Dr. Dawg

Northern Realpolitik

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Five nations' representatives meet in Chelsea, Quebec, to divvy up the Arctic. Missing from the table: Iceland, Finland and Sweden.

Oh--and the aboriginal populations of the region in question.

Nunavut means "Our Land" in English. Whose land? No invitation for Inuit:

"It is inconceivable that the Government of Canada would contemplate holding a conference to discuss economic development and environmental protection in the Arctic without the active participation of Inuit, who will have to live with the consequences of any new government policies. This reeks of paternalism," said acting president [of the Inuit Tapiirat Kanatami] Pita Aatami. [emphasis added]

No kidding. And ITK President Mary Simon is just as blunt:

[T]he people who have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years, and who will be the most affected by the potential outcomes of this meeting, have not been invited to sit at the table. Quite frankly, we find it absolutely inconceivable that the Canadian government would contemplate such a thing. Inuit have a long history of working with whatever government is in power on a very wide range of both national and international issues. We should put that experience to work, and we see no reason why we have been excluded from this discussion. Our position is, and always has been, that Inuit are not content to be passive bystanders while the fate of our homeland, our people, and our culture, is discussed and planned for by others.

The Chelsea meeting was great-power chauvinism of the worst kind, a throwback to the Western "spheres of influence" in China, an unpleasant colonialist echo of the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884-5 when Africa was parceled out to European colonizing nations.

Such thinking by the wise white men of the ages dies hard--as well as the misery they have wrought. Nunavut has a tuberculosis rate 185 times that of the general Canadian population. (You read right.) And Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which administers the Nunavut land-claim agreement, has had to expend enormous resources to sue the federal government to get the the latter to honour its side of the deal. One can easily sense the tone of despair in conciliator Thomas Berger's comprehensive Final Report on the implementation process--a depressing but recommended read.

And this is just one of the aboriginal populations
with Arctic shoreline in the circumpolar region--shoved off to one side while the Great White Fathers talk and decide, as they have done for centuries. No wonder the natives are restless.

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton weighs in. [H/t Scott Tribe]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on March 29, 2010 11:40 AM.

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