Year in review
Nunavut News/North: 2014 - The Year in Review
JanuaryEnergy corp. chair and directors quit Nunavut
The chair of Nunavut's public utility company made a surprise announcement that he and five other board directors were stepping down on Jan. 6 after weeks of internal discussions.
Simon Merkosak, longtime board member of Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC), announced the resignations with a news release, which shed some light on the reasons behind the mass exodus.
He said recent actions by the newly-elected government, reportedly made without consultation with QEC's board of directors, were the straw that broke the camel's back.
"This was a clear indication that the Government of Nunavut has a different view from the board," Merkosak wrote, in reference to the sudden dismissal of former QEC president and CEO Peter Mackey in late November. Mackey was fired by Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna and replaced by Peter Ma shortly after the territorial election held on Oct. 28.
The only remaining board member was George Hickes Sr.
Duo prepare for trek across Labrador
A pair of Nunavummiut, who both have extensive experience travelling long distances by snowmobile through the territory's harsh climate, announced they would embark on a 3,300-km challenge that would push their mental and physical limits.
Longtime Iqaluit residents Jimmy Noble Jr. and Jason Aliqatuqtuq, both government wildlife managers by day, were one of 30 teams registered for the 2014 Cain's Quest Snowmobile Endurance Race, to be held on March 1.
This year marked the first time racers from Nunavut were taking part in the race, which began in 2006.
The race takes participants through Labrador's jagged wilderness and six climates, and kicks off March 1 in Labrador West and continues through 20 checkpoints.
The costs associated with the trip ö upwards of $97,000 ö included two brand new Bombardier Summit 800 snowmobiles, registration for the race, equipment, supplies and a three-person support team.
Only seven teams completed the race, and Noble Jr. and Aliqatuqtuq had to pull out at the second checkpoint for mechanical reasons.
Communication connection severed
With fierce winds and blowing snow it was difficult to see even the largest of structures in Iqaluit Jan. 7, yet for Nunavut's director of protection services the storm brought clarity.
During every serious event there are lessons to be learned, said Ed Zebedee. This time around, he added, it was the importance of having a backup communication system.
Iqaluit residences lost power shortly after the storm hit on the afternoon of Jan. 7. The blizzard brought winds of up to 141 km/h. Qulliq Energy Corporation employees worked during the day and into the night, restoring power to 90 per cent of homes by 8 a.m., Jan. 8.
However, during that time Internet connections were lost, cellphone and portable phone batteries drained and mobile service went down for a few hours. The communication shutdown presented a problem for Zebedee's division.
"We planned for emergency communication between the government and the communities. But we never really thought about internal, within a community, and the fact that so many people rely on cellphones these days versus land lines," said Zebedee, adding they also struggled to communicate with residents in the capital city.
Pangnirtung was the only other community facing power outages during the storm. It took about 16 hours to restore energy for 135 customers, according to Natalie Chafe-Yuan, director of corporate affairs for QEC.
The outages in Iqaluit and Pangnirtung were caused by line slap, which occurs when high voltage lines come close together, creating a momentary short.
Judge rules against former executive assistant
A Nunavut judge ruled in favour of Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC) in a $444,000 civil lawsuit brought forward by former employee Sarah Kucera.
Kucera worked as former QEC president Peter Mackey's executive assistant for a little over a year when, she claimed, she was "constructively dismissed." Constructive dismissal occurs when an employer unilaterally decides to make significant changes to the terms of a worker's employment contract.
Kucera's lawyer sent a letter to QEC on Aug. 5, 2010 alleging constructive dismissal and asking to set up negotiations for a termination package. The corporation replied in a letter and terminated Kucera's employment on Aug. 20, 2010. Kucera subsequently brought the matter to court, where she argued four factors led to her departure from the company, according to court documents.
Justice Susan Cooper concluded in a judgment released Jan. 17 that Kucera had not been constructively dismissed because Kucera's relationship with Cronin was difficult but it wasn't all bad and at times it was "supportive and friendly."
City may get landfill fine
Waste management became a hazardous issue for the city of Iqaluit and its council, which was faced with a possible $100,000 fine and jail time for failing to adopt a plan in a timely manner.
In a Jan. 13 letter to the city's then chief administration officer, John Hussey, an Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) officer stated the city was supposed to have a solid waste management plan in place by no later than last Nov. 30.
That plan, presented to council on Dec. 2, was promptly rejected and AANDC was notified a future meeting would be set up to address the issue. However, the officer stated in January the department had received no correspondence from the city since Dec. 11.
"By consistently failing to meet the deadlines set in the direction, and by failing to address largely administrative matters, it appears that the City of Iqaluit is unwilling to voluntarily comply with its regulatory obligations," stated acting water resources officer Justin Hack.
