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Nunavut News/North: 2016 - The Year in Review


Film project seeks 30 Inuit actors


Filmmakers in Nunavut and Ontario sought 30 young people from across the territory to help tell the story of how one teacher changed the lives of many students through lacrosse.

NNSL photo/graphic

Northwood Entertainment stated Jan. 7 it was seeking young Inuit actors to audition for the upcoming film, The Grizzlies.

"It's based on the story of Russ Sheppard - an Alberta teacher who went up to Kugluktuk and met an amazing group of kids," said Katie Nolan, production executive. "He brought lacrosse to the kids and it decreased the suicide rate and gave the town something to be proud and excited about."

The Grizzlies was set to start filming in April.

Mayor up for national award

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern was up for a Modern Makers of Canada Award.

Redfern was on a list of nine mayors from across Canada being recognized for innovation in municipal leadership by the Institute on Governance.

The list included Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Established in 2011, the Modern Makers of Canada Award recognizes individuals who have contributed to good governance through "transformational public sector leadership," according to the organization's website.

Gjoa Haven named travel hot spot

Uqsuqtuuq/Gjoa Haven

Gjoa Haven made it to eighth place on the list of top 20 best spots in Canada to visit in 2016, according to a website that touts itself as the leading source of Canadian travel destinations.

"With the discovery of Erebus and the worldwide attention that came with it, Arctic travel has never been more exciting or accessible. This location oozes maritime history but, unlike Halifax or Quebec City, Gjoa Haven touches on a part of history that goes back before Canada even existed," states's writing and editorial team.

Gjoa Haven Mayor Joanni Sallerina was surprised and honoured by the news.

Sallerina said most of visitors come by cruise ship, although the occasional intrepid traveller will arrive by plane.

Five candidates run for Netsilik seat


Five candidates put their names forward for the Netsilik constituency seat vacated by MLA Jeannie Ugyuk in November.

John Ningark, Tars Angutingunirk and Emilino Qirngnuq, all of Kugaaruk, vied for the position against Wesley Totalik Sr. and Joseph Quqqiaq, both of Taloyoak.

Emilino Qirngnuq won the Feb. 8 byelection.

Large diamonds found at Chidliak

Baffin Island

Nunavut's Chidliak project wrapped up its 2015 program on a high note with the announcement it had recovered a flawless 5.33-carat diamond.

In a report released Jan. 12, the company stated the results of an 810-dry-tonne bulk sample taken from its CH-7 kimberlite pipe in April and May at its wholly-owned Chidliak diamond project located on Baffin Island. The exploration site is 120 kilometres from Iqaluit.

The large diamond had no inclusions, which increases its value. Inclusions or "birthmarks" are created during a diamond's formation and can appear inside the stone or on its surface.

Diamonds with a larger number of these blemishes have less brilliance because the flaws inhibit light's path through the gem.

Students miss exam deadline


Grade 12 students in the Kivalliq communities of Arviat, Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove had to wait about six months to write their final exam in English Language Arts after a blizzard closed their schools on Jan. 13.

Students can only write the Alberta standardized departmental exam on specific dates to prevent cheating on the exam.

All in all, more than 100 students in the Kivalliq and Baffin regions were prevented from writing the end-of-year exam due to inclement weather in their communities.

Research project builds iglus

Ikaluktutiak/Cambridge Bay

The Kitikmeot Heritage Society teamed up with architect Nancy Mackin for a six-month exploration of shelters, with the second of three workshops held Jan. 16 to 18 in Cambridge Bay.

Mackin, also a professor with the University of British Columbia, received a grant from Health Canada's Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program for Northern First Nations and Inuit Communities.

The goal of the project, said Mackin, is "reconstructing traditional shelters from the region with the interest of reviving the traditional knowledge."

Nunavut projects share $1.5 million


Organizers behind Iqaluit-based Qaggiavuut Society were overjoyed Jan. 27 when they were awarded a $600,000 cheque in Ottawa.

The non-profit organization was one of the finalists to share the Arctic Inspiration Prize.

"This award speaks to our perseverance and belief in the North's performing artists," stated Qaggiavuut Society executive director Ellen Hamilton.

The $1.5-million prize was split three ways between the Nunavut society's project, a pan-territorial project to help train recreation leaders and another to assist children with impaired hearing in Nunavut.


Low-cost flights to connect to south


A new airline service promised it would connect Nunavut with central and eastern Canada - at half the price.

Operating from Iqaluit, FlySarvaq was to begin offering direct flights to Ottawa and Halifax with the first flight set to depart on May 6.

Flights would be offered twice weekly - on Mondays and Fridays - with introductory rates of $499 each way. Schedules would be co-ordinated with communities on Baffin Island.

FlySarvaq president Adamee Itorcheak emphasized the economic benefits and job opportunities the airline would bring to the territory.

"I founded Sarvaq in 2011 for one reason, I wanted to be able to create opportunities for Iqalungmiut and Nunavummiut, job opportunities and training opportunities, that would better all of our lives," Itorcheak said.

Training corporation launched


A new training corporation, a joint effort between Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) and the Government of Nunavut (GN) held its first meeting in Iqaluit, the Inuit beneficiary organization announced.

"This is an important accomplishment for Inuit. By getting this corporation up and running, NTI believes we will make substantial progress toward increasing Inuit employment in Nunavut by helping Inuit obtain work and advance in all areas of the workforce, from administrative to professional designations," said NTI president Cathy Towtongie.

"NTI believes that education, training and gainful employment are key to creating stronger and healthier families and communities."

The new entity, Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation, was formed with $175 million from a settlement agreement of a $1-billion land claim implementation lawsuit launched by NTI in 2006. The settlement totaled $255.5 million.

Expansion planned for Baffin Fisheries


With the newly-announced 100-per-cent ownership of all its assets and vessels, Baffin Fisheries Coalition said it wanted to continue providing employment and opportunities to Inuit.

"Before, we were only aligned with other companies to do fishing with all of our vessels," said Methusalah Kunuk, vice-president of the coalition. "This is the first time in Nunavut a company like us is owning 100 per cent of its vessels."

Former guard sent to jail


A violent assault on an inmate at Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit landed a former jail guard behind bars after a judge sentenced him to 30 days in jail, followed by nine months of probation and 50 hours of community service.

Michael Bracken was a full-time guard at the jail on Oct. 26, 2014, when he assaulted the victim, an inmate, twice in the same day.

Minister urged to reject request to overturn decision on Kiggavik

Baker Lake

The Kiggavik uranium project should not be approved at this time, urged a letter addressed to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.

"Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit (Makita) believes that the public record demonstrates that Areva's proposal should not be approved at this time, and that Areva's request to overturn the NIRB (Nunavut Impact Review Board) decision was unfounded and inappropriate," states the letter by Makita's Eric Ukpatiku of Baker Lake.

In limbo since the review board recommended rejecting it in May 2015, the proposed project was for one underground and four open-pit mines approximately 80 km west of Baker Lake, in between two caribou calving grounds - the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq. The site is also near the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, considered the largest and most remote wildlife refuge on the continent of North America.

The review board rejected the proposal because of an undefined start date that might be 20 years into the future.

The federal minister later accepted the NIRB decision.

Weekly dinners raise funds


A Friday take-out food program was a hit in Sanikiluaq - which has no restaurants - and raised funds for the Paatsaali Running Club.

Since late 2013, teacher Terri Skinner and students in her running club at Paatsaali School have been operating the "Friday Takeout," a dinner service with a variety of meals prepared and sold by students each Friday.

Sales from the service fund the club's trips south for marathons and other events.

Students work on a rotating basis each Friday planning menus, serving, preparing food, handling food, selling and learning how to deal with customers.

Nunavut artifacts being sent south


From original Cape Dorset prints to 1970s tapestries, 8,000 Nunavut artifacts that were being stored at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife were being sent south to the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) in mid-February.

The Government of Nunavut provided $500,000 over five years for its collection to be moved from the Yellowknife museum to the Manitoba capital's museum, which already hosts nearly 30,000 pieces of Inuit art - the largest collection in the world.

