Re-elected N.W.T. politician vows to bring in legislation to protect Indigenous women and girls

The Northwest Territories has had its share of troubles in 2023. First, wildfires ravaged the territory – and its election had to be postponed because of them. Now that everything has returned to normal, the election was held on Tuesday, and there was a large turnover with many new faces.

Lesa Semmler managed to hold on to her seat in the electoral district of Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Semmler told Nation to Nation host Annette Francis that there’s a lot of work to do and challenges to overcome over the next four years. She said with the rising costs of living, affordable housing is one of the biggest issues, especially for elders.

“They’re on a fixed income,” she said. “They can’t afford to stay in their own homes. But we have a shortage of housing, a housing crisis and where are they supposed to move to, there’s no low-cost housing.”

Semmler was first elected in 2019 and is known for advocacy on missing and murdered woman and girls.  Her mother, Joy Semmler, was murdered when Lesa was just eight years old.

She said putting legislation to protect women and girls is a priority right now.

Semmler said an N.W.T. government needs to be working with Indigenous partners to create and pass a missing persons legislation in the upcoming session.

Proposed Metis self-government legislation, Bill C-53, needs to ‘go away’

Jason Batise, executive director of the Wabun Tribal Council which represents six First Nations in northern Ontario, said the Canadian government failed in its duty to consult on the proposed law which would recognize the self-governing rights of the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario Métis Nations.

“Right now, we’re asking for the Canadian government to take a pause and talk to the First Nations,” he said. “Because it’s not just me, it’s not just the Wabun Tribal Council, it’s 134 First Nations in Ontario.”

Batise challenged the authenticity of the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), saying there has never been a Métis community in Treaty 9 territory.

“There’s extensive research to push back on the claim that the MNO is making and that research is, they simply don’t exist.”

The tribal council is challenging the bill. It filed for a judicial review in the Federal Court. According to Batise every First Nation in Ontario supports the fight.

NunatuKavut Community Council under fire

Another organization that’s been under fire is the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC). According to the NCC, it represents 6,000 Inuit in central and south Labrador.

Earlier this month the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) published an open letter to Canadians alleging the NCC is making false claims to having Inuit Identity.

NCC President Todd Russell bristled at the suggestion the organization he heads is not legitimate.

“People who are fake don’t have a history that tell us about where our people lived, how they lived and the effects of colonization,” he said on Nation to Nation.

The Innu Nation in Labrador has already filed a court challenge in federal court over a memorandum of understanding between the NCC and the federal government to recognize it as an Indigenous entity. The Innu dispute the indigeneity of the NCC.

NCC President Todd Russell said he’s hoping that court case will go forward on the next scheduled date in March.  He said they’re confident in the facts and they don’t feel any type of threat from the Innu Nation on that matter.

He said the objections that the Innu Nation has are similar to what the ITK has against his organization.

“There seems to be a manufactured fear that if the NCC progresses, that somehow their financial capacities, their financial resources, are going to be depleted or lessoned and nothing can be further from the truth,” Russell said.

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