The letter made reference to an inspector's direction issued to Hussey the previous March, in which a number of non-compliance issues were outlined.
This marked the beginning of the city's 2014 landfill woes.
Disgraced priest admits touching boys
When eight boys wandered at separate times into Erik Dejaeger's room at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Iglulik, he didn't plan on touching them inappropriately, the disgraced priest told the court Jan. 21.
"It just happened," Dejaeger said again and again. "It was a spontaneous thing I did."
Dejaeger faced more than 70 charges for incidents that allegedly occurred three decades ago.
On Nov. 18 the priest pleaded guilty to eight counts of indecent assault.
Dozens of complainants testified against Dejaeger and it was his turn to take the stand.
He admitted to patting and rubbing one boy's bum and squeezing the crotch area of seven boys over their clothes.
In all cases, Dejaeger said, the children had come to the church hoping to find someone to play with but no other youth were around.
Dejaeger testified that he didn't get any sexual pleasure out of squeezing the boys' crotches or patting the other boy on the bum.
He also said the children didn't react and it likely would have made a difference if they did.
The trial was to continue March 17.
FebruaryCommunity backs new wake-up call
The hamlet of Kugluktuk adopted a rather unorthodox way of getting groggy youth out of bed and Kugluktuk High School principal Haydn George said in February the new method is working.
The hamlet began sounding the town siren at 8:30 a.m. on school days. The high-pitched whine lasts for about three seconds. The same siren was also used to signal a fire and remind students about the hamlet's 10 p.m. curfew.
Previous to the siren being used, George tried to rouse certain students by knocking on their doors in the morning. But the youth still ended up coming in late. From there, students started a petition to get the hamlet to agree to set off the siren in the morning. A couple hundred people signed their name in support and council got behind the initiative too.
"I think everybody realizes increasing the quality of education and attendance is going to take more than just the school. It's going to takes the entire community, too," said George.
Dog deaths blamed on virus
Jeffrey Qaunaq of Grise Fiord lost four of the dozen sled dogs he owned in December after they began exhibiting symptoms of a highly contagious disease called canine parvovirus, Nunavut News/North reported Feb. 3.
The dogs stopped eating, were vomiting and quickly became dehydrated ö telltale signs of the virus.
Qaunaq turned to the Internet for help because he had never had sick dogs before and determined it was likely they'd been stricken with the parvovirus.
"We had no options and had to literally watch them die. We didn't want to shoot them because sometimes the dogs recover from a disease, but these didn't," he said.
The virus can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that comes into contact with an infected dog's feces. Qaunaq's dogs were not vaccinated against the virus, which likely would have saved their lives. Qaunaq said he'd like it if a veterinarian could visit the community at least once a year.
Survey put in context
Canadian Inuit are one of the most studied peoples on the planet, yet most of the research conducted in Nunavut rarely makes it back from the south.
To help repatriate some of the knowledge held in southern universities, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) made the Inuit Health Survey -- the largest health survey ever conducted in Nunavut -- the subject of its new Annual Report on the State of Inuit Culture and Society, released Feb. 4.
While the results of the survey were first published in a 2010 summary report and at least 13 papers have been published in academic journals on health survey results, NTI's report states the information was never properly disseminated back to the communities.
Despite these setbacks, the results of the health survey provides vital baseline information for Inuit overall health, including nutritional health and mental health, said Natan Obed, NTI's director of social and cultural development.
The picture painted of Inuit in the results of the health survey is bleak if not put into the proper context, said Obed.
That is why NTI included historical and cultural information vital to understanding the larger picture of Inuit health in its report.
Relief for correctional centre
Baffin Correctional Centre's new relief structure in Iqaluit was under construction on Feb. 5 and was to be completed by late 2014.
The facility, located on the same lot as the current facility, is to help alleviate overcrowding issues.
Chris Stewart, manager of capital and special projects with the GN, said the 48-bed facility was highly anticipated by staff at the correctional centre, where over-crowding is a continuing problem.
"This is why the opening of the relief structure will be so important," he said.
The building, measuring 1,245 square metres, would be split into two separate units of 24 beds each.
Low-risk inmates would be able to use a kitchen and classrooms for various programming activities.
"It will increase the BCC program capacity," Stewart said. "We're really looking forward to getting those guys into that structure so they can get into the programming activities."
Partners tackle food security
The Nunavut Food Security Coalition, co-chaired by the Government of Nunavut's Department of Health and Social Services and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.'s (NTI) Department of Social and Cultural Development, completed its 2013-2016 plan and hoped to release it later in the year once it received approval from the GN.
The coalition, established in 2012, identified six key themes around which the Nunavut Food Security and Action Plan should be centered ö policy and legislation, store-bought food, local food production, life skills, programs and community initiatives and country food.
