‘You know, there is always supposed to be a sense of belonging somewhere,’ said Pauline Gordon. (Submitted by Pauline Gordon) Pauline Gordon says it was reading the latest edition of Tusaayaksat , a magazine produced by the Inuvialuit Communications Society, that lit a spark in her to use her voice.
Dalee Samba Dorough, the new chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), was quoted in the magazine, saying, "Every Inuk is wanted by ICC, every Inuk is welcomed by ICC, and every Inuk is valued by ICC."
Gordon, who is Inuvialuit and lives in Fort Smith, N.W.T., says those words spoke to her because she hasn’t had the sense of belonging for a while.
She said that under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, signed in 1984, Inuvialuit living outside of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) don’t have a right to vote in elections for the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), and have more limited access to IRC’s programs and services.
Gordon, a former assistant deputy minister of Education and Culture, said many people who live outside the ISR — who call themselves "Inuvialuit 99’ers" — feel that their voices don’t matter.
Gordon decided to write a letter last week to IRC chair Duane Smith to explain why she felt disenfranchised.
"A lot of us feel that we are second-class citizens, because of our inability to vote," Gordon wrote.
"I suggest that you work with those beneficiaries… living outside of the ISR, on exploring options for our active participation in governance, programs and services." ‘We get nothing’
Gordon said she sent copies of the letter to the presidents of ICC, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.
According to Gordon, IRC told her that 2,051 Inuvialuit over the age of 18 live outside of the ISR. About 2,540 live in the region.
She said that currently Inuvialuit living outside of the ISR are supposed to bring any concerns to the IRC chair, who would then present the matter to the board — but she says nothing comes from that.
Gordon is originally from Aklavik, but has been living outside of the ISR for 24 years.
She said that she has previously applied to Inuvialuit-run programs and has been denied.
"We lose all of the benefits that those in the ISR receive daily. And they might think it’s little, but we get nothing. We get our disbursement for our yearly dividends, and that’s it."
She feels Inuvialuit could work together to allow those living outside of the region to feel more included, as other Indigenous organizations do. ‘I don’t get it. When I tried to go to school, I was denied financial assistance and I was like, ‘woah, why?’ Trudy Nelner said. (Submitted by Trudy Nelner) "You know, there is always supposed to be a sense of belonging somewhere. And every time I saw the Gwich’in get together in Yellowknife when I lived there, I always felt so sad. I always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere," said Gordon.
Trudy Nelner said that she shares the same frustrations as Gordon.Originally from Tuktoyaktuk, Nelner moved to Fort Simpson about 20 years ago and said she would love to return home, but it’s difficult to live there and make ends meet."There’s not much for jobs, no security, and I do feel like an outsider because when I go home, it’s like: ‘where did you come from? Who are you?,’" said Nelner."I don’t get it. When I tried to go to school I was denied financial assistance and I was like: ‘whoa, why? ‘Cause I’m not from the region?’" Maintaining a connection ‘It’s not fair that I can’t connect with my people,’ said 13-year-old Alexandra Gordon, who lives […]
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