Last week the federal Indigenous services minister Marc Miller came to Iqaluit to announce an upcoming call for proposals for Indigenous shelters in Canada, alongside Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) president Aluki Kotierk.
With vaccination rates increasing across Canada and more and more provinces opening up Miller is simply happy to be meeting up with people once more.
“I’ve been stuck in Ottawa for 15, 16 months, obviously setting the example to work in crisis mode but I can’t do my job properly if I don’t get out and meet people … you can’t do it sitting in a chair in Ottawa.”
During his visit he sat down with a number of different media outlets at Iqaluit’s Black Heart Cafe, including Nunavut News, where he spoke about the announcement as well as a number of other issues.
‘The price gouge is not right’
Food security has been a longstanding issue in Nunavut. If there’s one thing the feds learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s to support others who provide their own community supports.
“If you can derive something positive from the global pandemic, it’s making sure people who know best how to keep their people safe, get the resources they need to keep people safe,” said Miller.
“The report that was issued by ITK, it’s a huge path in the right direction because it isn’t just about the Northern store which is important, it’s about how you structure food security, land options and things around sustainability.”
The recent ITK report he says is something himself, Northern affairs minister Daniel Vandal and Crown-Indigenous relations minister Carolyn Bennett have been working on.
He hopes to “come up with something that reflects that report,” acknowledging the flaws found in Nutrition North’s path to reducing food costs in Nunavut with many stores simply marking their prices up despite subsidies.
“The price gouge is not right, it’s obviously something that is a function of remoteness,” said Miller.
“That’s a discussion the Nutrition North program hasn’t really resolved and I think it’s one that will take a bit of time to fix because it’s about the economic model, obviously the economic model isn’t working.”
Self government and reconciliation
In March during the NTI board of directors meeting in Baker Lake, the organization entered into a discussion around self-government and what sort of options they would have if they pursued it. Miller said they are within their rights to do so and did not claim to be familiar with the political situation surrounding it in Nunavut.
“Self-government discussions are never easy, self-determination discussions are never easy, particularly if you have the lived experiences of having been denied your rights,” said Miller.
In recent months there have been ongoing searches of residential school grounds across Canada, something that has brought back many memories for Indigenous people in Canada, Inuit and First Nations alike, Miller said the federal government is there to support them whatever they decide to.
“We’ll be there for any community that takes that difficult decision to do searches,” said Miller, whether in the form of financial aid for searches, or archaeological or forensic supports.
“There is no right or wrong path, we support communities and what the Truth and Reconciliation report tells us to do is to be there for communities and not necessarily be the face of it.”
On Monday, Canada’s first Indigenous and Inuk governor general, Mary Simon was sworn in.
“She’s an inspiration to everyone, Nunavummiut obviously, but to all Canadians. She’s really made groundbreaking strides and is an example to all,” said Miller.
“I think she’ll be able to move the needle around a number of discussions around truth and reconciliation, particularly in difficult times like these.”