Juliana Iluminata Wilczynski

This article examines how the nation-State paradigm of international relations and international law in the Arctic conflicts with Inuit self-determination in the Northwest Passage. This evaluation is made through the lens of four Indigenous rights which are relevant to the Northwest Passage: the right to self-determination, the right to traditional territories and resources, the right to culture, and rights to consultation and free, prior, and informed consent. This article makes three submissions, namely: (1) doctrinal reduction of sovereignty to the nation-state paradigm in international law functions to exclude Indigenous peoples from participation in international law and decision-making; (2) Inuit participation in the international politics of the Northwest Passage is a vehicle for the expression of their right to self-determination as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; (3) the inclusion of the Inuit as international legal actors as demonstrated by their historical transnational advocacy will be a necessary step for the international community to take in order to uphold the Inuit’s right to self-determination, especially in relation to the future of the Northwest Passage if the transit passage regime is deemed to apply in the future. Ultimately, this article adopts a pluralist and decolonial perspective to critically challenge the traditional notion of sovereignty as understood from a Westphalian perspective, and advocates for the imperative recognition of Indigenous peoples and inclusion of them as transnational legal actors.

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