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Inuit Delegation to Finland Are “Cultural Ambassadors” According to New Senate Report

Jun 26, 2019

For the first time since 1994, a comprehensive study on the role of arts and culture in Canadian foreign policy has been released. The Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade delivered their report Cultural Diplomacy at the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy on June 11, 2019, outlining the need for increased engagement in the arts and culture sector in international diplomacy and foreign policy for the promotion as well as understanding of Canadian arts and culture on a global scale.

“We heard from many witnesses about the power of arts and culture to send messages that mere words or traditional diplomatic endeavours cannot convey,” explains Senator Paul J. Massicotte, Deputy Chair of the committee, on testimony from representatives of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity and more. “In order for our country and our values to be better understood in the world, we need to further rely on our arts and culture as tools of international influence.”

Indigenous artists are identified within the report as “'essential’ to Canadian diversity and its distinct image abroad.” Under the proposed frameworks, Inuit artists such as the recent the delegation organized by the Inuit Art Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts to the second Arctic Arts Summit could see an increased capacity to participate on the world stage as “cultural ambassadors,” as set out in the report. The report also includes eight recommendations, notably that “Global Affairs Canada enhance the capacity of Canadian Missions abroad so that they have the skills, knowledge and tools necessary to support the federal government’s cultural diplomacy initiatives.”

With the support of the Canada Council’s Creating, Knowing and Sharing stream, and keeping with the spirit of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, five participants who have made working with language a central concern of their practices along with IAF staff attended the international summit hosted by the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland from June 3-5, 2019.

Montreal-based singer-songwriter Beatrice Deer, Saskatoon-based jeweller and writer Tarralik Duffy, Iqaluit-based actor Vinnie Karetak and filmmaker and producer Jerri Thrasher joined IAQ’s Editor-at-Large Taqralik Partridge along with Mi’kmaq artist Jordan Bennett as the national representation at the conference.

Throughout the three-day event, delegates made significant contributions to a range of panels and discussions such as “Emerging Field of Arctic Indigenous Films,” which included Karetak and Thrasher. Duffy participated in the “Need for Life-Long-Learning in the Field of Arts Management and Producing” session, while Deer spoke as part of the “Performing arts in the Arctic – who’s stories are we telling and to whom?” panel. Finally, Partridge contributed to the session titled “Art, Culture and Sustainable Development.”

Partridge noted the particular importance of the delegation in facilitating dialogues with other Indigenous attendees and "witnessing the contrast in these discussions of Indigenous arts and Indigenous issues in Scandinavia compared to Canada," while Deer emphasized the importance of networking opportunities for future projects that come from these international events. Anthropologist and curator Krista Ulujuk Zawadski, curator, scholar Dr. Heather Igloliorte and musical trio Quantum Tangle (Tiffany Ayalik, Kayley Inuksuk Mackay and Grey Gritt) were also in attendance.

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