Greater sense of pride

Diane Crocker
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NunatuKavut president says Inuit nation will continue to fight for recognition

Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut Community Council in Labrador, speaks during "A Public Presentation: Identity Politics," at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.

Todd Russell told a group of people gathered at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland Thursday night how nice it was to be invited into a room and to be respected there.

Russell the president of NunatuKavut, a non-profit aboriginal organization representing some 6,000 Inuit people of Labrador, presented a talk at the Corner Brook university, titled “A Public Presentation: Identity Politics,” to some 24 people.

Russell said that welcome feeling is not something that he and his people always experience. It was through his talk that he provided a history of NunatuKavut and of the struggles the Inuit people faced in the past and continue to face.

He spoke of identity politics and said that those who don’t meet the stereotype of what an aboriginal is supposed to be don’t get the rights.

And the fight to be recognized and granted the same rights as everyone else is something that he said will continue.

“In Labrador they have used artificial definitions, stereotypes which are false to build myths on who’s real and who’s not, who’s authentic and who’s not,” he said after the presentation. “And because they do that, they take licence with closing doors to consultation with not allowing people to be fully engaged in developments, or potential projects like Muskrat Falls, to deny people their aboriginal rights, to not be in land claims processes and even to deny people health and education programs.”

At the end of the day, Russell said it’s really all about a land war.

“The province feels it owns this land even though they can’t name the places, they don’t hunt there, they don’t fish there, they don’t feed their families there. They want this land and it’s about resources.”

Sense of identity

During his talk, Russell spoke of the sense of identity the Inuit people have, and how they know who they are.

He said one of the biggest strides his people has made is the greater sense of pride and place that they have.

“That’s a strength of our nation. That’s a strength of our community. That’s a strength of our people that will continue. When we have that, we will never lose.

“And that will help us in our fight for full and fair recognition under the law, in negotiations with governments to make sure that we have equal services with the rest of Canadians,” he said.

“I’m not sure there is a clock,” said Russell, but he has no doubt that recognition will come. “We deserve it. It is right. It is just.”

As for the Muskrat Falls project, Russell said the Inuit will continue the fight to defend their rights, to protect their sacred lands and be included in the decision making process.

Thursday night’s event was sponsored by Grenfell Humanities with support of the NunatuKavut Community Council and the Office of Public Engagement and it was one Russell said he felt was important to be a part of.

“I have a responsibility to my own people and I’m accountable to my own people, but I believe I have a wider responsibility to go out into the community and to certainly provide information, to provide our perspective and to invite the partnerships that are necessary for us to resolve our issues.”

Organizations: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Corner Brook university, NunatuKavut Community Council Office of Public Engagement

Geographic location: Labrador

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