"What's coming to WAG is close to 8,000 carvings, prints, drawings and textiles and some artifacts which span about 80 years," said Stephen Borys, the museum's director and CEO. The Winnipeg gallery said it hoped to break ground on an Inuit Art Centre by the following year.

Federal transfer shortfall reversed


After the financial fright the Government of Nunavut received around Christmas time, an announcement by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau Feb. 16 that Ottawa was restoring, at least partially, a $34-million budget cut in federal-territorial financing came as a great relief.

"We're very happy that all levels of government, the territorial officials, the ministers, all worked together in collaborative partnership to address the issue and find a solution. That bodes well for the future, I think," said territorial Finance Minister Keith Peterson in an interview Feb. 18.

"They could have just said, 'No.'"

Federal Territorial Formula Financing (TFF) payments are the lifeblood of the territory's budget.

"It represents 85 per cent of our total revenues. We have a very small economy up here, very small private sector, so collecting taxes is not something that's really available to us. The TFF is our single greatest source of revenue," said Peterson.

Students receive free computers

Ikaluktutiak/Cambridge Bay

Thanks to former Cambridge Bay resident Sudhir Jha, a volunteer with Computers for Schools in Yellowknife, 22 Nunavut Arctic College students received refurbished computers in February.

Computers for Schools is a program run by Innovation, part of the federal department of Science and Economic Development.

The students were thrilled with the donations.

"These are practically brand new with up-to-date software so that I can do my school work at home. Thanks so much. I am so grateful," said Hilary Irwin, a social work student.


Cabinet minister takes stand


Paul Okalik took a stand against alcohol sales in the capital by resigning as Minister of Health and Justice March 3.

Introducing himself in the traditional Alcoholics Anonymous fashion by saying, "I'm Paul and I'm an alcoholic," Okalik then stated his case, saying he could not support a beer and wine store while addictions treatment in the territory is not available. He then resigned from cabinet. Okalik had reportedly been sober for 25 years.

In a news release from Vancouver where he was attending a First Ministers meeting, Premier Peter Taptuna accepted Okalik's resignation.

"On Monday, I will make an announcement regarding the portfolios. I want to thank Mr. Okalik for his dedicated service to cabinet on behalf of Nunavummiut and as a member of the executive council," he stated in a news release.

$25 million for infrastructure


Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo announced $25.62 million in federal infrastructure dollars for Nunavut at the legislative assembly in Iqaluit.

Tootoo said the federal Liberal government knows the infrastructure deficit in Nunavut goes deep, adding, "We also know we need to invest in our communities."

The planned Kenojuak Cultural Centre in Cape Dorset received $2 million for an estimated $10-million project. The Cambridge Bay arena received slightly more than $3 million for health- and safety-related repairs.

And the third phase of the Iqaluit Aquatic Centre received $4 million.

Two other injections of funds were directed to the Department of Community and Government Services to upgrade arenas territory-wide with almost $15 million and to the Department of Education with more than $1 million to replace playground structures.

Deadline looms for Hall Beach playground

Sanirajak/Hall Beach

Children spend a lot of time on playground structures every day in communities across Nunavut, but Hall Beach was about to lose theirs.

"The playground has to come out this summer regardless of whether we have something to replace it," said Hall Beach resident Jennifer Currie who, together with senior administrative officer Kimberley Young, was hard at work securing funding to ensure the children have a new playground.

"It's the only outdoor designated area for children to play in this community. Kids are outside playing all the time. If they didn't have the playground, I guess they'd be scattered all over the community. Playgrounds are a safe way to experiment with risk, so the kids would not be able to have those kinds of experiences without one."

Education Minister Paul Quassa agreed with Currie on the importance of playground structures.

"Hall Beach is being assessed within the priority listing," he said, along with 10 other communities.

Clyde River wins right to appeal


Clyde River finally received good news March 10 after a faltering two-year battle to block seismic testing in Davis Strait - the Supreme Court of Canada would hear its appeal.

"For Clyde River, it means that our concerns are legitimate and should be a cause for concern," said former Clyde River mayor Jerry Natanine.

Natanine had been the public face of the opposition in the fight against the National Energy Board's decision to approve seismic testing by a group of three companies over a five-year period.

"When the appeals court turned us down it was as if our case has no merit. This decision gives us legitimacy in our pursuit," he said, adding he heard the news over social media. "It was unbelievable. Really exciting."

The Hamlet of Clyde River, hunters and trappers and global anti-oil organizations such as Greenpeace protested the energy board's decision in fear of potential danger to marine creatures, saying Inuit rights were not considered strongly enough.

Position changed on calving grounds


The Government of Nunavut's unexpected about-face on the protection of caribou calving grounds and other sensitive caribou habitat, with the intent to allow development in those areas, shocked many in early March.

Previously the government was in favour of protecting caribou calving grounds and other sensitive areas from development, a position held for decades by Kivalliq hunters and trappers organizations, as well as the Kivalliq Wildlife Board, including last year at the two-week Kiggavik hearing held in Baker Lake.

The proposed Kiggavik mine, which had not so far been given approval, is sandwiched between the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq calving grounds.

Gov't to help pay for damaged rescue gear


A new policy from the Government of Nunavut was announced in early March that would see volunteers compensated for equipment repairs needed after search and rescue operations.

Sanikiluaq MLA Allan Rumbolt brought the issue up in the winter legislative assembly sitting, pointing to a current Department of Community and Government Services policy that damaged equipment is "non-eligible" for compensation.

"I believe that if a search and rescue volunteer risks his or her own equipment during an authorized search, he or she should not have to worry that they will have to pay for any damages that occur during the search," Rumbolt said.

His suggestion was met receptively by Community and Government Services Minister Joe Savikataaq.

Savikataaq said his department had come up with a new policy, which was still undergoing a few tweaks, to address Rumbolt's concern.

Visitor centre coming to Gjoa Haven

Uqsuqtuuq/Gjoa Haven

Canada's Liberal government turned a Conservative election promise into reality with a Parks Canada announcement March 17 it would establish a Franklin visitor and field research centre in Gjoa Haven.

The new centre, a collaboration between the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and Parks Canada, would see federal funding of $16.9 million over five years to support the ongoing investigation of HMS Erebus and for the development of multi-purpose infrastructure.

The missing HMS Erebus was found in September 2014 and some artifacts from the ship were being stored at the Parks Canada archaeological conservation laboratory in Ottawa. The HMS Terror was discovered in September.

Louie Kamookak, who worked over decades documenting Inuit oral history and cross-referencing it with written accounts by adventurers to the North, worked closely with Parks Canada leading up to the Erebus find.

"This is great news for both Gjoa Haven and Nunavummiut. The idea of having the authentic artifacts in the North and possibility of employment and businesses for the region is wonderful news," Kamookak said.

Federal budget falls short on funds for new housing


Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson was disappointed in the first Liberal federal budget released March 22.

"I was expecting more," he said.

Peterson presented two business cases to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau - $525 million over five years to build 1,000 homes in a territory deeply mired in a housing crisis and $250 million to upgrade failing power plants.

"We didn't get it," he said. "Not near enough that we hoped to get."

Instead, the federal budget provides $76.7 million over two years for houses.

"That translates into 140 to 150 houses. Although it's welcome, it's not really going to address our long-term needs," said Peterson, adding it was more than the last two federal budgets, which saw no money at all for housing.

Senator challenges land requirement


Less than 20 per cent of Nunavut's population is qualified to be a senator, and that's something Nunavut's senator, Dennis Patterson, was trying to change.

"The bottom line here is that right now to be qualified to be a member of the Senate of Canada, one has to not only be a resident of the region to be appointed to represent but one must also own land," said Patterson, who introduced a private members' bill to amend the Constitution in the Senate in March.

The exact language in the Constitution stipulates a need for $4,000 value of property and $4,000 net worth.

