On Tuesday at 9am, 42 Inuvialuit Regional Corporation directors will elect a new chair and chief executive officer of the organization for the next three years.
It’s a big job: the organization represents the six Inuvialuit communities of Aklavik, Inuvik, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk, and Ulukhaktok.
Seven candidates – including incumbent Duane Smith, Wayne Gordon, Merven Gruben, Richard McLeod, Randal Pokiak, Kenneth Ruben, and Kurt Wainman – all put their names forward before the January 17 deadline.
They then spent much of Monday answering questions during the all-candidates forum in Inuvik, which the corporation, known as the IRC, live-streamed on Facebook.
The posts garnered hundreds of comments from Inuvialuit concerned about community wellness, education, the prevalence of drugs and alcohol – and the absence of treatment, housing, natural resources, and the high costs of foods and flights in the communities.
Meanwhile, people living outside the settlement region wondered who was representing their interests given they didn't get to vote for community directors to represent them in December.
2,026 people without a vote
In November, an Inuvialuit Corporate Group representative told Cabin Radio 2,542 beneficiaries (Inuvialuit over the age of 18 who are enrolled to receive benefits) live within settlement region boundaries and get to vote for their six directors and a chair, who then go on vote for the IRC chair and chief executive on behalf of their community.
But another 2,026 beneficiaries don’t have a vote because they no longer live in the settlement region.
“There isn’t a specific separate structure that represents Inuvialuit who reside outside of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region,” confirmed Kate Darling, general counsel for the Inuvialuit Corporate Group.
“I think when you don’t belong to a community corporation they tell you that you can voice your concerns through the chair and chief executive of the IRC,” said Pauline Gordon, who now lives in Fort Smith, late last year.
“It leaves us to feel like second-class citizens. I always feel like I’m the poor cousin."