The coalition plans to promote country food as a foundational food for Nunavummiut.
Natan Obed, director of social and cultural development at NTI, said the territorial action plan is intended to involve all residents, from the community to the national level, and he is hoping people will get behind it.
$70,000 to be on TV
Almost $70,000 was paid as a fee for Nunavut Tourism's CEO to appear on an American talk show, not including the cost of travel to the Lifetime Networks' Florida studio last February, according to documents obtained by Nunavut News/North through an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) request.
Colleen Dupuis travelled to Pompano Beach, Fla., so she could appear on The Balancing Act to promote the territory. The seven-minute segment cost $69,700, according to the contract between Nunavut Tourism and the Lifetime Network, excluding the cost to get there, meals and accommodations. Dupuis appeared on the show, which was hosted by Danielle Knox and Alan Thicke, a Canadian actor and TV personality, despite reservations by her colleagues, according to internal e-mails contained in the documents, which total 277 pages.
Prior to the trip, Karen Kabloona, then director of tourism and cultural industries for the Department of Economic Development and Transportation, which is responsible for Nunavut Tourism, created an assessment of the request in which she summarized the request and compared its aspects to Nunavut Tourism's 2012-2013 business plan.
She made note of several conflicts that would arise from appearing on the show, some of which would directly contradict the plan.
Hunters to harvest more narwhal
Inuit harvesters wishing to hunt narwhal came one step closer to being able to share unused tags between communities.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. vice-president James Eetoolook announced Feb. 20 that NTI, along with regional wildlife organizations in the Kitikmeot, the Kivalliq and the Qikiqtaaluk regions and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) approved an interim narwhal carry-over policy for tags not used by hunters in 2013.
This interim policy was part of the changes associated with a new Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for narwhal that came into effect on April 1, 2013 and was still rolling out in phases.
DFO committed to developing a flexible quota system for narwhal by 2015. It was expected to replace the interim policy.
Boost in infrastructure funding
The federal government announced its largest ever investment in infrastructure with Nunavut communities standing to benefit from $419 million in funding over the next 10 years.
The money for the territory came from the new Building Canada Plan, a $53-billion investment across the country from 2014 until 2024.
The announcement came at a time when many Nunavut communities were clamoring for a piece of infrastructure funding, whether for housing, airport or road-related needs.
The $419 million in funding, spread evenly over 25 Nunavut communities, meant $1.68 million annually each.
MarchGN puts focus on achievable goals
Members of the Fourth Legislative Assembly of Nunavut put their heads together during a full-caucus retreat Feb. 18 to 21 in Kugluktuk.
Twenty of Nunavut's 22 MLAs discussed what direction the government should take during its four-year mandate, and have decided to focus on building self-sufficient communities by creating a diverse economy, using government resources wisely and improving the territory's health care and education systems.
"We have lots of things that we want to accomplish, but those are going to take time," said Premier Peter Taptuna on the importance of having clear guidelines to inform the work of the legislative assembly.
The government's new overall strategy is called Sivumut Abluqta: Stepping Forward Together, which focuses on creating clear, achievable goals.
MLAs promised to keep four themes top of mind: self-reliance and optimism through education and training; healthy families through strong and resilient communities; economic growth through responsible development across all sectors; and good government through wise use of resources.
Fewer charges laid
The total number of criminal charges laid in Nunavut decreased by roughly 15 per cent in 2013, according to the second annual Nunavut Court of Justice report released Feb. 24.
While fewer total charges were laid in Nunavut, the number of youth charges increased slightly. The number of cases closed in 2013 by the court increased from the previous year. One of the reasons given for this was the carryover from prior homicide cases.
"Many serious charges, such as homicide, can be expected to take several years to work their way through the court," the report stated.
"In 2011 there were seven homicide charges laid in Nunavut. In 2012 there were an additional five homicide charges laid. The court, at the beginning of 2013, had 14 homicide charges before it in various states of completion."
Counsellors improve skills
A popular training program in Clyde River was helping Nunavummiut become better counsellors in their communities.
The one-year program, called Our Life's Journey: The Inuit Counsellor's Training and Peer Support Program, was being offered in four phases at the Ilisaqsivik Society.
Nineteen students from communities around the territory ö Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Cape Dorset, Iglulik, Arctic Bay and Iqaluit ö were successfully taking part in Phase 2 of the program, which focused on addictions counselling skills, the impacts of alcoholism on families, and assessment and intervention.
Louis Jr. Tapardjuk of Iglulik said he's already noticing the benefits of the program and he said the counsellor training helped him deal with anger, how to identify problems and deal with them appropriately.
Hamlet rising out of the red
The hamlet of Gjoa Haven was following through on its promise to balance the books ö and in good time.
When council voted in September 2012 to approve a five-year deficit-recovery plan, it faced a daunting $2.457-million deficit from the previous fiscal year.