Land and home ownership are down across the country, but the issue is especially prevalent in Nunavut, where roughly 79 per cent of the population lives in rented accommodation, according to a 2011 survey.

Another four per cent of population are in condos.


Five-day search ends in success

Baffin Island

A five-day search for missing Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak, his son Atamie Qiyuqtaq and travelling companion Peter Kakkik ended in "massive relief" as April began when all three men were found tired but safe.

The men were 10 days on the land, their whereabouts unknown.

"Emotions were high when these guys stepped off the helicopter (in Iqaluit)," said Kris Mullaly, communications officer for Community and Government Services.

"People were saying, 'Oh my God, what a relief it is to find you.' There were a lot of handshakes, a lot of hugs."

The trio's saga began after they departed from Iqaluit March 22. Their plan was to travel to Pangnirtung via a well-known trail, with cabins along the way.

By all accounts, it would be a two-day trip. From Pangnirtung, they were to continue on to Qikiqtarjuaq, Keyootak's home community.

"Shortly after they left on this path they became turned around by wind," said Mullaly.

"The winds were strong, with blowing snow. That forced them to turn around in the other direction. They ended up going off course."

Students chat with astronaut

Ikaluktutiak/Cambridge Bay

Students at Kullik Ilihakvik and Kiilinik High School in Cambridge Bay prepared to chat with an astronaut on the International Space Station.

"This is a community space contact - all are invited," said Ron Ralph, the Northern organizer for Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), which sets up conversations from space for students around the world.

American astronaut Jeff Williams was expected to answer 15 questions students prepared in advance, which were already approved by NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, from the world's only orbiting laboratory.

Other educational treats included learning about the Mars Curiosity Rover that was launched two years ago.

Ambitious plan for big ship

Ikaluktutiak/Cambridge Bay

Extensive planning was going into an ambitious luxury cruise ship voyage scheduled to stop in two Nunavut communities on a journey designed to traverse the Northwest Passage.

The communities of Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet were planned ports-of-call during the historic voyage of the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity from Aug. 16 to Sept. 17.

Population estimates in those communities in 2015 are 1,697 and 1,668 respectively, while the total population on board the luxury ship weighing anchor near them was an estimated 1,700, including crew members.

Passage on the sold-out voyage began at a cost of $21,855 per person.

It was a first, said Peter Garapick, the Canadian Coast Guard superintendent of Search and Rescue for the Central and Arctic Region.

Bernie MacIsaac, assistant deputy minister of economic development, said the cruise ship company approached the territorial government a couple of years ago.

"A lot of work goes into preparing cruise passengers for the Arctic, and that includes education and awareness about the communities that the passengers will be visiting," said MacIsaac.

Clawback ends on child benefit


The Government of Nunavut said it would no longer claw back the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) from social assistance calculations. The GN previously treated the federal benefit as income and decreased the amount paid out in monthly social assistance payments.

"This positive change ensures that Nunavut's low-income families receive the full value of this important federal program," stated Family Services Minister George Kuksuk in a news release. The Department of Family Services expected the exemption to impact approximately 2,500 families, providing low-income families with up to $6.8 million in additional dollars in social assistance this fiscal year.

Rangers guide military exercise

Quasuittuq/Resolute Bay

The Canadian Rangers continued to play an integral part in military operations in the North and April's Operation Nunalivut on Little Cornwallis Island in Nunavut could hardly be done without them. So said Brig.-Gen. Mike Nixon during a media briefing at Resolute Bay on April 9.

Nixon, commander of Joint Task Force North (JTFN), was in Resolute to observe soldiers and Rangers who were participating in the exercise.

It saw about 100 soldiers from across Canada as well as the U.S. and Denmark use snowmobiles, some of them diesel-powered, and amphibious Argo vehicles to transport tents, high frequency radios and other gear about 100 kilometres to Little Cornwallis Island, where a camp had been set up until April 22.

Resilience results in school reward

Kinngait/Cape Dorset

It was a trying year for students in Cape Dorset following the fire at Peter Pitseolak High School that destroyed the structure just weeks into the fall semester the previous year. But their perseverance did not go unnoticed.

"It's not easy. I'm sure a lot of them don't feel like going to school when they don't have a school that they can call their own," said Annie Manning, a former teacher in the community.

Huge increase in hunger


Nearly half of households in Nunavut were experiencing food insecurity - the highest level since data-gathering began in 2005, according to a report using numbers gathered in 2014. Food security is generally defined as access to safe and nutritious foods in sufficient amounts to lead a healthy active life.

In Nunavut, 46.8 per cent of households fell outside of this definition.

The report, titled Household Food Insecurity in Canada 2014, was released by PROOF, an interdisciplinary team of international researchers working toward policy that addresses food insecurity, supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The report was alarming. Across Canada, the participating jurisdictions included Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Combined, the regions shared a 12 per cent average of food insecurity in 2014 - representing 1.3 million households and nearly one million youth, according to the report.

The statistics become far greater when considering households with children. In Nunavut, 60 per cent of households with children under 18 years of age were food insecure.

Across Canada, the average is one in six children living with food insecurity.

Showdown over airline seats


A price war broke out in the skies between Iqaluit and Ottawa.

Newcomer GoSarvaq officially launched in April with summer flights between Ottawa and Iqaluit going for $499 per seat if booked before May 6.

That was a far cry from average prices on that

route of around $1,200.

But Canadian North and First Air, market leaders in that route, came right back and offered $399 per seat on the Iqaluit-Ottawa route for the same timeframe.

Social media reacted with jubilation at GoSarvaq's announcement, followed by critical comments about the Canadian North and First Air response and why it took competition for the companies to offer such a good price.

GoSarvaq spokesperson Brian Tattuinee said his company took more than 200 bookings within the first day of being open, which were split equally between southerners and Northerners.

"If we were to stand idly by and do nothing, we'd let others determine the market pricing and we'd risk losing bookings. In order for us to operate sustainably, we have to maintain our market share," said Kelly Lewis of Canadian North.

On May 6, GoSarvaq announced the company would not get off the ground due to the price war.

Read about the fate of GoSarvaq on the page 13.


GoSarvaq quits before it starts


What many hoped was a new era in airline pricing between Iqaluit and Ottawa ended before it could start.

GoSarvaq, in a news release May 6, announced it would not get off the ground because competitors drastically slashed ticket prices. All purchases were to be refunded.

"Unfortunately we find ourselves in a position where we have to admit defeat now, in order to protect competitive pricing for our potential passengers," stated president Adamee Itorcheak. "It is with deep regret we are notifying you to advise that we will not be able to operate GoSarvaq."

The company had announced $499 flights between Iqaluit and Ottawa, to which competitors Canadian North and First Air responded with $399 sales of their own. First Air then offered a further limited-time sale of $299 flights between Iqaluit and Ottawa.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Competition Bureau was investigating a codeshare agreement between airlines operating in Nunavut, a spokesperson stated in an e-mail to Nunavut News/North.

GoSarvaq would later lodge a predatory pricing complaint, which the bureau also decided to investigate.

Kamik program a success

Kimmirut/Lake Harbour

A kamik-making program in Kimmirut saw far more interest than organizers anticipated.

Twenty-six women applied to take part, but there was only room for six.

Monica Gardner, community justice outreach worker in the hamlet, applied for a grant to host the program with the Department of Culture and Heritage.

She also got help from the Ilisaqsivik Society.

She hired Annie Ikkidluak Sr. and Jeannie Padluq as instructors.

"I wouldn't have been able to run this program properly without them," said Gardner.

"I'm so proud of each and every one of them for succeeding in their goals. It takes a lot of hard work and patience to make these."

Students ready to drive


The Iglulik recreation committee asked high school students what they need in the community, and by popular demand, a driving course was offered.

"Within the last year it came to our attention that some people wanted to get their driver's licence but just thinking about the process made a lot of them nervous," said Merlyn Recinos.

"It also came to our attention that some young people could not apply to some jobs as they required a driver's licence."

