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The Inherent Right of Self Governance | Rosemarie Kuptana | Walrus Talks


[Applause] … my name is Rosemarie Kuptana,
Inuinnaqtun name is … and my nickname is … I’m an Inuk, I was
born in an igloo in the Prince of Wales Strait which is part of the Northwest
Passage. It is my hope that such a conversation starter as a Walrus Talks
leads to a more meaningful relationships between all of us Canadians. As Inuit,
we share what we knew because that is our way, for all humans to survive in our
territory. That immense sense of sharing and adaptation is what drives Inuit,
that is how we survive. This year marks two very significant events in our
history: Canada is 150 years old and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
turns thirty-five this year, it was enshrined thirty-five years ago. However, I see a lack of
reflection of Inuit in the Canadian Constitution 1982 outside of Section 35
which begins: “The existing Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of the Aboriginal peoples
of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.” In my analysis,
this falls within the antiquated 15th century doctrine of discovery, also known
as “terra nullius.” Why do I say this? When outsiders arrived in Canada, they did not
find Indigenous peoples in chaos but in highly organized governance structures—
that is our inherent right of self-government which Inuit view as an
aspect of the larger right at the international level, the right of
self-determination. The terra nullius doctrine has been condemned by the
United Nations as a piece of legal mythology. Well, Canada, do the same. Inuit
desire a better Canada, a Canada that’s inclusive and reflects the reality of
Inuit by virtue of an explicit recognition in Canada’s highest law, the
Canadian Constitution 1982—meaning, our inherent right of self-government. Prime
Minister Trudeau must finish what his father began and go beyond by making the
negotiation table a level playing field in the human race arena in Canada. What
are the barriers outside of uncertainty and fear mongering to our recognition?
Take a leap of faith; inform us of what the barriers to our recognition as a
people are—perhaps we might be able to remedy them, and perhaps we might be able
to subside the fears of power-sharing by our nation. Inuit have been here for
thousands of years. These are the characteristics that define Inuit: our
language, our culture, our traditions, our values, our geography, and our history. But
we are more than that, we also are members of the Canadian human family. We
welcomed the explorers and the traders, whalers, newcomers, and settlers to our
home in the spirit of sharing on which the Inuit society is based upon. These
were the people whom my grandmother said we had to help. My hope, my vision, is that
one day the same sense of sharing will be
reciprocated. We Inuit have a proven track record of nation-building and have
achieved recognition of the inherent right of self-government during the
1992 Charlottetown Constitutional Talks. It is
my belief that Canada can never go back on its word and its position—to do so
would dishonour the Crown. The fundamental human rights of Inuit
to self-government must be recognized and be constitutionally enshrined. The
concept of sharing might well be adopted by Canada in its attitudes and its
approaches to the Inuit. The North, as you may know, is not without its problems.
We need a lasting and meaningful economy, food security, housing—there are some
people in the territories in Nunavut and other places where twenty-five people live in one
home. We need education, food security, and infrastructure for ports and other
economic measures. Canada can do much more to meet the demands of these issues.
Today, I take part, as other Inuit, to celebrate Canada’s birthday with all
other Canadians. We love our homeland, and we love the rest of the country too. Not
only can we be friends and compatriots, but we can also be partners, sovereign
partners, in a relationship that is based on love, recognition, and respect. I think
the time has long passed. Thank you. [Applause]

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