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Inuvialuit pass childcare law aimed at keeping children in home communities

The Inuvialuit Family Way of Living Law, passed by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) in November, is being hailed as an advancement in self-determination.
In the background, Lawrence Ruben, left, Gerald Inglangasuk, Jordan McLeod and John Lucas Jr. watch as Duane Ningaqsiq Smith signs the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation’s first-ever nationally recognized law. Photo courtesy of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation

The Inuvialuit Family Way of Living Law, passed by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) in November, is being hailed as an advancement in self-determination.

“Too often, Inuit families are torn apart when tragedy happens. This new law will ensure cultural continuity for each Inuvialuit child and youth, enhance supports for families, improve information sharing, and help grow Inuvialuit jurisdiction,” said Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. “I am proud of this important first step in protecting families of the Inuvialuit region. Congratulations to IRC board and staff on the positive strides towards the delivery of child welfare for Inuit by Inuit.”

Whether such legislation could become a reality in Nunavut is unclear. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI), which has voiced its intentions of pursuing Inuit self-government through negotiations with the Government of Canada, didn’t respond to questions about how such a law may be adopted in Nunavut. An NTI spokesperson encouraged Nunavut News to contact the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation instead.

Nunavut’s Department of Family Services stated that it “looks forward to working with designated Inuit organizations who may decide to enact the federal ‘act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families’ in Nunavut.”

While the law — known as Inuvialuit Qitunrariit Inuuniarnikkun Maligaksat in Inuvialuktun — has the long-term goal of the IRC taking over family welfare services and functions, the initial plan is to get access to information and establish better control on how to keep children in their home communities.

The law will 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 legislation will not reduce existing services.

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 co-ordination 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.