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April 2020 Message from the Chair
IRC, along with the rest of the world, has needed to develop areas of possible, precautionary response to a coronavirus. Like in other pandemics and during times illness has been allowed into the Region, we do not fully trust that the information available, medical readiness, travel restrictions and enforcement, assurance of essential service, proper social support, or that any other preparation around COVID-19 has been strong enough when the health of our elders and health of Inuvialuit is of utmost priority.
IRC is disappointed that coronavirus has reached Inuit Nunangat in Salluit, Nunavik in Northern Quebec on March 29 followed by Inuvialuit Settlement Region, April 1, but IRC commends the effort of communities and individuals so far keeping community spread in the Region to zero. I urge everyone to keep following all recommendations; we can still contain and prevent COVID-19 cases in our homes and our communities.
IRC has been communicating strong concerns directly and frequently to those governments responsible: IRC immediately argued to close the ISR to non-essential travel as a strict precaution especially given the Region’s lack of ventilators and its remoteness to adequate healthcare facilities, while also pushing for assurances that transportation corridors like the Dempster Highway remain open for access and re-supply of heating fuel, essential food and medical supplies.
IRC appreciates that governments have been working hard to react and respond in some areas. The Inuit Crown Partnership process has continued with IRC in-person March 6 and ongoing teleconferences of the ITK Board of Directors and meetings with Ministers responsible by phone. Direct funding has been negotiated and achieved through this process from the Federal government specifically to address COVID-19 and its wide effects for Inuvialuit.
IRC also believes that rules, guidelines and recommendations put in place at this time by GNWT, Canada Public Health and the UN World Health Organization for the prevention and precautions in order to not spread this COVID-19 infectious respiratory disease are the best advice possible at this time and need to be followed immediately, strictly and for the duration.
IRC is grateful to Inuvialuit beneficiaries for your personal and household commitment to thorough hand washing, physical distancing, quarantine and self-isolation measures, and your temporarily willingness and understanding as we must stop visiting and have had to close our gathering places for the time being
IRC understands that people are having to give up plans or change their plans; IRC also regrets that community tours anticipated and planned by staff along with communities as well as many non-essential programs and activities are postponed indefinitely. Your efforts are appreciated and your continued support for these measures is crucial to the safety of all our families.
Before we had to make closure decisions in hopes of preventing COVID-19 in our communities, it was good to see youth excelling in our Traditional Games at the 8th Northern Games and Dene Games Summit and the high-level and spirit with which hockey was played at the 32nd IRC Native Hockey Tournament and we feel fortunate that we can remember these events and look forward to having such significant celebrations again. Aarigaa!
This is now a time to focus on your family and for sharing cultural practices. Spend as much time on the land as you can this spring- relax out there participating in your traditional activities, take good care of your households while you keep up all your good preventative efforts and stay safe. I wish Inuvialuit continual good mental and physical health.
We are thankful to local businesses such as fuel and grocery retailers, to all healthcare staff and regional airlines like Aklak Air and Canadian North who have partnered with IRC to provide essential supplies at this time. We would like to acknowledge the additional challenges they have had to endure and thank them for making precautionary sacrifices to prevent spread of the illness.
Duane Ningaqsiq Smith
Chair and Chief Executive Officer
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The Inuvialuit Corporate Group (ICG) Update Quarterly Newsletter will not be published and can not be mailed to beneficiaries as usual due to precautions and COVID-19 and until services resume.
Find previous ICG Updates on IRC Media Centre page: https://www.irc.inuvialuit.com/media-centre