By the time the 2013/14 fiscal year ö the second year of the deficit-reduction plan ö was coming to a close on March 31, Gjoa Haven's new senior administrative officer, Shawn Stuckey expected the overall debt for the hamlet to be less than $1 million.
"We'll beat that five-year time limit for sure," Stuckey told Nunavut News/North March 11.
Changing ice impedes hunting
The impacts of climate change in Pangnirtung were becoming more and more evident as hunters in the community had a harder time reaching their traditional grounds.
Pangnirtung MLA Johnny Mike, a longtime hunter and fisherman, brought the issue up in his member's statement in the legislature March 6.
"We are also finding that our old hunting grounds are no longer accessible, which our ancestors used and occupied, due to the changing ice conditions," he told his colleagues.
Brian Proctor, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Pangnirtung had gone through an unseasonably warm winter, which was responsible for the conditions hunters are facing.
Proctor said the polar vortex ö a large pocket of cold air that typically sits in the Northern Hemisphere ö strengthened and moved southwest this winter, toward Ontario and Manitoba, meaning warm air could flood up the east coast of North America.
"It did penetrate as far as Baffin Island," he said.
Proctor said the mean temperature in Pangnirtung in January was -18.7 C, whereas the long-term normal is -26.3 C. The pattern persisted into February, as a cold dry became a warm dry.
Dejaeger trial delayed by Crown
Erik Dejaeger's trial was adjourned yet again in March to allow Justice Robert Kilpatrick to make a decision on another application brought forward by the Crown.
Dejaeger had previously pleaded guilty to eight counts of indecent assault but was still facing dozens of charges for incidents that allegedly occurred three decades ago in Iglulik. His first court appearance was in 2011.
Kilpatrick said he had hoped the trial would be wrapped up by March 21 but that it was no longer possible because he needed time to arrive at a decision on the application.
Throughout the trial, Kilpatrick raised concerns about delays and tried to speed the process by working late into the night to produce decisions on applications.
In the Crown's most recent application, prosecutor Barry Nordic asked the court to consider similar fact, which would allow for the judge to view allegations in this matter in support of all other counts.
Meanwhile, defence lawyer Malcolm Kempt raised the issue of collusion and collaboration among complainants in the case. The Crown "poisoned" its own well of evidence by creating an opportunity for collusion, he said.
In January 2011, the Crown arranged for at least 11 complainants to fly to Iqaluit to see Dejaeger at one of his first court appearances. The complainants stayed in the same hotel and "hung out" together.
The trip happened before the majority of complainants made statements to police. Dejaeger's next court date was set for May 26.
Inuit language in spotlight
A task force charged with exploring the development of a standardized Inuit language writing system met in Ottawa in mid-March to continue its work.
Members of the Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq were interested in how often Inuit are writing in Inuktitut and how much importance they place on the language when putting pen to paper, said task force member and Nunavut resident Jeannie Arreak-Kullualik.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) formed the task force in 2012. One of the recommendations in the strategy is to develop a standardized Inuit writing system. Representatives from across Inuit Nunangat are involved in the process. The group had made some progress toward its goal but there was still a lot of work to do, said Arreak-Kullualik.
A standardized writing system with common terminology, grammar and spelling would boost bilingual education because the four regions could work together to produce common educational materials.
It would also make it easier to translate English documents, such as court documents, because there would not be confusion about which dialect to use.
Many factors in fatal crash
On March 25, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its long-awaited report on what caused the charter flight from Yellowknife to crash into a hill roughly one kilometre east of the runway near Resolute, Nunavut.
A flustered pilot, a faulty compass, bad weather, and unheeded warnings from the co-pilot were all contributing factors in the crash of First Air flight 6560, which caused the deaths of 12 people on Aug. 20, 2011.
The report named 18 factors that contributed to the accident, but lead investigator Brian MacDonald shied away from using the term "pilot error" or pointing to any single issue that caused the Boeing 737 jet aircraft to descend off course.
"It's very difficult to pull out any factor as 'the factor," he told Nunavut News/North.
Four crew members and eight passengers died. Three passengers survived but suffered serious injuries. The report publicly detailed the final minutes of the flight for the first time. TSB board member Kathy Fox and investigator MacDonald planned to be in Resolute March 28 to answer questions.
April#sealfie trend re-opens old wounds
A battle of words between southerners against seal hunting and Canadian Inuit who rely on harvesting the animals for food and traditional clothing erupted once again ö this time on social media.
Since 17-year-old Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss of Iqaluit posted a video titled Dear Ellen targeting Ellen DeGeneres' recent anti-sealing comments following the 2014 Oscar Awards, social media sites have been ablaze with #sealfies ö a play on the cellphone "selfie" where virtual protestors have been taking photos of themselves wearing various seal clothing.
