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Two vying to head ITK

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 4, 2012

Two people are vying the presidency of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the organization announced.

Terry Audla of Iqaluit and Robert Watt of Ottawa are both seeking the presidency of the national Inuit organization. Current president Mary Simon had announced she will not seek re-election. The vote will take place at the completion of the organization's annual general meeting in Kuujjuaq on June 6.

Nunavut News/North asked each candidate why they're running, what they're hoping to achieve and what they consider to be their biggest challenge. Audla, who was born in Iqaluit and raised in Resolute, has served as the chief executive officer of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. He also worked 17 years with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

He said he's seeking the presidency since he feels he can help ITK build consensus between the four Inuit groups so Inuit have a strong voice across the country.

"I am running because I feel Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has still a huge role to play with respect to working with the four land claim groups - the Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut," he said.

Audla has one son and one daughter and is fluent in both English and Inuktitut.

The 42-year-old said creating that consensus among the four Inuit groups, as well as between government and Inuit, will be his biggest challenge.

"It (ITK) can still play a very important role in ensuring the land claim groups are actually implementing their land claims and making the lives of everyday Inuit better," he said.

Increasing awareness of the organization to give Inuit a renewed sense of pride, and to have ITK influence government policy, are things Audla said he hopes to achieve.

Watt, a native Montrealer raised in Kuujjuaq, established the Inuit Centre within the National Aboriginal Health Organization. He also participated in an inquiry into government-ordered dog slaughters in Nunavik in the 1950s and '60s. He has lived in Ottawa since 2010, working as the co-director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Inuit sub-commission. Watt said he has heard first-hand the many issues Inuit face daily traveling with the TRC for the last 18 months.

"I believe I've been able to get a sense of what's happening across Canada within the Inuit population," he said. "I decided this was an opportunity to take the lead, considering Mary (Simon) was no longer running. I felt a strong leadership needs to continue and I felt I would at least be able to move it forward to a new era."

The 44-year-old said Inuit need a strong voice at the national level as many want to tap in to renewable resources.

"I think a sense of unity is very important right now," he said. "I want to achieve this sense of unity within the board but as well the sense of unity and the sense of Inuit identity within Canada."

Watt said food security and housing are also big challenges.

"How do we ensure to convince the governments our Inuit need access to services they so need, such as mental health ... adequate housing, adequate food, proper training, education?" said Watt.

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