My Canada - Today and Tomorrow
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 12 May 2005, p. 405-412
Okalik, The Hon. Paul, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The Nunavut Dream as an extension of the National Dream. Nunavummiut today. Reference to Mr. Berton. Some history. Current recognition in world-class art work and cultural representations. Potential for Nunavut. The Northern Strategy launched last December. The Nunavut fishery, natural resources and tourism sectors. Exploration investment. A Canada-Nunavut devolution agreement - what it means. Jurisdictional control of natural resources. Work to do when it comes to social and economic indicators for education, health and life expectancy. Training and education. Lack of capital tax. Creating business opportunities in Nunavut. Mutually beneficial partnerships.
Date of Original
12 May 2005
Language of Item
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Full Text
The Hon. Paul Okalik
Premier of Nunavut Territory
Chairman: Bart J. Mindszenthy
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests

Doug Morris, Senior Account Manager, Daytech Limited and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Rebecca Lockwood; The Reverend Earl Gerber, Anglican Priest (Retired); Jose Kusugak, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK); Susan Aglukark, Singer/Songwriter; Chris Rudge, CEO, Canadian Olympic Committee (COC); Paul Kajudjak, President, Nunavut Tunngavic Inc.; Bonnie Brownlee, Communications Director, Style Group: a Division of St. Joseph Media and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Gregory Missal, Vice-President, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Tahera Diamond Corporation; Andrew McConnell, Vice-President, Aboriginal Banking Canada, RBC Royal Bank; and Paul Flaherty, President and CEO, Northwestel Inc.

Introduction by Bart Mindszenthy

Ah-lian-nuk sivuluktey paul uka-Liuc

Kai ragh me empre club-moot. Dtunge soo gyeht.

Indeed, Mr. Premier, we are pleased you have come to join us, and you are most welcome here at the Empire Club.

This is a first for all of us. The first time we'll have had the first premier of Canada's newest territory, Nunavut.

In fact, you are the 12th premier in our Bell-sponsored Premier Series that began last fall. And that, too, is a first. No speakers' forum in Canada has ever had so many premiers as guest speakers in a season.

I must confide, Mr. Premier, that you live in a land that to me seems so remote and feels, but is not in truth, so distant, so mysterious and cold and so magical and inviting.

Yet we are of one land, one nation, sometimes not too good at sharing the dream, but always in our most distressing hours, willing to forge a common way forward.

For Nunavut, as seemingly for all the territories, these are not the darkest hours at all, but, in fact, the potentially brightest breakthrough years. And that is exciting.

Just as is looking at this amazing Territory of Nunavut. (Brochure shown.) The words, the images, the names, the places; they all conjure visions that are just as listed in the subhead here: Untamed; Unspoiled; Undiscovered.

And Premier Okalik is the selected leader of this wide expanse of the Canadian North.

He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly just over six years ago, and then voted by his caucus colleagues to become the first premier of Nunavut.

And just a little over a year ago, he received a second term in the non-partisan consensus government system that exists in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Maybe that's a form of government that might really well serve the best interests of all Canadians!

Now, rather than spend time impressing you with our speaker's qualifications and experiences, I think we should invite him to address us.

So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the podium of the Empire Club, the Honourable Paul Okalik, Premier of the Nunavut.

Paul Okalik

Thank you for your introduction Bart and thank you to Susan Aglukark for that very special rendition of our national anthem.

Distinguished guests at the head table, my fellow Inuit leaders, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the people of Nunavut let me say that it is an honour to address the Empire Club of Canada.

In speeches at home I begin by recognizing elders but I suspect in this Bay Street group none of you would admit to being an elder.

What I would like to talk about today is the Nunavut Dream. The Nunavut Dream is an extension of the National Dream.

Nunavummiut today are much like Western Canadians of the 19th and early 20th century; a people with land, resources and a desire to join in the building of this country.