The #sealfie trend was started as a response to DeGeneres' $1.5-million Oscar selfie, the proceeds of which went to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a group that has campaigned heavily against the Inuit seal hunt.
Iqaluit filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril published an open letter to DeGeneres on her blog March 26 that sought to educate on the common misconceptions surrounding the traditional harvest.
"To speak publicly about the seal hunting issue is a minefield, and you've jumped right into it," stated Arnaquq-Baril. "As Inuit we try to be respectful and reasonable when discussing it, and this causes many to underestimate how desperate and upset we are about the issue. Please take a moment to consider the plight of the Inuit."
Getting the correct information about the traditional Inuit seal harvest into the international conversation was one of the goals of the #sealfie campaign.
Pilots fired after flight went off course
Two pilots of a First Air passenger flight to Iqaluit from Rankin Inlet March 31 were fired April 10 after an investigation found they failed to follow standard operating procedures.
Flight 955 with 23 people on board deviated off course by hundreds of kilometres after leaving Rankin Inlet at 3:20 p.m. on March 31.
The airline said it investigated the incident, finding through interviews that the pilots failed to follow "standard operating procedures designed to eliminate navigational errors," according to a news release from the company.
Kevin Kablutsiak, spokesperson for the airline, refused to say exactly what procedures were not followed.
After air traffic controllers in Montreal failed to make contact with the flight crew, another flight radioed Flight 955 to tell the pilots that air traffic control was trying to make contact. The flight crew contacted air traffic control at 4:37 p.m. and turned the aircraft to a southbound heading from eastbound. At that time the aircraft was about 416 km northwest of Iqaluit. The flight landed safely in Iqaluit at 5:12 p.m., March 31.
Agnico Eagle announces $5 million for university
Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. started a building fund for a university in Nunavut by pledging $5 million towards a bricks-and-mortar project.
Company chairman James Nasso made the announcement April 10 during the Nunavut Mining Symposium awards gala, held at the Iqaluit curling rink. Attendees welcomed the news with a standing ovation.
Education Minister Paul Quassa said the Government of Nunavut has not yet identified a timeline, location or budget for this project. Dale Coffin, spokesperson for Agnico Eagle, said the company was committed to helping the idea come to fruition.
"We're happy to play any role we can," he said. "But we're hoping others see this as a great initiative and share the vision as well and come forward."
Canada is the only circumpolar nation, of eight, without its own university in the North, a fact Nasso and Coffin said they found surprising.
"We're lagging so we need to move ahead," said Coffin. "If we want our people to develop, we need to have the bricks and mortar. It can't be a concept, it can't be virtual, it needs to be there."
Report calls for jail to be closed
The Baffin Correctional Centre is beyond its life and needs to be shut down and replaced, according to a scathing report from the federal Office of the Correctional Investigator dated April 1, 2013, which was released in late March by order of Nunavut's information commissioner.
"BCC physical infrastructure is not safe for either staff or inmates, and hinders the ability of Nunavut Corrections to fulfill its legal mandate of humane custody and rehabilitation," states the report.
During the review, the federal investigator identified a laundry list of issues with the jail, many of which were a result of years of overcrowding. BCC was built in 1986 and renovated in 1996. It is designed to fit 68 beds but at the time of the investigator's visit it housed 106 inmates.
The investigator spoke with 30 inmates and numerous staff members at BCC, including correctional officers, institutional health care staff and discharge officers. The manager of investigations also conducted a three-day site visit of the centre between March 12 and 14, 2013.
The report recommended that Nunavut revisit its legal and policy framework.
"This renewal will enhance openness, transparency, accountability and overall public safety performance, and solidify NU Corrections into the era of human rights."
Extra security to keep schools safe
The Government of Nunavut announced it intended to add an extra layer of security at schools in Iqaluit and Iglulik in the wake of a growing number of violent incidents at North American educational institutions.
The new system, which would consist of a heated foyer monitored by a video camera where visitors can press a buzzer and state their intentions, could be operational as soon as September, provided the tender put out by the Department of Education gets a timely response.
The system would be implemented at all Iqaluit and Apex schools as well as the Ataguttaaluk Elementary school in Iglulik, which is still in the design stage.
Barry Cornthwaite, manager of capital planning with the department, said the initial request came from the Iqaluit District Education Authority in January 2013, one month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred.
"The IDEA approached the Department of Education over concerns with school safety and unwelcome guests," he said. "The outcome of that is we consulted with Community and Government Services and we hired a consultant, who came up and reviewed the schools. We spoke about what's being done elsewhere and ultimately the recommendation was to build a foyer-type entrance in the schools."
Cornthwaite said the schools already have a "lock down, lock out" procedure in place but needed something for outside visitors.
