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Let an Inuk do the job: NTI

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Ottawa (Mar 14/05) - Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.'s (NTI) president Paul Kaludjak is worried that a non-Inuk who cannot speak Inuktitut is going to be selected to fill the newly-created Inuit Secretariat role within the federal government's department of Indian and Northern Affairs (DIAND).

Kaludjak said he heard a candidate had been chosen for the position last week, and from what he could gather the candidate did not "fit the picture."

"We had a plan," said Kaludjak in a phone interview from Ottawa. "They don't necessarily have to be Inuit. We can live with that. But our initial direction was this person needs to be Inuit and needs to understand Nunavut."

The Inuit Secretariat role was announced during a meeting Prime Minister Paul Martin held with aboriginal leaders on April 19, 2004.

The creation of the role, which is intended to improve and enhance Inuit relations with the federal government, was widely praised at the time by NTI and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) who said the role was "an important step" for Inuit. "We have advocated for an Inuit-specific approach to policy making for years," said ITK president Jose Kusugak at the time, who saw the new job ushering in a new era of understanding.

Kaludjak, who was also excited over the creation of the new position, is now concerned all that hope is going down the drain with what he calls "the normal course of action" in Ottawa.

"Once again, no change for us," said Kaludjak. "All we wanted to see was, you know, give us a chance. We have able Inuit who can fill the job."

A spokesman for DIAND said nothing has been finalized for the Inuit Secretariat role yet.

"No announcement has been made yet," said Al Flemming at DIAND. "It's premature for us to discuss it. We are still working to establish the Inuit Secretariat. We are most keen to get the best qualified person for the job."

Flemming said DIAND wants to discuss possible candidates with NTI and other Inuit organizations before a decision is made. Even then, the role will be an interim position, he said.