Duane Smith elected chair of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation

Duane Smith has been elected chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, defeating four other candidates to succeed Nellie Cournoyea.
Duane Smith, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, has been elected chair and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. (David Thurton/ CBC)

Duane Smith has been elected chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, defeating four other candidates to succeed Nellie Cournoyea.

Vernon Blaine Amos finished second, with Vince Teddy, Jackie Jacobson and Richard McLeod trailing.

"It's not my land claim, it's all our beneficiaries' and I need their support to make it work as best that we can," Smith said. "I want them to have as much input as they can in regards to developing this vision as to where we go as an organization and as a people."

Smith is also currently president of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, having been acclaimed to a fourth term in 2014. It's unclear whether he can hold both positions simultaneously.

Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada said Smith remains ICC Canada president, but the ICC board "will discuss the next steps" between now and the next IRC board meeting, scheduled to take place mid-February, as ICC Canada says Smith doesn't officially become IRC chair until a handover at that meeting.

However the IRC says Smith assumed the function as IRC chair shortly after the election results were known.

Only the 42 directors that sit on the Inuvialuit community corporations in the Beaufort-Delta region of the Northwest Territories vote in the election for IRC chair and CEO. Prior to the election, some members and candidates had lobbied to change the system so all beneficiaries of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement could vote for the chair and CEO.

Smith said the IFA clearly sets out the election system with the power resting with the community corporations, and any changes to that system would require a majority vote by the community corporation directors.

He added that the IRC would need to get legal clarification on whether beneficiaries living outside the settlement region could vote in elections. 

Outgoing IRC chair and CEO Cournoyea served nine consecutive terms beginning in 1996.