Andrew Tagak Sr., the chairperson of the Iqaluit District Ed to Iqaluitucation Authority, said the security of a school's staff and students was a priority area for the group.
Nunavut isn't prepared ... yet
The territory isn't fully prepared to take on a large-scale emergency but government and organizations are developing solutions, said Nunavut's director of protection services.
The territorial government has been working with communities to help them formulate emergency plans over the past few years. As of April, 22 communities had finished the work although efforts were stalled when the federal government reduced funding for the Joint Emergency Preparedness Plan. Every community in Nunavut had completed a risk assessment.
"I don't want to toot our own horn too loudly because it'll bite me but I think from our perspective we're a little bit farther along than some of the other jurisdictions," said Ed Zebedee. "We have the advantage here of having a more resilient culture than some of the other jurisdictions, with the exception of Iqaluit."
Zebedee's comments followed the release of a report summarizing discussions during the National Roundtable on Arctic Emergency Preparedness, which was in Ottawa Feb. 24 to 26.
Participants in the discussion recognized the importance of having emergency plans in place in Northern communities but concluded the document alone doesn't mean hamlets are prepared.
Nunavut faced a number of challenges in its quest to be prepared for major emergencies, including limited availability of medical facilities, lack of training opportunities, weak infrastructure, lack of a road system and short runways that limit the types of aircraft that can land in communities.
Man drops race to help injured competitor
It was a miracle of sorts that Edward Watkins, a Kuujjuaq resident, was standing and conscious after flipping over his snowmobile during the Iqaluit to Kimmirut race April 19.
Iqaluit resident Sean Noble-Nowdluk was the first to spot Watkins, who had left in fourth place. Noble-Nowdluk, who left in eighth place, immediately dropped the race to assist the confused man.
"I passed two or three people and within a few minutes I was close to land on the other side of the bay. I saw a Ski-Doo flipped over and saw Edward, who was standing up, in shock. His helmet and gloves were off, so I went to him and asked if he was alright. He asked me to warm his hands up so I took my gloves off and put them on him," said Noble-Nowdluk.
Watkins was dazed from the crash and asked whether he could continue the race.
"I had to convince him to get on my snowmobile and come with me. I went back to the starting line of the race but there were few people there, and I didn't bother calling an ambulance because I knew it would take time for them to get there. I knew the trail around town really well so I took him to the hospital myself."
Watkins was later medevaced to Ottawa.
MayThree candidates for Repulse mayor
Repulse Bay residents were headed to the polls May 12 in a byelection to determine who would sit in mayor Hugh Haqpi's place.
Three candidates were running in the byelection ö Solomon Malliki, Johnny Tongilik and Marcel Mapsalak.
Tongilik said one of the main projects he wanted to tackle was the road that leads out on the land, which residents use to go fishing in the springtime and caribou hunting in the fall and has never been completed. Mapsalak said he wanted to see more heavy duty trucks on the roads, smoothing the potholes out. Another priority, he said, was to get Repulse Bay a new airport terminal. Both Tongilik and Mapsalak said they are concerned about the lack of jobs in the community.
Nunavut News/North attempted to contact Solomon Malliki, the third candidate, but was unsuccessful.
However, Malliki posted on Facebook a laundry list of items he wants to tackle if elected. His first order of business, he stated, would be to look at the hamlet's finances and "take action(s) accordingly."
Malliki won with 84 votes.
Hunters recognized for bravery
Eight Nunavummiut received commissioner's awards presented by Nunavut deputy commissioner Nellie Kusuga.
For three days, Pitseolak Alainga and Billy Kownirk endured rough seas while they clung to the wreckage of their boat, waiting for rescuers to find them. They survived on nothing but snow until finally, on the fourth day, a Hercules airplane appeared overhead, signaling an end to the ordeal.
Alainga and Kownirk were presented commissioner's awards for their bravery during the incident, which happened in the fall of 1994. Eight other hunters perished, including Alainga's father.
Samo Angnakak was recognized for saving his six-year-old nephew from drowning in 2009.
Awards also went to Judy Grace Gabuna and Ed McKenna for their volunteer service with the Iqaluit soup kitchen. Gabuna helps at the Anglican Church as well.
Mathew Knickelbein received the humanitarian award for opening up Nanook School in Apex when residents were without power for 18 hours in January this year.
Amaujaq Groves was the youngest of the award winners. He was honoured for pulling a piece of cereal out of his baby sister's mouth when she was choking in 2007. Groves was just four years old at the time.
High praise for Pond Inlet project
The community of Pond Inlet was recognized at the national level for its innovative practices and leadership in the area of water stewardship.
The recipients of the Excellence in Water Stewardship Award were announced March 18 by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, the chairperson of the Council of the Federation, who praised the winners for their roles in protecting water quality and promoting conservation.
