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Inuit and the Canadian Arctic: Sovereignty Begins at Home – A Public Lecture by the President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

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Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organization, will give a public lecture entitled Inuit and the Canadian Arctic: Sovereignty Begins at Home on Thursday, October 18th, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. at Glendon College’s Senate Chamber.

Simon’s lecture will set out the Inuit position on Arctic sovereignty and propose ways to assert that sovereignty. Her presentation will endeavour to fulfill a number of objectives, such as informing outsiders about the creativity and practicality of the Inuit society’s domestic policies, increasing the well-being of the Arctic’s Inuit communities, and acquainting others with the size and strength of Inuit ships.

In a recently published article with the same title (
Inuit and the Canadian Arctic: Sovereignty Begins at Home) in the summer 2007 issue of Above and Beyond Magazine, Simon posits some of the most important issues in negotiations concerning Arctic sovereignty, among these the inclusion of Inuit leaders in any relevant discussions. “The bedrock of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic is the history, use and occupation of Arctic lands and waters by Inuit for thousands of years,” she states. “There must be a credible power-sharing partnership between Inuit and the government, and a determination to overcome the obvious gaps in basic measurements of well-being that separate Inuit from all other Canadians.”

Born in Kangirsualuujuaq (George River) in Nunavik (Northern Quebec), Mary Simon has devoted her life's work towards gaining further recognition of Aboriginal rights and to promoting the study of northern affairs. She has gained the respect of many heads of government and international organizations through her diplomacy and firmness of purpose. She has become a respected international advisor on important issues such as the environment, human rights, scientific research and development and peace. She has received many honours for her leadership in developing strategies for Aboriginal and Northern affairs, among these the Order of Canada, National Order of Quebec, the Gold Order of Greenland, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. She is a Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America and of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

Starting out as producer and announcer with the CBC’s Northern Service, her career included increasingly responsible positions with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. For 14 years (from 1980 to 1994), Simon served as executive council member, and later president and special envoy of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. She was one of the senior Inuit negotiators during the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, the First Ministers’ Meetings (FMM) in the 1980s, and the Charlottetown Accord. Simon also served as a member of the Nunavut Implementation Commission in 1993. She was the ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade from 1994 to 2003, Canadian ambassador to Denmark (1999-2001) concurrently with her Circumpolar position, a member of the Joint Public Advisory Committee of NAFTA's Commission on Environmental Cooperation (1997-2000), and was the Commission’s chairperson from 1997-98. Mary Simon was the Chancellor of Trent University from1995 to 1999. In 2001, she was appointed councillor for the International Council for Conflict Resolution with the Carter Center. From November 2004 to February 2005, she worked with a team to facilitate and write the reports on the sectoral follow-up sessions announced by then prime minister Paul Martin at the conclusion of the April 19, 2004 Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable on Strengthening the Relationship on Health, Life Long learning, Housing, Economic Opportunities, Negotiations, and Accountability for Results. Simon was special advisor to the Labrador Inuit Association on the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement from 2004 to 2005. She was elected president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami on July 7, 2006.


The October 18th public lecture, Inuit and the Canadian Arctic: Sovereignty Begins at Home, is the first in a nation-wide lecture tour presented by Mary Simon, and an outstanding opportunity for students, faculty and staff to gain clearer insights and understanding of the issues concerning the Inuit and the Canadian Arctic. The lecture will be predominantly in English, but will also include some French and Inuit as well. Co-hosted by York Fine Arts professor Anna Hudson and Glendon professor of English Ian Martin, the lecture is open to everyone. A light reception will follow.

For further information, please contact professor Ian Martin, imartin@glendon.yorku.ca, or professor Anna Hudson, ahudson@yorku.ca.

Article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny


Published on October 10, 2007