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Inuvik adopts United Nations declaration for Indigenous rights

The Town of Inuvik recently adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, also referred to as UNDRIP.

Mayor of Inuvik says the declaration will add 'scope' to the town's decision making

Natasha Kulikowski, mayor of Inuvik, says the adoption on UNDRIP helps to recognize the importance of reconciliation within the community and within the North. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC )

The Town of Inuvik, N.W.T., recently adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, also referred to as UNDRIP.

Inuvik Mayor Natasha Kulikowski says adopting the document has been on a few minds at council.

"The adoption of UNDRIP also came with us officially making a proclamation to do with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action," she said, adding that Fort Smith passed a similar resolution a few years back.

"We saw what they had done and started looking at that time on how we could do the same thing," she said.

"We had that opportunity come up, administration put a lot of work into looking at how the … declaration could be applied to what we're doing, and also how it's already incorporated into our day-to-day lives."

In 2019, B.C. tabled legislation with the goal of becoming the first province in Canada to "implement" UNDRIP.

A few days later, the same language was included in the list of priorities for a newly elected territorial government in the N.W.T.

The bill also gives government departments the authority to share decision-making with Indigenous governments. That removes a significant roadblock to "free, prior and informed consent" as spelled out in UNDRIP.

Kulikowski says she plans to reach out to other local leadership within the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit communities and that she aims to create a leadership table.

"Things like that are the tangible ways that we'll be able to make change by adopting this," Kulikowski said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

While she doesn't expect the adoption of the declarations to be felt immediately, she says it will add "scope" to the town's decision making.

"I think absolutely does make it something that people will see a difference in … that difference won't be immediate, it's something that's going to take time and will be added to the way that we do things," Kulikowski said.

She says the adoption on UNDRIP helps to recognize the importance of reconciliation within the community and within the North.

"Our populations are majority Indigenous or very close to that. And that means that people of Inuvik have been affected by colonization. I mean, it was created by colonization," she said.

"It's absolutely important that we take our own steps to make sure that we acknowledged the importance of the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] and of UNDRIP."

With files from John Last and The Trailbreaker

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