In total, 13 institutions, businesses and community groups in every Canadian province and territory received a trophy, monetary prize and certificate signed by their respective premiers.
Pond Inlet was recognized for the work it is carrying out on a needs assessment project around building capacity to monitor fresh water quality in a changing climate. Community member Tim Anaviapik-Soucie and his research partners at the Dalhousie University Centre for Water Resources Studies, the Nunavut Research Institute and ARCTIConnexion are working on developing information on the microbial quality of drinking water sources in the community.
Anaviapik-Soucie is an alumnus of the environmental technology program in Pond Inlet.
"The community will have the capacity to monitor fresh water sources for changes due to a changing climate. This is a community/research-driven project and to show that collaboration between researchers and communities is important because of the mix of different knowledge to help adapt to climate change," said Anaviapik-Soucie.
Strategy on food security unveiled
Years of discussions and planning culminated in the creation of a strategy and a three-year action plan to combat food insecurity in Nunavut.
The smell of fish permeated the air as Okalik Eeegeesiak, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, and Premier Peter Taptuna shared their excitement over the release of the 22-page document May 5 at Inuksuk High School.
The Nunavut Food Security Coalition, made up of 30 organizations and government departments, committed to carrying out nearly 70 actions to reduce hunger in the territory.
The tasks fell under six themes ö country food, store-bought food, local food, life skills, program and community initiative, and policy and legislation.
"We recognize there is so much work that lies ahead," Taptuna told the room, noting food insecurity among Inuit households in Nunavut is eight times higher than the national average.
"Through the coalition, we're making progress in addressing the challenge."
The work will be funded, in part, with money from a contribution agreement with Health Canada, which lasts five years. After that, the coalition will aim to renew the agreement while also looking for other funding opportunities.
Survivors bilked of claim money
A Nunavut lawyer sounded the alarm about unscrupulous form-filling companies who were charging fees to residential school survivors seeking settlements.
Sandra Omik, legal counsel for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which is a party to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, said she became aware of the form-filling practice several years ago.
"I became concerned when I looked into my mail box and found mass advertising posters. They used words like, 'You can be further compensated with more cash,' which made me very uncomfortable."
Omik started investigating. Her search led her to a form-filling company linked to a law firm in Alberta.
"I wanted to see if it was legit," she said. But she soon learned that "they siphon off people. They take advantage of elderly, unilingual Inuit who know nothing about the legal process."
Omik researched lawyers who were licensed to practice in Nunavut and compiled a list of established, trustworthy firms.
Later, a case in Manitoba court, launched April 25, would prove to be successful and, as a result, the adjudication secretariat was granted access to all Independent Assessment Process files. Lawyers then had to disclose whether they used form fillers and the nature of their financial arrangements, hopefully putting a halt to the unscrupulous practices of bilking residential school survivors.
College fine tunes adult basic education
With two years left of funding for the Northern Adult Basic Education program, Arctic College staff took time to reflect in early May before moving ahead with further improvements.
Hundreds of educators from across the three territories gathered in Whitehorse for the Inaugural Northern Adult Basic Education Symposium.
"It was an opportunity to step back from the busy work (staff) do every day and do some deeper reflection," said Daniel Page, manager of adult basic education programs at Arctic College, of the meeting.
Arctic College is to receive $11 million over five years, 2012 to 2016, through a program managed by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. The Northwest Territories and Yukon also receive funds.
Two hurt in bear attack
Two hunters were expected to recover after a polar bear tore through their tent while they slept May 22 near Arctic Bay.
Bruce Pauloosie and Adrian Arnauyumayuq were narwhal hunting near the floe edge near Qangiq when they were awakened at around 7:30 a.m., Pauloosie's brother Norman Pauloosie said.
Arnauyumayuq tried to get his gun but couldn't reach it as the polar bear attacked.
"The polar bear bit Adrian on the head, and Adrian was trying to hit the bear with a pocket knife," Pauloosie said.
His brother tried to distract the bear by yelling at it, and succeeded. This caused the bear to attack Bruce instead. A well-placed shot ended the attack, and Arnauyumayuq ö despite his injuries ö refilled his snow machine and the two headed to a cabin at Qangiq, where some women were camping, about a half-hour from the attack site.
The men were treated at the nursing station in Arctic Bay.
Officials decry seal ban decision
The World Trade Organization ruled the European Union's 2009 ban on Canadian seal products will be upheld, denying Canada's appeal and causing officials to call foul.
The EU had moral objections to the seal hunt no matter how much Canada insisted the harvest is humane, well-maintained and sustainable. The ban was on all seal products, including meat and garments made from seal pelts.
Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna spoke of his disappointment in the decision May 22 during an address to the legislative assembly.
