’s a renewable resource. As one elder told me, you can sell a canoe trip over and over and over.
I’d like to also point out that some of the examples of Indigenous owned businesses and economic development partnership.
This past summer I was honoured to visit TMAC’s Hope Bay Mine with the represents from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association. The mine, which poured its first gold bar almost a year ago, is part owned by KIA.
During my site visit the successes of the partnership were made clear to me.
The benefits went beyond Inuit employment and contracting, went to the culture of the mine. Throughout the site were signs reminding people they are responsible to care for the land and the wildlife. Engineers and the KIA both told me about the great care they take to protect archeological sites.
The values of the mine site reflected Inuit values and the economic benefits which flow to Inuit.
Community members need to know that innovative partnerships will keep the wealth in communities and improve the quality of life.
True partnerships work by putting partners on equal footing. They inspire communities to dream big.
Working together on the Arctic Policy Framework is exciting as we gather ideas and feedback from Northerners. We are already seeing that at the centre are the people.
The Northern Lights conference offers this wealth of opportunity to learn about Canada’s Arctic from the people who live there.
Northerners come South to educate us and teach us.
They invite all Canadians to come and visit, to truly experience the North and to listen and learn. Northern Lights is an invaluable forum for Canadians from above and below the 60th parallel to discuss together how to meet the significant challenges in the North.
We Southerners need to listen carefully over the next few days.
We need to keep our minds open and learn. It really is exciting.
We need to have Canadians plan their visits coast to coast to coast. Together we can ensure that the North shares fully in Canada’s prosperity.
Let us all work together to ensure that the North shares fully in Canada’s prosperity.
Northern Lights is important. The Northern Lights are in our hearts and in our minds and as you know a part of the identity of Canadians. It is the true North strong and free.
Thank you all, merci beaucoup, Qujjanamiik, Matna, Quanaq.