IRC is responding to frustrated Inuvialuit living outside the settlement area, but promised no change
The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation released a letter this week responding to the concerns of some Inuvialuit living outside the settlement region, but it hasn’t promised any changes.
In a Tuesday letter, published on IRC’s website and Facebook page, Chair Duane Smith wrote that he would like to “clarify our understanding of these issues”.
Earlier this month, CBC News reported that some Inuvialuit living outside the region said they felt disenfranchised.
This is because Inuvialuit living outside the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) do not have the right to vote in IRC elections and have limited access to IRC programs and services.
In his letter, Smith wrote that the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, signed in 1984, was the “foundation” of governance and decision-making for the company.
He said the agreement states that the IRC will be operated by Inuvialuit joint ventures consisting of Aklavik, Ulukhaktok, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, NWT
Members of these community bodies must be residents of these communities.
Each community body elects seven directors who make up the IRC’s 42-strong board, which makes decisions and elects a chair every three years.
“IRC staff work very hard with various levels of government and use the limited resources we can get to ensure that Inuvialuit – wherever they live – have opportunities that other Canadians enjoy,” Smith’s letter reads in part .
All he does is repeat what is in the final agreement.– Pauline Gordon
Smith wrote that it recognized the growing population outside of the ISR, which CBC had previously reported 2,051 Inuvialuit over 18 years. About 2,540 live in the region.
He wrote that There are programs offered to all Inuvialuit, including the Inuvialuit Education Foundation and the Inuvialuit Harvesters Assistance Trust, alongside scholarships, fellowship opportunities, and funeral grants.
However, some programs are “specifically targeted to the Inuvialuit settlement region for political reasons beyond the control of the IRC,” he wrote. These include programs related to health and wellness, Inuvialuktun revitalization and labor market training.
Smith wrote that the IRC “does not wish to separate or divide the Inuvialuit,” but it is also “hopeful that Southern beneficiaries will recognize (and remember) the high cost of living in the ISR, which is roughly twice that of the Cost of living in Yellowknife, let alone further south.”
CBC News has reached out to Smith for comment since Tuesday morning, but he has not given an interview.
“There is already a division”
For Pauline Gordon, who wrote a letter to Smith weeks ago, she said it doesn’t look like anything is about to change.
“I was hoping that the areas he identified in terms of governance could be discussed so they’re more inclusive,” said Gordon, who lives in Fort Smith, NWT
“All he’s doing is repeating what’s in the final agreement, and most of us know what’s in the final agreement. What we are saying is that it is now obsolete.”
Gordon said the way the IRC is structured “does not meet the needs of almost 50 percent of the Inuvialuit population”.
She said she would have liked to see room for discussion of possible solutions, such as allowing Inuvialuit to remain members of their joint ventures so they could vote and access some programs.
Gordon said she hoped to get a reply or confirmation from Smith that he had received her letter, but she hasn’t received anything yet.
“He says he doesn’t want to create division among the Inuvialuit,” she said. “There is already a division.”