Over the years one of the more frequent guests at the Empire Club was the late Pierre Berton. As an author he popularized the term "National Dream" with his story of how a great railway project stitched together this country with a ribbon of steel. As he said in a speech to the Empire Club on November 7, 1985: "In this country, more than in most other countries, perhaps more than any other country, transportation and communication are so important. They are at the core of the country; the soul of the country depends upon them. That goes to the days of the canals…which were the only way in which Upper and Lower Canada were held together…went on to the railways and the airlines, and it continues. John A. Macdonald saw that."

Of course what Mr. Berton was telling was the story of visionary national leadership that recognized potential and endless opportunity. Macdonald's nation-building vision ran east-west. Of course what Macdonald couldn't see was that we, the Inuit of Nunavut, were busy in our own right trading whale oil and sealskins with Europeans. We were claimed by Canada but I am not sure, outside other Inuit, how many Canadians we had actually met.

It was almost 100 years later that Prime Minister Diefenbaker reset the national compass on a north-south access with a view towards accessing the resources of the North.

It was Prime Minister Mulroney who recognized that in the Eastern Arctic there are both resources and people who could contribute to the development of our country. It was his government that signed the Land Claim Agreement with Inuit of Nunavut.

Currently our contribution to Canada is most recognized in our world-class art work and cultural representations. This was reinforced by the recent decision of the Canadian Olympic Committee to adopt a stylized Inukshuk as the logo for the 2010 games. We look forward to having Inuit more directly involved in the marketing of our symbols but we are also prepared to offer much more to Canada.

Recently, I met with each of the federal party leaders and my message about the enormous potential of Nunavut was well received. Prime Minister Martin has shown that he wants to add his name to the tradition of prime ministers who have helped build the North.

Through the Northern Strategy that was launched last December the Prime Minister has an opportunity to do for the North what Prime Minister Macdonald's vision did for the West. Working with Canada and the other territorial governments the Northern Strategy could allow us to develop our natural resources just as the Canadian West was assisted in doing a century ago.

In Nunavut we have enormous potential in our fishery, natural resources and tourism sectors but we lack much of the basic infrastructure to access these development opportunities. Like the West of more than a century ago we have no fixed link to the rest of Canada. No road, no rail and despite having the largest coastline in the country no deep-sea port.

Like the West we have oil and gas. It's estimated that we have up to 15 per cent of the total Canadian petroleum reserve. On Baffin Island we have a massive iron ore deposit that is being proposed for development by Baffinland Resources.

Mineralogists have also found coloured gemstones. Amongst the dignitaries at the head table today is a representative of the Tahera Diamond Corporation. I look forward to their opening of Nunavut's first diamond mine, expected next year. This is part of a staking rush that in itself is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2004 prospecting permits were issued for more than 260,000 square kilometres of Nunavut, resulting in almost $150 million of exploration investment. It is now commonplace to have prospecting helicopters stationed at the many small airports we have across the territory.

All of this represents a reawakening of Canadian and international interest in the riches of the North. And this time Northerners will be partners in development.

Through the Northern Strategy the governments of Canada and Nunavut have agreed to conclude a devolution agreement. Over the next few years you can expect to hear the words "devolution" and "Nunavut" mentioned together. You can also expect to hear lots of complicated discussions around financing agreements. The Constitution might even get thrown into the mix.

Through it all you should keep in mind what devolution is really all about. And that is: "What will be the pace and scope of development in Nunavut and what will be the division of benefits that come from the exploitation of our natural resources?"

What we do know is that the federal government has already committed to reaching an agreement on devolving federal authority over the territory's natural resources by the end of 2008.

This has already been done in Yukon, is close to being completed in the Northwest Territories and will be a significant advancement for Nunavut. In practical terms it means that those of us in this room will be able to speak to each other directly, rather than through Ottawa, when it comes to determining how we can mutually benefit from the development of Nunavut.

The battle for jurisdictional control of natural resources and the benefits that flow from them should sound familiar. It is a debate as old as our country. One hundred years ago when Alberta and Saskatchewan joined Canada, the federal government claimed the rights to the natural resources of those provinces.

For 25 years they were treated as the poor cousins of Confederation until they were able to wrestle back the ownership of their natural riches.

