Arctic priorities: a northern perspective.

Author:Okalik, Paul

Ulluukut. Good Morning. Bonjour. Thank you for your kind introduction. Let me also thank the Canadian International Council for convening this conference and your interest in the role of the North in foreign policy.

With climate change, national security concerns and rapidly expanding resource development our northern coast is once again receiving broad media coverage. What needs to be included in this mix of issues and opportunities are the strengths and aspirations of the citizens who live in Nunavut.

The Inuit of Nunavut have lived for millennia off the knowledge of our land and the bounty of our seas. The fabled Northwest Passage is virtually synonymous with Nunavut. Anything that touches the Passage touches us. And ever since Europeans first came to our shores, the world has known of the riches and strategic importance of our waters. Any discussion of Northern sovereignty and security must begin from this point and recognize continuous Inuit use and occupation of our traditional territory. Northerners are the embodiment of Canada's Arctic sovereignty. We are its human dimension. This idea is not new. It has been the basis of Canada's argument internationally. The historic activities of Inuit are the essence of the sovereignty claim. The continued Inuit presence is actively engaged in managing and exercising jurisdiction throughout Nunavut.

It is now time to build capacity in the North and create a vision of Arctic stewardship in which Nunavummiut play a significant role. A Nunavut that is thriving cannot help but be recognized as validating our northern claim. The Government of Nunavut is doing its part. We are moving forward and preparing our citizens.

We are seeing results. Our high school graduation rate has increased by 50 per cent since 1999. We are building schools that will ensure Inuit culture, language and heritage remain strong in our communities. We recently approved the Official Languages Act, which marks a significant achievement in protecting our linguistic diversity and strengthening Inuit culture. We are building houses in every Nunavut community. By 2010, over 725 new public housing units will be built creating jobs, training and apprenticeship opportunities along with over $36 million in wages for Inuit. It is a fact that Nunavut's economy is growing by leaps and bounds. It grew by 13 per cent in 2007, even surpassing Alberta. Since the creation of Nunavut, over $1 billion has been spent on exploration in the territory. And...

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