We are deeply saddened at the news of the passing of an Inuit hunter, a protector of the environment and the former Mayor and Councillor of Kuujjuaraapik, Mr. Sappa Fleming.
In addition to his years of service to his Inuit community of Kuujjuaraapik, Sappa was also very active in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples internationally. Sappa was a great friend to the Crees during the struggle against the Great Whale River hydroelectric project. He played a vital role in galvanizing Inuit involvement in the effort to halt this massive hydroelectric project and he worked side-by-side with the Cree people to ensure that such projects could not be implemented without the consent of those indigenous peoples directly affected. That victory was made possible, in no small part, by the work of Sappa Fleming.
Sappa was always eloquent and forceful in expressing the Inuit concerns about the environmental impacts on his people from a wide range of projects and policy initiatives.
Canada and Quebec have lost a valuable defender of the environment and of indigenous rights, the Cree Nation has lost a friend, the people of Whapmagoostui have lost a good neighbour and I have lost a brother.
On behalf of the Cree people of Eeyou Istchee, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Sappa Fleming in their time of loss.
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come.
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, Peter Kattuk (middle) and late Sappa Fleming on far right, discussing strategy in New York City.