Reconciliation a key topic during Inuvik all-candidates forum

·4 min read
Inuvik's Town Hall on Oct. 14, 2021. Eleven candidates are vying to join the next city council in the election Monday, and six of them participated in forum this past week. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)
Inuvik's Town Hall on Oct. 14, 2021. Eleven candidates are vying to join the next city council in the election Monday, and six of them participated in forum this past week. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)

Six of the 11 candidates in Inuvik's municipal election addressed reconciliation and other issues during a forum co-moderated by CBC North and NNSL Media this past week.

When voters head to the polls on Monday, they'll only be casting a ballot for those who are running for the eight councillor seats. Clarence Wood, the only person nominated for mayor, has been acclaimed.

Tony Devlin, Ruth Elanik, Grant Gowans, Natasha Kulikowski, Alana Mero and Alfred Moses participated in Thursday's two-hour forum. Desmond Loreen declined to participate, Kurt Wainman and Jesse Harder did not attend and Jill Fitzpatrick cancelled because of an illness.

Donovan Arey, meanwhile, never responded to a request to participate.

Election Day

Residents in several N.W.T. communities head to the polls on Monday for municipal elections, including in Inuvik, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, Hay River and Norman Wells.

There will be two polling stations in Inuvik. People who live west of Reliance Street will vote at the Ingamo Hall Friendship Centre, and those east will vote at the Midnight Sun Complex.

Voters are encouraged to bring their own pens.

The town said they'll be carrying out screening, and that masks and physical distance will also be required. Voting booths will also be regularly sanitized.

In its last update Friday evening, public health officials in the N.W.T. said there were eight cases of COVID-19 in Inuvik and evidence of community transmission.

On truth and reconciliation

Candidates fielded questions from CBC North's Inuvik-based reporter, Mackenzie Scott, NNSL Media's Inuvik Drum reporter Eric Bowling as well as from local residents and community leaders.

Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan, former chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, asked participants what their ideas were for taking action on truth and reconciliation.

Ruth Elanik, an elder, responded by emphasizing the importance of the issue.

"Our people really do need to work together to heal each other. I believe once you start working on this and learning about it, you understand the people better in the North."

Tony Devlin said inclusivity and awareness of the region were of utmost importance.

"It's really important to reach out to the GTC [Gwich'in Tribal Council] and IRC [Inuvialuit Regional Corporation] and our local groups, and working with them, not just working with them on a lip service, but actually working with them in consulting with them on different program ideas and services."

Gowans, Mero, who is seeking re-election and Kulikowski, the town's most recent mayor, all spoke about adding a land acknowledgement to town council meetings.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC
Mackenzie Scott/CBC

Kulikowski pointed out that the town is currently working on adding an acknowledgement to the agenda and she'd like to see it added to municipal email signatures too.

"I think that another step forward that we could take as council ... is to assess the [National Inquiry into] Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls to justice and which of those might be effective by a town council."

Gowans said he would communicate what steps the town is taking, in the process of truth and reconciliation, to residents.

"This is their traditional territory plain and simple," said Gowans. "What are we doing when it comes to our programs, our services … that is really working towards some of the things that were noted in the truth and reconciliation report."

Mero, meanwhile, wants to see a display near Inuvik's welcome sign that acknowledges the traditional lands and people that existed before the town, and the importance of the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit cultures.

"We need to look at things like, do we change local names from a colonial era or the era of residential schools?" said Mero. She also said the town would need to discuss these things with the Inuvialit and Gwich'in peoples.

Alfred Moses, a former MLA, spoke about the presence of intergenerational trauma in Inuvik and said, if elected, he would support action on truth and reconciliation.

But, he also said that "Indigenous governments need to take this on their own."

"I've worked as a territorial official and I'm just being real. I don't think as a municipality that it's going to have a big impact," said Moses. "We can support as best we can."

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