Pan-Arctic Inuit org to anoint Okalik Eegeesiak as chair this July
ICC Canada picks international chair and official airline
(Updated Feb. 3, 4:55 p.m.)
The Inuit Circumpolar Council is expected to anoint Okalik Eegeesiak, 52, of Iqaluit as its chairperson at the international organization’s assembly in Inuvik this July, following a decision made Jan. 31 in Ottawa by ICC Canada’s six-member board.
Eegeesiak will succeed Aqqaluk Lynge, 66, the celebrated Greenlandic writer and political leader whose second four-year term as ICC chair expires this July, to become spokesperson for the 150,000 Inuit of Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Russia.
Lynge, a co-founder in the early 1970s of Greenland’s left-leaning Inuit Ataqatigiit party, was last acclaimed ICC chair in 2010 at ICC’s general assembly in Nuuk.
Lynge had previously served in that position between 1997 and 2002. He also represented Inuit at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and in 2012 received an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth College.
In 2011, Lynge presided over a major ICC declaration that set out the circumpolar Inuit position on oil and gas development in the Arctic: yes to development, but only if it’s sustainable and only if Inuit give their consent and receive benefits.
That declaration helped ICC present a unified stance following a period when Inuit leaders were becoming badly divided over climate change and resource development in the Arctic.
Eegeesiak, who new serves as president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, will likely be acclaimed — or “officially elected” — to ICC’s top job at the Inuvik gathering this July.
By convention, the chairmanship of the organization’s is supposed to rotate among the three biggest regional groups within ICC — Canada, Greenland and Alaska — usually depending on who hosts their quadrennial general assembly.
“It is the custom of ICC to have the Inuit leaders of the host country to nominate the chair,” the organization said in its news release.
One big exception to that practice occurred in 1995. ICC’s top job was supposed to revert to Greenland, whose delegation named Lynge up as their candidate.
But Rosemarie Kuptana of Canada, then president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, grabbed the chairmanship from Lynge at the organization’s assembly in Nome, Alaska.
Her tenure didn’t last long. Kuptana, who had already quit her ITK job in 1996, resigned from ICC in 1997. Lynge, who was re-confirmed as chair in 1998, took over and served until 2002, when he was succeeded by Sheila Watt-Cloutier of Kuujjuaq.
Eegeesiak has served as president of the QIA since 2009 and in 2013 was chosen chair of the financially-troubled Nunasi Corp.
She also served as president of ITK from 1997 to 2000, and has served as president of the Inuit Broadcasting Corp.
In the federal election campaign of 1997, Eegeesiak won 24 per cent of the vote in Nunavut as a candidate for the Progressive Conservative party.
In 2008, she attempted to run as an MLA candidate in Iqaluit Centre during the Nunavut territorial election that year, but was disqualified for failing to meet the residency requirement set out in the Nunavut Elections Act.
“My vision is to educate and advocate for a better quality of life inclusive of all services, education and infrastructure so that Inuit from Russia across to Greenland are mentally and physically healthier and have increase choices,” Eegeesiak said in a statement released Feb. 3.
“We have found some balance between our traditions and the changing world around us. Inuit have, can and will set out course and destiny,” she said.
Eegeesiak also said she is “humbled” to be nominated by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for the ICC position.
The ICC news release said her first job after taking over the chairmanship of ICC will be to oversee implementation of the “Inuvik Declaration” — a kind of policy to-do list expected to emerge after the July assembly.
Meanwhile, ICC has chosen the Inuit-owned Canadian North as its “official airline” for the Inuvik gathering.
“We welcome Canadian North as one of our major sponsors. This will mean a maximum number of delegates and participants will have the opportunity to travel to Inuvik,” Duane Smith, the president of ICC’s Canadian wing, said in a Canadian North news release.
Canadian North is owned 50-50 , through Norterra, by the Nunasi Corp. of Nunavut and the Inuvialuit Development Corp. of the Northwest Territories.
The decision to select Canadian North was made jointly by the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. and by ICC Canada.
The ICC assembly in Inuvik, the first to be held there since 1992, will bring together Inuit delegates from Canada, Greenland, Alaska and the far east of Russia.
The Russian Inuit component of ICC has never hosted an ICC general assembly or held the chairmanship of the organization.