The Town of Inuvik declared November Indigenous Disabilities Awareness Month on Oct. 24, following a request from the NWT Disabilities Council to do so.

According to the announcement notice from the town, the rate of disability within Indigenous populations is estimated at 31 per cent, which is two times higher than that of non-Indigenous populations.

The Town of Inuvik is reviewing its smoking, zoning, and business license bylaws following cannabis legalization Oct. 17.
Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

“Indigenous peoples living with disabilities in our community face unique challenges as a marginalized population within a marginalized population,” the announcement reads. “Indigenous peoples in our community disproportionately face complex life barriers, from a legacy of colonialism that can cause disability, including: poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, victimization, trauma and lack of resources.”

Denise McKee, executive director of the NWT Disabilities Council, said they are approaching regional centres in the territory in order to make Indigenous Disabilities Awareness Month

a territory-wide event, as is the case elsewhere, such as in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

McKee said the council is working with local governments and Indigenous groups across the territory to promote the awareness month in culturally appropriate ways.

“We are not an Indigenous group, but we want to work with our Indigenous partners,” she said. “We don’t want to co-opt this … we really believe this has to be done in partnership with Indigenous groups, and hopefully they’ll take it and be the forerunners. We’ll help to provide information and supports and what they require when they bring it forward so that it has real context and a real place of value within their community.”

McKee said the aim of the awareness month is to bring to light the unique barriers that present themselves when someone has a disability and is Indigenous.

Not only do Indigenous people often have to leave their home communities to access health services, but those services often rely on “medical understandings of disability that undermine Indigenous community knowledge and experiences,” according to the town’s announcement.

McKee said Indigenous women with disabilities face increased barriers.

“Indigenous women with disabilities face increased victimization,” said McKee. “Women with disabilities are at a higher risk for victimization, violence, partner violence, but when you add the Indigenous aspect to that, it actually increases the risk exponentially.”

McKee said while there are no events planned for Inuvik yet, the council is working with local partners to organize annual awareness initiatives.

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