NCC addresses recently increased lateral violence and bullying

Today, President Russell delivered an address to members to respond to the recent increasing lateral violence and bullying against NCC and NunatuKavut Inuit. He was joined by some of his fellow Governing Councillors.

Below is a transcript of President’s Russell’s remarks. Please check against delivery.

Ullukut (ul/lou/kut)

Todd-y-uvunga

Good day. My name is Todd Russell.

I am President of the NunatuKavut Community Council and I am joined here today by some of my Governing Council colleagues.

To our fellow NunatuKavut Inuit, we are proud to represent you, a strong and resilient people who know adversity. A people who know struggle. But a people who have persevered.

We did so by relying on the strength of our culture, by supporting one another, by caring for one another and doing the hard work that was necessary.

Today, I address a very serious matter that has deeply affected our community: the recent surge in bullying and lateral violence relating to our identity – to who we are and where we come from.

There is no doubt that this increased lateral violence in its many forms has been both ignited and perpetuated by actions and words coming from Indigenous leaders within the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Nunatsiavut Government and the Innu Nation.

Each of these Indigenous organizations have seeminly chosen to spend considerable time and effort on a misinformation and bullying campaign that seeks to undermine our very existence. One that seeks to deny and erase Inuit culture and history.

These campaigns are built upon lies and falsehoods. It is deeply offensive to our people and should be offensive to all Inuit and all people.

To falsely allege that we are trying to take something away from another Indigenous group and cause harm is reprehensible. Suggesting that NunatuKavut Inuit are somehow a threat or a risk to their members’ lands or culture…their programs or their services, is baseless, and inflammatory.

These false allegations are indeed inflaming behaviours and conduct – creating divisions within our families and within our communities. 

We have never responded to these campaigns with similar conduct – we have never acted this way and we have never been taught to act in this way. And NCC does not govern in this way.

Harvesting on our lands, fishing in our own waters, gathering berries, providing for family and kin will never, and has never, caused harm to any other Indigenous peoples.

Providing medical help and housing and other types of assistance to our young and to our Elders has never, and will never, cause harm to any others.

Just recently, one of our youth, an 11-year old girl, experienced physical, verbal, and emotional violence for what? Wearing a hat that had our NunatuKavut logo on it? There is a video circulating of this incident and it is heart wrenching.

We are also hearing many other stories of violence. Of how it manifests itself into discrimination and prejudice at academic institutions and within workplaces.

And cyberbullying has increased on Facebook and other social media platforms. Unfortunately, much of it is coming from youth.

NCC is also experiencing violence on our own social media accounts. Staff have been personally targeted and harassed.

Some of these behaviours have been targeted at members who are survivors of residential schools, causing renewed trauma.

These types of behaviours have been traumatizing and we know the impacts that it is having on our mental health and wellbeing.

We know that words and actions can cross the line into criminal behaviour. We encourage you to act and report any type of this behaviour to your local authorities. It cannot and should not be tolerated.

Violence in all forms should be called out and condemned by all people in all places.

Today, we hold Mr. Obed, Mr. Lampe and Mr. Pokue personally accountable for their words and actions.

We call upon them to stop their campaigns of lateral violence, of misinformation, and residential school denialism. We call upon these elected leaders to cease making defamatory statements about our people. 

We must come together as Indigenous peoples to address our common challenges, not sow division and discord.

History has shown that we have and can work together to accomplish progress on common issues.

Today, we are also holding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada accountable for the increase in lateral violence and bullying that our people are experiencing.

Indeed, we also observe and know there is great division and hostility among many Indigenous peoples across Canada.

The federal government’s years of inaction, specifically on our rights recognition process and the lack of commitment on advancing the priorities of NunatuKavut Inuit, have emboldened the actions of those who are inflicting harm.

Prime Minister Trudeau, the time is NOW to live up to your commitments to advance our Inuit rights and, in so doing, advance the rights of all Inuit.

Although long overdue, we must work harder and in a much more focussed way to address critical issues like the health care inequities that many of our communities face, which includes lack of access to culturally appropriate mental health services.

We are seeing growing concern from our people about the inability to access federal funding for health support. Despite our calls for help and proposal submissions, our people continue to be unable to access and afford the most basic care.

The rise in lateral violence is now exasperating already unmet need.

We call upon the federal government to act NOW. It is time to end their political games and to stop creating winners and losers at their own discretion.

Our people have waited long enough for justice and fairness, for inclusion and respect. The time is always right to do the right thing.

As President, and as a Governing Council, we must ensure that our people, NunatuKavut Inuit, are supported and have what they need.

We have always known who we are, where we come from, who we come from, and why we matter.

We are Inuit. We come from Inuit. And we are still living on the lands and waters of our ancestors.

These are the facts of history. Inuit have lived all along what is now the coast of Labrador long before the arrival of Europeans.

That the places that our ancestors lived in, that we continue to live in, form part of Inuit Nunangat. The homeland of the Inuit.

It is a fact that our people defended our lands and entered into the British-Inuit Treaty of 1765.

It is also a fact that we descended from those same Inuit.

It is a fact we travel on the same travel routes of those who came before us. That we harvest on the same lands. That we fish in the same waters. That we trap on the same traplines.

It is a fact that we have won in the courts and have many relationships and agreements with both the provincial and federal governments and other bodies.

NCC remains undeterred. We continue to focus on the work that we need to do that ensures that our people are safe, healthy and well.

We recently approved our annual budget. It is focussed on strengthening our Inuit governance. Continuing with these vital programming like medical transportation program and home repair.

We have developed and implemented our Constitution and our own laws and this work continues.

We are advancing the revitalization of our culture and language. We just received federal funds of $1.5 million over five years to advance this work.

We are ensuring that our lands, waters and ice and our people are protected from the climate change crisis.

We are working to ensure affordable housing for our families, and affordable heating for our homes.

We are working to increase access to healthy, affordable and sustainable food, such as our greenhouse imitative and our community freezer program.

We are building on our work around fisheries management and we will continue with our food fishery this year, as we have for decades.

We work with many partners and allies to help ensure the safety of those who take to the water and fish to make a living. These types of efforts help all people in the territory and across Labrador.

We are having serious conversations about energy sovereignty with both the federal and provincial governments.

And working to ensure that NunatuKavut Inuit, and NCC, are fully consulted and included when resource development is considered in our territory. This includes any future development on the Churchill River. This is the law of the land.

Those who attended our Annual General Assembly in February gave clear direction to NCC on this matter, as well as clear mandates around securing NunatuKavut Inuit rights and recognition in the Mealy Mountains National Park and at academic institutions.

This is important work that makes sure we always have access to our traditional places.

We will also continue to build up our families and unify our communities. That is who we are as a rights-bearing people and as an Inuit governing body.

So I say to our people who are watching this today. I am proud the lead the resurgence in pride and confidence that I see in the Inuit of NunatuKavut each and everyday. In who we are and where we come from.

Over the coming days, weeks and months, NCC will releasing more information that showcases our history and our culture. We will share the beautiful stories of our ancient land, our beautiful land, our families and communities.

As a priority, our Health and Community Services department will be putting together an anti-violence committee to develop an anti-violence strategy for NunatuKavut.

I want to assure the people of NunatuKavut, our families and communities, that NCC is there for you.

We are working tirelessly to protect your, our rights, our way of life and wellbeing.

We will continue to move forward to strengthen our relationships and our governance.

We will do this respecting all people, whether they live in or outside NunatuKavut.

To our people, I am immensely proud of you, your family and your community. I see you demonstrating so much respect and pride in your culture and our rich heritage.

We have always been here. This is our home.

Nakummek.