From February 8-11, Ottawa’s Shaw Centre played host to the Northern Lights Business and Cultural Showcase, and both Nunavik and Makivvik were well represented at the event with about 29 staff from all departments, including Construction, and about 20 Nunavik artists able to showcase their talents in the nation’s capital. The goal of the conference is to share the best of Canada’s Eastern Arctic and North, whether it be industry, tourism, arts and culture, or the many other areas where progress and opportunities are happening.
But showcasing is only part of the event. It also promotes stronger relationships between northern regions and organizations and allows the opportunity to establish new relationships with southern businesses. The conference had an arts and cultural pavilion where participants and the public could shop, and a trade show floor, featuring a variety of northern organizations and businesses. Workshops and sessions were offered throughout the event, on many topics including Indigenous tourism and economic development, international shipping, mining, and sustainable fisheries. Makivvik staff and other Nunavimmuit were involved in many of the events, including the social networking opportunities, like Nunavik Night.
Makivvik President Pita Aatami delivered a luncheon keynote address:
Pita spoke passionately about the fight for Inuit self-determination, highlighting the successes of Makivvik and its subsidiaries. He offered thanks to the Government of Canada for recent funding announcements, and described Inuit as a welcoming and helpful people, but reminded the crowd that while Nunavik’s doors are open to business, business and developers coming into the region must first work first with Inuit, as it is their land. He said he’s a big supporter of education and there is now a much-needed focus on regaining culture and language. Here is an excerpt from his speech:
“We all know the technological age has also touched us. People are on Tik Tok, it’s all in English most of the time so a lot of our youth are losing their languages. We want to keep that language strong, so we’ve started focusing on language and culture as one of our mandates. Unfortunately, we didn’t start to focus on this until it’s almost too late. We will focus on this through Makivvik and through the Government of Canada, through Heritage Canada. That’s a challenge that we’ll be fighting for. Like the French, we don’t want to lose our language. We respect French people wanting to keep their language. We’re the same as you. If you don’t want to lose your language, we’re the same. Respect us for who we are. There are two official languages in Canada, French and English, as we all know. Why not make Inuktitut an official language? If I do get my own government one day, that will be our official language.”
“On the self-determination front, I spoke a little bit about this, we haven’t even started negotiating yet because I must deal with the Quebec government. They haven’t named anyone onto this table yet, even though we have a team that’s ready to start negotiations. Quebec wants to know, ‘what do you want in self-determination?’ The wording itself explains it right away: self-determination. That’s all we’re asking for. Don’t tell me how I should live and what we should do in my area, like I said earlier, because it’ll never work now. This is colonialism that people are talking about and we’re starting to get away from, it is going away, but it’s very slow. It’s still there up to today, anything that the government might decide to do they do consult with us, but they are the ones that are making the decision, so we want to get away from this.”