Recinos says there wasn't funding available so the committee volunteered to teach classes every night at the library and tests were administered on the weekends.

An estimated 100 people have signed up and more are waiting. Iglulik has a population of about 2,000.

RCMP officers in the community are doing the testing.

'No' result in land referendum


As the results trickled in for the land referendum May 9, a strange anomaly showed up on the Elections Nunavut website - Grise Fiord, alone among 25 communities, was voting to give its municipality the right to sell lands.

"Like everybody else, we check up on results," said senior administrative officer Marty Kuluguqtuq. Results were showing the community voted "yes."

"We looked at each other. 'I was the only one of four in the house that voted no? Who else said no?'"

The count ran up to five or six on the no side and it quickly became evident an error had been made - results showed only four people had voted "no."

"It was just a straight clerical error. The local returning officer, it was his first time."

Across Facebook, people were shocked by the apparent "yes" vote from Grise Fiord.

"We were ready to build a wall," said Kuluguqtuq.

As it turns out, the small community had the highest voter turnout at 60 per cent, with 33 of 55 eligible voters casting their ballot. Twenty-nine voted "no" and four voted "yes." Among the remaining 24 communities, voter turnout varied greatly - from 18 to 57.77 per cent. Overall turnout was 39 per cent across the territory, as compared to 62.5 in the 2015 federal election, according to Elections Canada.

Aside from the glitch, which was rectified the next morning by Elections Nunavut, Nunavummiut from east to west voted "no."

Contest winner gives away 40 plane tickets


First Air's "Amazing 40" contest last fall asked entrants to "tell us why you and a group" deserve 40 free return tickets between Iqaluit, Montreal and Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec.

Contest winner Sarah Maniapik's offer to give them away to people in need clearly struck a note with the airline as she was getting set to do just that.

In her contest submission, the Iqaluit resident wrote she wanted to find people in Kuujjuaq or Montreal who deserved a break and perhaps hadn't seen their family in a long time. A First Air return flight to Iqaluit from Montreal can cost around $2,600. A flight to Kuujjuaq is about $2,400.

"I thought of people who have lost loved ones and have no means to go out of their community and regroup," she wrote.

Grads celebrated

Taloyoak/Spence Bay

Taloyoak celebrated the accomplishments of four high-school grads one evening in May.

Education Minister Paul Quassa attended along with around 250 residents.

"The theme of the grad was perseverance because all of the students struggled with completing school," said Netsilik Ilihakvik principal Gina Pizzo.

"They were young parents trying to juggle all the facets of their lives. They persevered, however, through all the struggles and finally made it to the podium," Pizzo added.

Tootoo seeks addictions treatment


The shocking news that Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo resigned as minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard was delivered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau May 31.

In his curt statement, Trudeau said Tootoo also resigned from the Liberal caucus.

"Mr. Tootoo will be taking time to seek treatment for addiction issues," said Trudeau. The news was followed by a statement from Tootoo later that evening.

"As of today I have resigned as minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and will be stepping down as a member of the Liberal caucus in order to not distract from the important work of my colleagues," stated Tootoo. The following morning, Trudeau told reporters gathered outside a Liberal caucus meeting that resigning was Tootoo's choice.

Tootoo continued to represent Nunavut as an independent MP.


Prize-winning group hosts hearing fair


Members of the Better Hearing in Education for Northern Youth (BHENY) team, who shared the Arctic Inspiration Prize, helped out at a hearing fair at Alookie School June 7.

The fair provided activities for families and children.

Alookie School was one of the first schools in Nunavut outfitted with new sound-amplification technology by BHENY. The system saw students using wireless headsets in the classroom to better hear their teacher.

"We know 30 to 40 per cent of our children have hearing loss at any given time," said Sandra Roberts, a member of the BHENY team.

'Violent sexual offender' facing new sex charges


A man - whom RCMP in the NWT had warned is a "violent sexual offender" - faced 10 new charges in June related to incidents in Pangnirtung, including sexual assault.

Jonah Keyuajuk was the subject of the rare public warning that said he posed "a risk of significant harm to the public" at the end of a jail sentence last August. Police applied to have a judge place strict conditions on his freedom after release.

Within a day of being released in Yellowknife, he was charged with violating his conditions. Upon conviction, he was sentenced in December to eight months in jail. It wasn't clear when or where he was released.

He was arrested again in late May, this time in his hometown of Pangnirtung, according to Nunavut RCMP.

Keyuajuk then faced charges that included sexual interference - directly or indirectly touching a person under 16 in a sexual manner -and forcible confinement.

Shell backs out of Lancaster Sound


Oil company Shell donated the offshore rights for Lancaster Sound, a body of water between Baffin Island and Devon Island, to the federal government to mark World Oceans Day.

That news was met with joy by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations that had been vocal in opposition to oil exploration in the area.

Shell's transfer of the offshore rights to the National Conservancy of Canada, and in turn to the federal government, will allow the government of Canada to pursue turning the area into a national marine conservation area.

Tununiq MLA Joe Enook celebrated the decision in the legislative assembly June 8.

"This is a very positive development towards the establishment of the Lancaster Sound Marine Conservation Area," he said through an interpreter.

Community hall needs generator

Ausuittuq/Grise Fiord

Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook told the legislative assembly at the June sitting that his community's newly constructed community hall is still missing its required generator, which didn't arrive on last year's sea lift.

"Grise Fiord's community members have expressed concern and some frustration that this critical component of the hamlet office/community hall complex has been overlooked," he told the assembly through an interpreter.

He encouraged the government to ensure a new generator for the facility will be included in this summer's sea lift. The community hall portion of the project was intended to provide a recreation area and place for community meetings and be a safe shelter during an emergency.

Kugluktuk hosts Northern games


A stroke of lucky timing meant the Kitikmeot Northern Games would have a bigger crowd than usual.

The hamlet of Kugluktuk was hosting the games and was expecting to see 200 tourists disembarking or embarking on the cruise ship Sea Adventurer the same weekend.

"It's great," said planning committee co-chair Edna Elias, noting the timing was a coincidence. "We're excited about that. They'll have real hands-on live events as they're happening, experiences to witness. We just picked the dates because students will be back in school, it's a time of year that might not be too buggy." The games ran Aug. 26 to 28, and the Quark Expeditions cruise was scheduled to arrive with 100 passengers Aug. 27, and depart the same day with another 100 passengers.

Ambassadors taste true North


When the European Union's ambassador to Canada Marie-Anne Coninsx visited Resolute Bay in June, she was surprised to hear Mayor Ross Pudluk wanted an audience with the ambassador of Ukraine.

"He told the ambassador, 'My son has been in Ukraine, on tourism there,'" Coninsx said.

Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko noted on his Twitter account that Pudluk's son had just visited Odessa.

"From Resolute Bay travelling such places, it's amazing," Coninsx said.

Such adventures are top priority for Pudluk, Coninsx heard on her trip.

"The mayor of Resolute told us his absolute priority was that the youth would have the opportunity to travel, to discover trees and green and parks, which they had never seen in their lives," she said.

But for the ambassadors, visiting Resolute and many other communities throughout Nunavut, NWT, Yukon, Nunavik and Labrador was an opportunity few ever get.

The 21 heads of mission journeyed 12,000 km from May 29 to June 6, making 16 stops, including Iqaluit, Cape Dorset, Hall Beach Resolute Bay, Cambridge Bay, and Rankin Inlet.

Review board rejects Back River

Ikaluktutiak/Cambridge Bay

The Back River Gold Mine project was put on hold when the Nunavut Impact Review Board said June 16 that Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. had not eased concerns about the gold mine southwest of Cambridge Bay, especially regarding caribou.

"On the basis of the potential for significant adverse ecosystemic and socio-economic effects in Nunavut and also in the Northwest Territories that, in the board's view, cannot be adequately managed and mitigated, the proposed Back River Gold Mine Project should not proceed at this time," review board chairperson Elizabeth Copland stated in a news release.

Sabina bought the mine 400 km southwest of Cambridge Bay in 2009, and the NIRB review started four years ago.

