Inuvik Mayor Clarence Wood has added his voice in support of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation’s fight to implement its first law.
Wood penned the letter in support of Inuvialuit Qitunrariit Inuuniarnikkun Maligaksat, also known as the Inuvialuit Family Way of Living Law, to Premier Caroline Cochrane and Health Minister Julie Green on Aug. 3 and provided a copy of the letter to the Inuvik Drum.
“This law is a significant step towards recognizing and preserving the rich cultural heritage and traditional way of life of the Inuvialuit people, and I urge you to reconsider the government’s stance on this crucial matter,” says the letter. “I believe that the Inuvialuit have the inherent right to govern their affairs and make decisions that impact their way of life. Their intimate knowledge of the land and its resources is unparalleled, and they are best suited to implement measures that balance conservation with sustainable resource management. By respecting their autonomy and supporting their self-governance, we are promoting a more inclusive and respectful approach to policymaking that honors the principles of reconciliation and indigenous rights.
“Furthermore, the Inuvialuit Family Way of Living Law aligns with international commitments and agreements that Canada has entered into, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Upholding the rights of indigenous peoples and recognizing their traditional knowledge and practices is not only a legal obligation but also a moral imperative.”
Passed in November 2021, the IRC’s first law follows the federal Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, which gives Indigenous and Inuit governments the right to exercise jurisdiction over childcare and family services, overruling provincial, territorial and federal law. The Quebec Supreme Court struck down two provisions in the act and the federal government appealed the decision in the Supreme Court of Canada. Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories have joined Quebec as interveners. The court heard arguments from both sides on Dec. 8, 2022 and the IRC says it’s awaiting a decision, which could come “at any time.”
Attorney General RJ Simpson has previously told media the reason for the NWT’s participating in the challenge is because of a language conflict between the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families and the NWT Act, which requires the federal government to consult the NWT government on constitutional issues and also states that federal law overrules NWT law.
In his letter, Wood wrote the NWT was missing out on an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the two parties.
“The Inuvialuit people have lived in harmony with the land, waters, and wildlife of the Northwest Territories for countless generations,” says the letter. “Their profound connection to the natural world has sustained their communities, both physically and spiritually, while fostering a unique and invaluable cultural identity. The Inuvialuit Family Way of Living Law seeks to uphold and protect these traditional values, ensuring the continuation of their ancestral practices for future generations.
“By collaborating with the Inuvialuit community and actively engaging them in the decision-making process, the Government of the Northwest Territories has a unique opportunity to foster a relationship built on trust, mutual respect, and shared responsibility. Together, we can create a more sustainable and inclusive future, where both cultural diversity and environmental conservation are valued and celebrated.
“I, therefore, strongly urge you to reconsider the Government’s opposition to the Inuvialuit Family Way of Living Law and actively work towards finding common ground and a collaborative solution. Let us seize this opportunity to advance the cause of indigenous rights and set an example for other jurisdictions across the country.”