Recently Newfoundland and Nova Scotia had a similar battle with Ottawa. They were fighting for recognition of their need for assistance in reaching national economic and social standards and the right to benefit from their offshore oil and gas industry.

Arrangements such as these are crucial if entire regions of this country are not to be treated as requiring welfare, while the riches of local resources flow to federal coffers.

One of the advantages that comes with Nunavut being on the cusp of rapid economic development is that Nunavummiut and all Canadians have an opportunity to get it right from the outset. We have it within our reach to come to an arrangement before the problem goes from being hypothetical to all too real. We can avoid the inter-governmental political squabbling that we have all grown tired of. Rather than having to battle Ottawa we prefer to be constructive because what we really want are the economic tools to reassert our self-sufficiency.

The conditions faced by most Nunavummiut today are similar to those faced by other Canadian Aboriginals. Our culture is rich but by national standards our people are poor. When it comes to the social and economic indicators for education, health and life expectancy we all have much work to do.

We want to be like other Canadians. We want the rights, responsibilities and opportunities that will allow us to help build this great country. Stated simply, our dream, the Nunavut dream, is to be Canadian.

We know there is a lot of work to do to catch up with the rest of the country. But we have always been a resourceful people who have flourished where others perished. Our knowledge of our territory guaranteed our survival in the past and will enrich our existence in the future. While some of the specific skills of survival have changed, the need to be adaptable has remained constant and we have proven to be adaptable people.

Of all the Aboriginal people in Canada it is only the Inuit who can claim an increase in the use of our native tongue.

As a government we are pursuing programs to strengthen our culture and to expand the potential of our people.

We are producing a record number of high school graduates. The number of Inuit students receiving financial assistance to attend college or university increased by almost 15 per cent last year.

In Nunavut we are investing in training for both traditional and non-traditional occupations. We now have Inuit nurses. Next month the first class of Inuit students from the Akitsiraq Law School will complete their studies and begin their articles.

I want to build a Nunavut where the private sector can tap into the enormous talent that this generation has to offer. Along with developing our capacity in human resources we have already taken significant steps in building a positive business climate. Our land claim is settled and there is certainty over ownership of the land.

Of particular interest to the mining sector is our capital tax; there is none! Our corporate taxes for small and large corporations are amongst the lowest in the country and we have the country's second-lowest combined personal income tax rate.

Of general interest to the business community is our commitment to streamlining our regulatory regime. During our last territorial election campaign it was made clear to me that many regulations that may make sense in Southern Canada have no application in the North. People often spoke of red tape, sometimes referring to it in far less polite terms. We are committed to ensuring that every activity and expense has a productive purpose. We have re-structured our government to create a stand-alone Department of Economic Development and Transportation. This department exists to assist the people in this room identify and create business opportunities in Nunavut.

These examples show that the Government of Nunavut is doing its part by helping where it can, and getting out of the way where it can't.

What we are asking now is for others to do their part. For the federal government to remove the colonial reins that are holding us back and to do for the North what was done for the rest of the country. Our Nunavut dream is to have the basic infrastructure that has been provided to the rest of Canada so that we too can add to the riches of our country.

For the business community, Inuit and all Canadians, this is a mutually beneficial partnership. It is also a shining example of nation building. It will take visionary leadership from both the public and private sectors to make the Nunavut Dream a reality.

Fortunately Canada is a product of the visionary leadership of those who dared to dream. It is up to all of us to keep that dream alive.

Qujannamiik, merci, thank you.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Bonnie Brownlee, Communications Director, Style Group: a Division of St. Joseph Media and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.

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My Canada - Today and Tomorrow

The Nunavut Dream as an extension of the National Dream. Nunavummiut today. Reference to Mr. Berton. Some history. Current recognition in world-class art work and cultural representations. Potential for Nunavut. The Northern Strategy launched last December. The Nunavut fishery, natural resources and tourism sectors. Exploration investment. A Canada-Nunavut devolution agreement - what it means. Jurisdictional control of natural resources. Work to do when it comes to social and economic indicators for education, health and life expectancy. Training and education. Lack of capital tax. Creating business opportunities in Nunavut. Mutually beneficial partnerships.