Sabina had hoped the mine would produce 200,000 ounces of gold per year for about 11 years before it was stopped.

Dump fire roars again


Just about as soon as the weather got warm again, one of Iqaluit's dumps burst into flames.

Unlike the summer 2014 Dumpcano debacle, this time it was a smaller fire at the city's metal and wood dump.

The fire began the evening of June 20, and wasn't fully extinguished until late on June 21. Large plumes of smoke were cast into the sky as firefighters battled the blaze, and the Government of Nunavut issued an air quality warning on June 21, recommending elders, children and those with vulnerable immune systems avoid the dump fire smoke.

Child shoots gun by accident


RCMP reminded people that gun locks are available for free after a nine-year-old child fired a gun by accident in Kugluktuk in June. No one was hurt in the incident.

Police received a call at about 5:30 p.m. June 15 that a gun had been fired. Bystanders stepped in to take control of the weapon, RCMP Cpl. David Lawson said.

Upon arriving at the scene, police found two unsecured firearms, one of them loaded, according to an RCMP statement on a community Facebook page.

Police secured the weapons and spoke with the child, parents and social services about the situation. The discharge was considered accidental and no charges were laid.

Senator challenges fisheries policy


A Department of Fisheries and Oceans policy on commercial fishing was discriminatory against Nunavut fisheries, Sen. Dennis Patterson argued on the Senate floor June 17.

The federal government department introduced Last In First Out (LIFO) in 2003 as part of its Integrated Fisheries Management Plan. Under LIFO, as quotas are reduced due to climate change, new licence holders lose their shrimp quotas before older ones.

"Since Nunavut was established in 1999, this policy favours the older and established fishing companies that have been trolling for fish and shrimp in our Arctic waters for decades," Patterson told fellow senators. "The LIFO policy directly discriminates against Nunavut."

Language education a basic right, NTI


Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) vice-president James Eetoolook weighed in during consultations for revisions of the Education Act by saying Inuit language education is a basic Inuit right.

"Education reforms must strengthen our right to be educated in Inuktitut, promote Inuit cultural instruction and Inuit identity and dramatically increase the number of Inuit teachers in our schools," stated Eetoolook on June 28. "Inuit language, culture and identity must be the foundation of the education system."

Former Nunavut language commissioner Sandra Inutiq said in order to move forward on the "practical" one-language model suggested by a previous review of the Education Act, the right to Inuit language must be removed.

"Taking away rights is serious," she said. "It's a troubling ultimatum. And the English stream is only graduating 25 per cent of the children."

NTI wanted to see up to 80 per cent more Inuktitut instruction in classes from kindergarten to Grade 12, 85 per cent employment of Inuit teachers as required by the land claim, increased decision-making on language for regional DEAs, and curriculum that reflects and promotes Inuit identity.

$4.5 million for Kinngait art centre

Kinngait/Cape Dorset

The Kenojuak Cultural Centre and Print Shop received $4.5 million in funding from Canadian Heritage on June 27. This followed a March announcement of $2 million from Infrastructure Canada.

Additional funds for the $11 million partnership project between the Municipality of Cape Dorset and the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative came from private donors and fundraising initiatives. The art hub will provide a community gathering space, visitor centre and exhibition gallery for tourism. Ground was broken for the arts centre in the fall.


Playing around

Sanirajak/Hall Beach

Funding was finalized for a new playground in Hall Beach.

An October 2015 inspection of the two playgrounds in the hamlet by a territorial government environmental health officer showed the structures to be unsafe and were scheduled for demolition.

One of the playgrounds was on hamlet land and the other on school land. "A lot of it is breaking and dangerous at this point, so it will go to our metal recycling dump," said the hamlet's senior administrative officer Kimberley Young.

The community received $92,000 towards new playground equipment from the Government of Nunavut sports and recreation grant.

The hamlet council had agreed to put up to $30,000 of capital block. And a GoFundMe page brought in $1,740, said resident Jennifer Currie.

Sinking cemetery


Flooding was a problem at the new Apex cemetery over the summer months.

At a June council meeting, Coun. Megan Pizzo-Lyall questioned whether any test holes were dug at the Apex location before $1.3 million was spent on the 2013 project.

She told Nunavut News/North that commonly when a hole is dug to bury someone in the cemetery, it begins to fill with water, and that there is also a problem with mud.

"When people lose their loved ones who prefer to be buried, over cremation for example, in Iqaluit, during the spring and summer they are being buried in water," said Pizzo-Lyall.

"The Department of Engineering and Public Works has to have the water pumped out, sometimes multiple times prior to the burial ceremony."

Grays Bay agreement between KIA, GN


The Kitikmeot Inuit Association and the Government of Nunavut signed a memorandum of understanding on the Grays Bay Road and Port Project on July 9.

The proposed 227-kilometre all-season road will link the northern end of the Tibbitt-Contwoyto Winter Road to a deep-water port at Grays Bay at Coronation Gulf on the Northwest Passage. The memorandum of understanding focuses on cooperation in preparing an application to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, as well as project governance, contracting and funding.

"I believe that the collaboration between the GN and KIA on this MoU sets the standard for how responsible development in Canada's North should proceed," stated Anablak.

"KIA's participation will help guarantee that the project is developed in a manner that is consistent with Inuit values, including

ensuring respect for the environment

and the wildlife that we cherish."

The KIA has since conducted community consultation meetings within the Kitikmeot region to gather public feedback on the project, as required for application to NIRB.

On the air


KIA marked its 40th anniversary by launching a pilot regional radio project, and a promise to include all Kitikmeot communities in the organization's television network.

The Kitikmeot Radio Network RN 100.1 FM began broadcasts in Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk on July 9.

"I never would have believed we would get into the radio business but radio is such a key component in communication in small communities, in small Nunavut communities particularly," said event organizer Jason Tologanak. The radio is also a crucial tool for language preservation, he said.

"Language is at the forefront of KIA's vision. It's important to have radio in our languages."

The television part of the project is to expand the Channel 51 language TV project, which is in collaboration with Isuma Productions, to the communities of Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak and Kugaaruk. The channel was up and running in Kugluktuk in November.

Gas spill

Kangiqtugaapik/Rankin Inlet

Some 500 litres of gasoline leaked into the harbour in Rankin Inlet on July 13 after a motorboat struck a refuelling line floating off of the M/V Sten Fjard.

Original reports suggested the leak could have been as much as 2,000 litres but the coast guard estimated the amount was closer to 500 litres. Clean up was quickly started by the Rankin Inlet fire department, the Nunavut petroleum contracting manager and the crew of the Fjard, using absorbent booms.

"Thank God it wasn't as bad as it could have been," said Mayor Robert Janes.

Suicide prevention strategy unveiled


Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) unveiled its National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy on July 27. The federal government contributed $9 million to the strategy, from a pot of $69 million allotted to indigenous mental health.

"Suicide among Inuit is a symptom of wider social challenges in our population that have emerged in just the last several decades," said president Natan Obed. "Our ancestors had relatively low rates of suicide. They persevered through hardship, which is why we are here today," said Obed. "We must work together to support the people in our society who are struggling so that they can be strong and resilient throughout their lives once again."

The strategy will look at evidence for effective prevention, as well as risk and protective factors. The rate of suicide in Canada's four Inuit regions ranges from five to 25 times that of suicide rates in the nation as a whole.

Uranium pitch ditched

Qamanittuaq/Baker Lake

The Nunavut Impact Review Board's year-old recommendation to cancel the Kiggavik uranium project was upheld by Indigenous and Northern Affairs in July.

The review board rejected the project based on a lack of definite start date and development schedule.

INAC minister Carolyn Bennett said unknown project-start dates are not uncommon in the North, and the board should continue to assess projects on a case by base basis to determine whether this is a significant problem and see what can be done to accommodate project commencement.

But in the case of Kiggavik, uncertainty was a problem for more than just NIRB, said Jamie Seekeenak, chairperson of the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization, which has participated in the board's review process.

