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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 25, 2001 - Issue 43


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Inuit Achieve what Aborigines Dream About


 by Mark Metherell The Sydney Morning Herald-August 16, 2001


Paul Okalik and Pat Dodson at the National Press Club in Canberra. Photo: Paul Harris

Australia's father of reconciliation, Mr Pat Dodson, has thanked a Canadian indigenous leader for keeping the Aboriginal dream alive.

Having heard the Nunavut Premier, Mr Paul Okalik, describe how his people won self-government and rights over a huge area of Canadian land and ice, Mr Dodson thanked him yesterday for the reminder "that dreams are achievable and that it is possible to regain control of our own world".

Both spoke at the National Press Club about the two nations' experience with native title. Mr Dodson said he hoped Mr Okalik's visit would help Australians understand that justice for Aboriginal peoples did not mean rights denied to others, but an enhancement of the entire nation.

Under historic 1999 legislation, Canada created the largely self-governing Nunavut Territory of 1.9 million square kilometres of Arctic land and water, one eighth of Canada, populated by 25,000 mainly Inuit people. The Nunavut people retain protected rights to land, renewable resources and to their social and political development.

In 1993 the Canadian Government agreed to pay out $C1.1 billion ($1.37 billion) in land claim compensation up to 2007.

Mr Okalik said there had been "no real backlash" to the creation of a new territory in the Canadian federation. He said his people had given up a lot of territory in exchange for a settlement that defined their rights and gave self-government.

By contrast, Mr Dodson described Australia's indigenous people as "playthings of governments. At the moment we are a bit like the toys that have been discarded but not yet thrown in the bin".

It was such uncertainties and insecurities that had reawakened the call for a treaty between indigenous people and government.

"As a nation, we've got to find the courage to face that particular prospect, and I wouldn't have thought it so daunting," Mr Dodson said.

"In our recent past at every major opportunity ... we have failed to grasp the moment to rearrange the fundamentals of our relationship."

The treaty would come "when we realise that it is only fear, racism, ignorance and continuing social dislocation that are its alternatives".

Until then "we as a nation are going to be forever deluded. I hope the average person in Australia sees that an agreement with indigenous people is not something to be feared ... that it is an enhancement of all our rights".

Government of Nunavut

Pat Dodson-Forging a New Relationship

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