• A view of the shoreline in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

    Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., is crumbling into the Arctic Ocean due to climate change-related coastal erosion. (Photo: Adam Jones/CC by-SA 3.0)

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national representational organization for 65,000 Inuit in Canada, will introduce the first-ever Inuit-led climate strategy this afternoon in Inuvik, Inuvialuit Settlement Region (Northwest Territories), and the federal government has pledged $1-million to support it.

The National Inuit Climate Change Strategy (NICCS) calls for a coordinated climate policy in Inuit Nunangat and comes in response to the global climate crisis and its disproportionate effects on northern Indigenous Peoples. It follows a federal climate change report released in April 2019, which found that the North is warming at three times the rate of the global average, and violent storms, thawing permafrost and rising sea levels are quickening the pace of erosion in its communities. 

“Inuit have felt as though we need to clarify our positions,” says Natan Obed, president of ITK. “We have worked with this federal government on climate change, but we still have not found that the Inuit voice is incorporated in the Canadian discussion as much as it could be and the interests within Inuit Nunangat have not been addressed as quickly or as comprehensively as we had hoped.”

The federal government’s $1-million is the first part of a multi-year funding plan that will go toward implementing the strategy and addressing immediate infrastructure concerns as many communities grapple with coastal erosion.

“You cannot talk about climate change without bringing in Indigenous Peoples, and in particular Inuit, who are the most affected,” says Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, who will announce the federal funding at the event in Inuvik today along with Obed, Duane Smith, chair and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, and James Eetoolook, vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. “I think solutions are a very important part of their strategy. You’re seeing examples of Inuit communities looking at how they can be energy independent — and linking it to Indigenous knowledge. We’re happy to support this to implement it, and we think we can learn a lot and share this knowledge internationally.”

The 46-page NICCS was two years in the making by a working group comprising representatives from the four land claim regions, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the National Inuit Youth Council and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. Together they identified five priority areas to improve Inuit quality of life and protect their roles as rights holders and knowledge keepers, such as advancing Inuit capacity and knowledge in climate decision-making, improving Inuit and environmental health and wellness outcomes, reducing the climate vulnerability of Inuit and market food systems, closing the infrastructure gap in Inuit Nunangat with climate-resilient new builds and supporting regional and community-driven energy solutions. The NICCS also provides case studies of Inuit-led climate initiatives and partnerships already in communities across Inuit Nunangat.

“We’ll take a trip to Tuktoyaktuk today, which is literally falling into the sea, and coastal erosion is threatening the very existence of a place where Inuit have lived for hundreds of years,” says Obed. “Inuit have to play a central role because this is where the battlegrounds are when it comes to climate in this country.”