"Even those who supported it were clear that we need the best possible deal for the people of Baker Lake and the best possible environmental safeguards. At the final hearings, Areva did not convince the HTO or community representatives that this was the case."


Tootoo confesses


Nunavut MLA Hunter Tootoo confessed on Aug. 3 to an inappropriate relationship with one of his staff members. On Aug. 4 he told Nunavut News/North that all information related to his need to seek addictions treatment was now on the table.

"I engaged in a consensual but inappropriate relationship. For me, it's not behaviour that I believe was appropriate. For that, I'm ashamed. And I'm sorry," said Tootoo.

He said his decision to pursue the relationship was clouded by alcohol.

Non-Inuk represents Inuit women


One of five commissioners appointed to lead the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was critiqued on account of not being Inuk.

Lawyer Qajaq Robinson was born in Iqaluit and raised in Iglulik. She works with a collection of 70 lawyers who do work for First Nation communities, and serves as the vice-president of Tungasuvvingat Inuit, providing cultural and wellness programs to Inuit in Ottawa. She is also fluent in Inuktitut.

"In 2016 it is not acceptable that the Inuit women of Canada do not have an Inuk as a commissioner," stated Pauktuutit president Rebecca Kudloo after the commissioners were announced on Aug. 3. Pauktuutit is the national representative organization of Inuit women in Canada and is based in Ottawa.

However, Iqaluit mayor Madeleine Redfern supported Robinson.

"She is very familiar with our culture, our values, our way of life ... and as such she will bring all her legal knowledge and experience ... for the benefit of not just Northerners but for all Canadians."

Cause of caribou death unknown

Prince Charles Island

A researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada found 47 dead caribou while flying over Prince Charles Island in search of birds.

"We noticed these strange looking shapes and as we landed we realized they were the carcasses of caribou," said Paul Smith. "And because I'm familiar with conservation issues in Nunavut I realized it was maybe an important find in light of the status of the Baffin caribou herd."

The GN imposed the first-ever Baffin Island caribou quota, of just 250 animals per year, in 2015, following a dive in caribou populations by as much as 90 per cent since the 1990s.

The cause of death was unknown, although Smith initially wondered if the mammals had brucellosis, a bacterial disease that impacts caribou herds.

"A plausible scenario would be that some kind of late spring weather event prevented them from accessing their food," said Smith.

Solar panels show promise


Kugluktuk was developing a green energy plan, following the success of a solar panel project on the community recreation centre.

The new solar panels installed across the rooftop of the building, providing 10 kilowatts of power, resulted in a $2,000 savings in their first month of operation.

"This is real and hard data and shows the potential of solar power in the North," Green Sun Rising's Klaus Dehiring told Nunavut News/North.

The recreation complex cost the hamlet $170,000 in electric bills in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. This figure does not include heating.

The alternative energy solution will leave more money available for community programming.

Weather makes waves

Ausuittuq/Grise Fiord

Grise Fiord got hit by high waves that damaged a roadway and the community freezer on Aug. 19. The storm went into the following morning.

The waves were forecast to be as high as three metres.

"Longtime residents of Grise Fiord told me this is the first time they have seen a storm like this in Grise Fiord," stated Bernard Ungalaaq Maktar in an e-mail to Nunavut News/North.

Shoreline erosion had made the community freezer, which was built in the 1980s, more susceptible to the storm.

Luckily, the freezer's contents were not damaged, as the waves only made it to the cutting room, said resident Larry Audlaluk.

He said while it was a big storm, the community could handle it.

"We're all veterans. We're from Grise Fiord ... Over the years that we've lived here we've learned how to look after things and ourselves. We take precautions," he said.

The community had received as much as 85 mm of rain in the two days prior to the high swells, according to Environment Canada.

Car concerns


Iqaluit city council discussed what to do with derelict vehicles Aug. 23.

Coun. Terry Dobbin suggested a temporary reduction of the city's disposal fee to $100 from $200, provided people arranged to drain their own vehicles of dangerous fluids.

But deputy mayor Romeyn Stevenson said the actual cost for a resident to dispose of a vehicle could be as much as $700 per car once the fluids are removed and other necessities dealt with. Stevenson said the project should fall under the contractor who handles the metal dump.

"The scope of work is already there," Stevenson said, later noting the contractor has picked up an additional 100 vehicles beyond the 167 vehicles originally planned.

Mayor Madeleine Redfern said the number of derelict vehicles in the city, including at garages, on Iqaluit Housing Authority land, on Inuit-owned land and on personal property, is now estimated at up to 400 vehicles. The city was already planning to increase the car-tipping fee to $1,000, which would help cover the cost of processing end-of-life vehicles.


Ranger relationship repaired


Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr announced his department would provide an enhanced level of service and outreach to veterans and their families in Northern communities. The support falls under a $5.6 billion portion of the federal budget allotted to improve veterans' benefits and services.

"As we were looking at reopening the nine offices, our minister was supportive of us going further and having a bigger presence in our Northern territories, which up to now have been limited at best," said Michel Doiron, assistant deputy minister of service delivery for Veterans Affairs Canada.

He said there were only 25 Armed Forces veterans identified in Nunavut, but they believe there are more than that.

Doiron also said Canadian Rangers are considered reservists when on duty and are entitled to benefits.

"We're working with the armed forces to make sure the Rangers understand that there are programs available to them."

Contamination check


The Department of Environment dug holes in the Lower Base area of Iqaluit to check for historical contamination.

The 1.5 m by 2 m pockets were used to collect soil and water samples.

The samples would take time to process but should contaminants show up they could be connected to American and Canadian military operations, said David Oberg, environmental liabilities project manager.

Military contamination from the same period led to a $575 million cleanup for the DEW Line remediation project in 2014, and included soil contaminated with oil, hydrocarbons, poly-chlorinated biphenyls and heavy metals, such as lead, left from the 1950s.

But contaminants left by the American military did not fall under that project.

Oberg said results will be available in the spring.

Waste and water support


Chesterfield Inlet

Nunavut's water and sewage infrastructure received federal attention, with three communities benefitting from funding announced Sept. 6.

Community and Government Services Minister Joe Savikataaq and federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced more than $68 million in combined funding for the territory.

"This new agreement will help us target critical safe water and wastewater projects to increase the impact of our capital investments," said Savikataaq.

Iqaluit received $26.5 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant. Ottawa would provide $19.9 million, with a GN contribution of $6.6 million.

Arviat received $15.75 million from the feds and $5.25 million from the GN to enhance its water-related infrastructure.

Chesterfield Inlet received $1.05 million in federal money and $350,000 in territorial money for water-treatment upgrades.

Funding came in part from a $120-billion Canadian infrastructure investment plan, to be spread over the next decade.

Rifles for the rangers


Thousands of new C-19 Canadian Ranger rifles were ordered from Colt Canada.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan made the announcement on Sept. 2 during Operation Nanook 2016.

Last year, 125 test rifles were issued on a trial basis. After trials and tune-ups to the design, 6,820 new rifles will be issued between 2017 and 2019, said Ranger instructor Warrant Officer Thomas Harvey.

The firearms will replace the Second World War-era Lee Enfield rifle that has been used by the Rangers since 1947.

The new gun is based on the Sako Tikka compact tactical rifle, a Finnish design. The contract for the firearms is worth $32.8 million.

The rifles cost approximately $3,000 each, including transit cases, cleaning kits and locking devices. And the cosmetics on the rifle's stock and barrel are designed so that Armed Forces and RCMP personnel can easily identify a Ranger rifle from a distance.

Inuk aids in Terror find

Uqsuqtuuq/Gjoa Haven

Whispers of a boat at the bottom of Terror Bay have been heard in the Kitikmeot for years.

On Sept. 2, these whispers led to the discovery of the second fated vessel of the Franklin Expedition, HMS Terror.

