For the first time in modern history, the Inuvialuit have passed a law for the Inuvialuit.
Inuvialuit Regional Corporation announced Nov. 24 that its board of directors has passed Inuvialuit Qitunrariit Inuuniarnikkun Maligaksat, or the “Inuvialuit Family Way of Living Law.” Passed under the authority of the federal “Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families,” which came into force Jan. 1, 2020, the new law will require all Inuvialuit Children in contact with child and families services anywhere in Canada are given as many supports as possible to stay connect with their family, community and culture.
“There is nothing more important to a people than the continuity of culture and the well-being and care of its own children,” said IRC Chair Duane Ningaqsiq Smith. “We listened to communities and how they want to care for the well-being of their children and families and this law returns those powers and responsibilities to where they belong: with Inuvialuit.”
This is the first time an Inuit Nation has implemented a law such as this in Canada. The first Indigenous Nation to pass a similar law was the Cowessess First Nation on July 6.
While the law has the long-term goal of the IRC taking over family welfare services and functions, at the start the plan is to getting access to information and establish better control on how to keep children in their home communities. The law will also provide groundwork to enhance supports for Inuvialuit families to reduce the needs for intervention. It also requires all federal, territorial and provincial governments to meet standards when providing child and family services to Inuvialuit children and their families. Essentially this now means the IRC is fully involved in any and all child welfare cases involving Inuvialuit children. The law will not reduce existing services.
A new organization, Inuvialuit Qitunrariit Inuuniarnikkun Maligaksat, will be established through the Inuvialuit Social Development Program to lead the implementation of the new framework.
Under the federal act, Indigenous communities have legal jurisdiction over child and family services based on their culture, traditional laws and history. The act places Indigenous jurisdiction over provincial child and family service laws and applies across Canada.
Along with passing the law, the IRC has notified the governments of Canada, the Northwest Territories, Alberta and Yukon territory of the signing and are now requesting to enter coordination agreements with the four governments to implement the law. These governments have one year to hammer out a deal with the IRC, otherwise the law as written in Inuvik will come into full force and override territorial and federal laws, excluding key legislation such as the Canada Human Rights Act, the Criminal Code and other similar legislation.
Premier Caroline Cochrane issued a statement congratulating the IRC for advancing their self-determination.
“This law is a big step forward in ensuring decisions are made in the best interests of Inuvialuit children, youth, and families. We are committed to continuing to work with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation moving forward.
“The Federal Act advances reconciliation, recognizes and affirms Indigenous and treaty rights, and supports program and service delivery by Indigenous governments. The ratification of this law by the Inuvialuit is an example of the work we must continue to do to foster constructive and respectful government-to-government relationships with our Indigenous partners and to seek ways to advance reconciliation, recognize and affirm Indigenous rights, and support expanded program and service delivery by Indigenous governments.”