This happened after Canadian Ranger Sammy Kogvik told Arctic Research Foundation operations director Adrian Schimnowski about his own possible sighting of the vessel many years earlier - the man even had photos of himself with what appeared to be a mast protruding from the ice.

Schimnowski described that moment as "an arrow pointing us in the direction to where the ship would be."

The crew of the ARF vessel Martin Bergmann then steered off course, away from the Parks Canada's planned search area. They located the wreck after only 15 minutes of searching in the appropriately named bay. Schimnowski said underwater video showed the ship to be in pristine condition.

Energy summit pushes renewable


New energy solutions are needed in Nunavut, attendees at the Arctic Renewable Energy Summit in Iqaluit Sept. 15 to 17 heard.

"There was overwhelming interest in renewable energy, getting off the dependence on diesel. That was pervasive throughout the whole summit," Qulliq Energy Corporation president Bruno Pereira said.

During the summit, the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy presented new research showing millions to be saved should Nunavut communities shift to more renewable energy generation. The research showed that for Arviat, a 60 per cent renewable energy penetration could result in a $2.5 million cost reduction over 10 years.

Bowhead hunt a whale of a tail


The Pangnirtung Hunters and Trappers Association's bowhead whale hunt turned into a 10-day escapade, recounted office manager Jackie Maniapik.

Even just reaching the hunt site took many days due to weather, and required sending boats back to restock food stores.

The whole crew of 29 returned to Pangnirtung on Sept. 6 and went back out the next day. More than two dozen whales of various sizes were seen.

Finally, the co-captain spotted one of the right size. Then came harpoon troubles. Three harpoon heads from three harpoons shot from the captain's boat came off.

"The third boat with the long line was called to harpoon the bowhead and this time the harpoon stayed and we put four buoys on the line," said Maniapik. After killing the whale using grenades, more harpoons, .50-calibre and .458-calibre guns and qalugiaq, the crew hauled the bowhead back to the camp.

"For the next three low tides, during the day, all the crew who were down at the camp helped out getting all the maktak, meat and the bones apart and in the final day the crew had successfully put the skull above the high tide," said Maniapik.

The community celebrated with a feast and the remainder of the meat was put in the community freezer for people to access maktak.


Youth leaders call on Ottawa


Four Inuit youth leaders testified in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs while the committee was in Iqaluit. The committee was travelling to communities who have felt the horrifying impacts of high rates of suicide.

"I can positively report that Inuit youth are in a state of identity crisis," National Inuit Youth Council president Maatalii Okalik testified, "because strategic assimilation policies and acts by government to create relationship dependencies with government as reflected in our statistics have proven to be successful."

She said language and culture are key to suicide prevention because they provide identity.

Okalik highlighted Call to Action number 66 of the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action to support multi-year funding models for more sustainable and community based youth programming.

Pootoogook dies

Kinngait/Cape Dorset

The body of Cape Dorset artist Annie Pootoogook was found floating in an Ottawa river on Sept. 19. She was 46.

The artist, who had at times struggled with addiction, had not been back to her home hamlet for years but remnants of her art could still be found around the local studio, said Bill Ritchie of Kinngait Studios.

"We always thought she would be coming back some day to join the rest of the artists," he said. "She was a catalyst," said Pat Feheley of Feheley Fine Arts in Toronto, who first showed Pootoogook's work in the south.

"She brought the attention of the collecting public in the south to contemporary Inuit art."

Jerry Cans album released


As The Jerry Cans prepared to release a new album, they also created a new recording company.

Band members Nancy Mike, Andrew Morrison and Steve Rigby started Aakuluk Music in order to work with young artists, to whom they can also teach the fine art of grant applications and the business of self-promotion and organizing tours.

Aakuluk Music will be structured a bit like a collective, where everyone pitches in to get the work done.

"We're our own booking agents, our own record label, our own distribution," Morrison said.

Marine projects get go-ahead


Two primary marine projects in the territory are running smoothly, with Pond Inlet's small craft harbour scheduled for completion in 2019 and Iqaluit's harbour and deep-sea port set to open in 2020.

Construction is anticipated to start in the summer of 2018, following the processing of proposal requests. Once completed, the harbours and port will be Government of Nunavut capital assets.

The $84.9 million Iqaluit project will see a $63.7 investment from the Building Canada fund and a $21.2 contribution from Nunavut, while the $41.2 million Pond Inlet project will see $30 million in federal funding and $11.2 million from Nunavut.

Both projects were approved by the Harper government but last fall's election slowed the process down.

New water plant welcomed

Ikaluktutiak/Cambridge Bay

A new water treatment plant opened in Cambridge Bay.

Hamlet SAO Marla Limousin said the new facility was more conveniently located, as the old pump house was right in the middle of town, and having the trucks fill up would often cause congestion. She said in the winter, the water runoff made the main intersection near the school, bank and post office very icy.

The new treatment process brought hamlet drinking water up to Canadian regulatory standards.

NTI calls GN out on education


NTI called for attention to Inuit employment programs for teachers in the territory.

Changes to the Education Act had NTI pointing out areas where the previous act - passed in 2008 - hadn't been implemented, namely the lack of Inuit teachers in Nunavut schools.

"(The government) has never implemented Article 23 (of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement), the Inuit employment plan, for teachers," said NTI vice-president James Eetoolook.

He said the low number of Inuit teachers means students move through a non-Inuit school system.

"There are 453 non-Inuit teachers compared to about 126 Inuit teachers," he said, educating an estimated 430 non-Inuit students and 9300 Inuit students in Nunavut. "Non-Inuit teachers are not passing on Inuit culture and identity. The Inuit identity and culture are completely different from other cultures," said Eetoolook.

Canada gifts funds


Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly announced $738,000 in funding for Nunavut projects on Oct. 19. The funds fell under the $210 million Canada 150 Fund, in celebration of the nation's 150th anniversary.

"We know the past 150 years were less than perfect with indigenous people of this land," Joly said.

"But we want to make sure the next 150 years are way better."

Projects funded under Canada 150 followed four themes: youth, environment, inclusion and reconciliation with indigenous people.

First KIA suicide prevention resolution passed


A presentation by youth representatives from Kitikmeot communities led to the passing of the first KIA suicide prevention resolution at the association's annual general meeting.

The youth inspired Bessie Sitatak of Kugluktuk to tell the assembly about a dream she had that summer, during a visit to Gjoa Haven, when youth suicides had taken place.

In her dream, she was sitting around a table with a group of teenage boys, listening to the song You Are My Sunshine.

"I started singing it and the boys started following. Every time we came to that line, 'Please don't take my sunshine away', the boy sitting across from me would nod his head, with tears running down his face."

Sitatak had the assembly all stand to sing the song for the youth.

"It was one of the most powerful moments I've ever felt at an AGM," said Sarah Jancke, who co-ordinates youth and women's programs for the KIA.

Marine trainers upgrade


The Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium was without a proper school base following an arson fire.

This month saw the opening of a new building, thanks to Qikiqtaaluk Corporation (QC), a partner in the consortium, which owned a vacant building, the old Frobuild hardware store at 1515 Federal Road.

QC agreed to help turn the building into a school, brought the building up to code, and even paid for half the new flooring to cover up the concrete.

To keep the training program running, "we met in all sorts of places," said executive director Elizabeth Cayen. "We met in boardrooms, we met in some old Nunavut Arctic College classrooms which were really closets, we met in the parish hall -we met in so many different places."

Prevention needs community


The annual Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention conference hosted by Nunavut's Kamatsiaqtut Help Line drew more than 600 people from around the world to Iqaluit on Oct. 26 to 29.

"Suicide isn't the responsibility of any one person or organization or community or territory," said Charlotte Borg, co-chair of Help Line Borg said. "Everybody can help make a difference when it comes to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention."

"The conference is extremely important for Nunavut," said Sheila Levy, executive director for Kamatsiaqtut Help Line.


Inuktitut ban never happened

Kinngait/Cape Dorset

South Baffin MLA David Joanasie's claims that Cape Dorset students were barred from speaking Inuktitut were unfounded, Education Minister Paul Quassa said after his department investigated.

"I want to assure everyone that the events described were unfounded and that no student was discouraged from speaking Inuktitut or punished for doing so," said Quassa.

Joanasie said he heard students had been told not to speak in their traditional tongue because English-speaking teachers were unable to monitor whether the language was being used for verbal abuse.

"I see this as a miscommunication," said Kelli Gillard, chairperson for the Coalition of Nunavut DEAs, who echoed the reality that both bullying and language education are a challenge in Nunavut schools.

"Currently we do have a lot of English speaking teachers that may not know all the words," she said.

School under-insured

Kinngait/Cape Dorset

Peter Pitseolak High School was under-insured when it burned down last fall.

The GN failed to inform its insurance company of a $17-million addition and upgrade made to the building in 2010.

Insurers valued the property at $14-million, according to MLA David Joanasie.

"When the school burned down, we learned that it was under-insured, so we couldn't put a claim in for the remaining value of the school, the book value," said Finance Minister Keith Peterson, regarding the Write-off of Assets Act, at the legislative assembly Nov. 8.

Beer and wine store to open


The capital may see a beer and wine store open in 2017, according to an announcement by Finance Minister Keith Peterson in the legislative assembly Nov. 8.

Health and Justice Minister Paul Okalik resigned from cabinet March 3, on the grounds that alcohol access should not be increased until supports are in place.

Peterson acknowledged that the absence of a treatment centre was a concern but that the territory could not afford one.

The thought behind the beer and wine store is that creating access to beverages with low alcohol content will decrease abuse of hard liquor.

"We live in a democratic country. People voted. 78 per cent of the people that showed up that day voted to open a beer and wine store," he said.

First Air quits codeshare


First Air ended a codeshare agreement with Canadian North Nov. 17, effective May 16, 2017.

Canadian North president Steve Hankirk stated the company was disappointed by First Air's sudden, unilateral decision to terminate the codeshare agreement with the airline, as the agreement had improved flight options and the efficiency of both airline services. First Air president Brock Friesen stated that his customers strongly preferred to fly First Air. The codeshare agreement between the companies began in May of 2015, resulting in complaints about prices and service.

Tributes to Ningark


Nunavut politician John Ningark's last prayer was a gesture of love and wisdom, said Fr. Bogdan Osiecki of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Kugaaruk.

The former MLA died on Nov. 17.

"He said to keep up the faith, to keep up the family and to use every moment of life for good," said the family friend, who visited Ningark just hours before the death.

Ningark was an MLA in NWT from 1989 to 1999 and after division for the Akulliq riding from 2009 to 2013, which is now known as Netsilik.

"He knew what was going on in his constituency," said Tagak Curley, who served in the legislative assembly along with Ningark. "He was someone I respect a lot."

"Tradition was important and the language was important and as a speaker he was able to use it in the assembly. He was a fair man, one that was rooted in his culture and identity."

Kugaaruk Senior Administrative Officer John Ivey said Ningark was influential in establishing the Tammaaqvik Women's Shelter in the hamlet.

College funding


The Arctic College received $10.64 million in federal funding for a new campus building.

The Government of Nunavut already set aside $18.9 million for the project, set to commence in the spring.

The 2,500 square-foot building will provide an additional 16 classrooms linked to the existing college campus building.

The building will house a community learning centre, Inuit language and culture centre of excellence, and space for the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium.

Students take legislature


High school students from across the territory travelled to Iqaluit in order to participate in the 6th Speaker's Youth Parliament on Nov. 24.

Topics presented ranged from education to housing, youth programming and beyond.

The youth were chosen as representatives of Nunavut's 22 constituencies through an application process.

The afternoon's session was televised in communities throughout the territory.

Each youth spoke of the needs of their communities and the territory as a whole.

The regular MLAs acted as pages for the day, preparing the students' seats and filling their glasses with water.


Clyde River waits on Supreme Court

Kangiqtugaapik/Clyde River

Concerns of seismic blasting in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait and the rights of indigenous peoples to have input on regional energy projects made their way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Former Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine, members of the community and lawyer Nader Hasan appeared at the Supreme Court in Ottawa on Nov. 30.

Now they are awaiting on their appeal to overturn a 2014 decision by the National Energy Board to grant a five-year licence for seismic testing near the hamlet.

"We have a government that is pro-indigenous rights and reconciliation in rhetoric but cases like this are where the rubber hits the road," said Hasan.

"This is about basic fundamental human rights. The right to eat andt the right to be treated as equal partners in this project that is Canada. The Inuit have a treaty right and that treaty right must mean something," said Natanine.

Cause of death unclear following infant inquest

Kinngait/Cape Dorset

The cause and manner of death of a three-month-old Cape Dorset infant remained undetermined, according to a late November verdict of a coroner's jury.

Makibi Timilak died early in the morning on April 5, 2012.

The four-day inquest included testimonies from the family, nurses who provided care to the child, RCMP officers who conducted initial investigations, an infectious disease specialist, the pathologists involved in the post mortem examination, and an expert witness on identifying cause and manner of death in infants, said coroner's counsel Amy Groothuis.

Nurse Deborah McKeown, who had refused to see Baby Makibi on the night he died in April of 2012, did not appear at the inquest.

The territory requires that children below the age of one are seen by health centres even after hours.

The jury provided seven recommendations to help the territory avoid similar incidents in future. These included greater support for new parents, sensitivity training for Northern nurses and enforcement of the telephone triage policy.

Fire chief pleads guilty, bingo theft

Kangiqliniq/Rankin Inlet

A former fire chief pleaded guilty and a volunteer deputy fire chief was to appear in court following the theft of more than $46,000 in bingo money, stolen from the improvement fund of the Rankin Inlet fire department.

Ambrose Karlik pleaded guilty in territorial court on Nov 14 to three counts of theft, a charge of fraudulently converting monies for personal use, and a breach of trust.

Michael Aksadjuak was due in court on Dec. 13 for similar charges.

Aksadjuak had served 30 years as an ambulance attendant and was the first volunteer firefighter in Nunavut to receive the national Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal in 2008.

Current fire chief Mark Wyatt said Karlik's actions have damaged the credibility of the department.

"When I got here the fire department couldn't even get a bingo license," he said.

Arctic Inspiration Prize awarded


Two of three winning teams sharing the $1.5 million Arctic Inspiration Prize, announced Dec. 8 in Winnipeg, were based in Nunavut.

The te(a)ch project promised to develop online programs to teach game design, engineering and computer science skills to students at beginner and advanced levels in Nunavut. The approach would turn consumers into creators and establish a made-in-Nunavut curriculum for computer science.

SmartICE stands for Sea-ice Monitoring and Real Time Information for Coastal Environment. The project connects academia, industry and communities by marrying ocean monitoring with traditional knowledge, providing information that can improve safety conditions for shipping and sea-ice travel.

Wage gap for Inuit


The wage gap between Inuit and non-Inuit in Nunavut could be as high as $52,000, according to a study.

The report, titled Reconciliation: Growing Canada's Economy by $27.7 billion, was released in November by the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board.

It suggested that the national economy was missing out financially by under-employing indigenous people. Of this $27.7 billion, the potential increase in available GDP for the territories was as much as $4 billion.

The report also stated that if the 28,596 indigenous workers in the territories had access to the same training and education as non-indigenous workers, the group would see a $1.1 billion jump in employment income.

New NTI president


Aluki Kotierk was elected president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), after taking 32.15 per cent of the votes as of Dec. 13. Her support from her home hamlet of Iglulik tripled the combined vote count of the other three candidates.

"When I saw the numbers of Iglulik, I just started crying and crying. I kept thinking of my late grandmother and how proud she would have been. It was very emotional."

Kotierk's final tally put her 3.49 per cent ahead of incumbent president Cathy Towtongie. Joe Adla Kunuk followed with 24.99 per cent and Levinia Brown placed fourth with 14.2 per cent.

Only 31.9 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot.


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