"The misrepresentation of the seal hunt has an effect on our local economies," Taptuna said. "The seal harvest is central to the Inuit, and Canadian, way of life. Seal remains an important source of food and income for many Nunavummiut. It is also an essential part of our life and culture."
The federal government was also upset by the decision. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is Nunavut MP, joined with International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea in issuing a statement on May 22.
"The ban on seal products adopted in the EU was a political decision that has no basis in fact or science," they stated.
JuneNo new power plant, no new housing
South Baffin MLA David Joanasie tabled a petition expressing an urgent need to replace the aging Cape Dorset power plant May 22 in the legislative assembly.
The petition, initiated by the Cape Dorset Housing Authority, was signed by 187 hamlet residents.
"One of the reasons we didn't get any new housing, when five other communities did, is because our plant doesn't have the capacity for new builds," said Ed Devereaux, manager of the housing authority.
In a letter to Joanasie, the housing authority stated "the two essential necessities of life are food and shelter and when you have a shortage of either it obviously causes great hardship to the community as a whole and their affected citizens. Any delay in increasing the capacity of this piece of essential infrastructure has a direct effect on this shelter issue."
The community is approaching a population of 1,400, with 100 applications for housing, and many of the applicants are considered homeless, the housing authority stated.
Defence attacks testimony
Final arguments were heard during the last week of May in the trial of Erik Dejaeger, a former Oblate priest facing dozens of charges for sex-related offences in Iglulik alleged to have occurred three decades ago.
Dejaeger, 67, pleaded guilty in November 2013 to eight counts of indecent assault.
On the morning of May 26, dressed in a blue sweat suit, the defendant appeared in good spirits, joking with his lawyer and court staff before proceedings started.
Both the defence and the prosecution questioned and attacked opposing testimony. Dejaeger had been in custody since his deportation back to Canada in January 2011. A court date was set for Sept. 12 to speak to the judge's decision.
Budget predicts better year ahead
More jobs, more money, and more purchasing power for Nunavummiut this year, is what Finance Minister Keith Peterson predicted May 26 as he presented his 2014-15 territorial budget to the legislative assembly.
"Our economy is growing," Peterson said. "Last year employment rose almost six per cent, with Nunavummiut finding jobs in government and construction. This year, the Conference Board of Canada predicts the Nunavut economy will grow a further four per cent or more. Last year the average weekly wage topped $1,000 for the first time. With wages rising faster than inflation, Nunavummiut have more purchasing power.
"All of these are excellent signs for the future."
The rosy predictions came with a disclaimer. Almost half of Nunavut's citizens live in poverty, so any increases referred to those who are in the job market.
Peterson's budget address showed the challenges to many Nunavummiut face in improving their own prospects ö poverty, mental health issues, family violence, food insecurity, insufficient housing, among many others. The budget tried to address many of these problems. But even the government can't afford to fix one of the territory's biggest problems ö the housing shortage.
Claimants should be refunded fees, judge rules
Residential school claimants in Nunavut bilked of a portion of their settlement awards by unscrupulous form-filling companies under the independent assessment process (IAP) will need to be reimbursed following a court ruling. The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement is believed to be the largest class action settlement in Canada at $5 billion.
"For claimants in the process, and also for the integrity of the process, I think it is a very important decision by the courts," said Dan Shapiro, chief adjudicator of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. "In the first place, what the court decided was, generally, any contract that requires IAP claimants to pay contingency fees to form fillers are null and void," said Shapiro. "So they are unenforceable. The second part of it is any contract that required claimants to pay fees to form fillers for what really were legal services are null and void."
The ruling by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Perry Schulman named more than 30 lawyers and form filling companies.
Council votes to put out Iqaluit dump fire
As a fire at the city dump appears to be stabilizing and putting itself out, Iqaluit city council voted June 11 to ignore expert advice and instruct the fire chief to put out the fire as soon as possible.
"I believe we should put this out now," said councillor Kenny Bell, who presented the motion that instructed Fire Chief Luc Grandmaison to extinguish the fire in a manner he deems appropriate. "Walking down the street and smelling garbage is not fun. I don't like that I can't be outside and appreciate the pristine air."
Votes cast by Bell and councillors Terry Dobbin and Noah Papatsie approved the motion. Councillors Joanasie Akumalik and Romeyn Stevenson opposed the motion and acting mayor Mary Wilman indicated she would have opposed it if she were not chairing the meeting in Mayor John Graham's absence.
Expired food riles protesters
About 15 people gathered across from Iqaluit's largest grocery store June 14 to protest the sale of expired food.
It was the fifth such protest in the capital since the founding of the Feeding My Family group, a group on Facebook for food security matters, in 2012.
"They're still selling a lot of expired food in Nunavut," founder Leesee Papatsie said in advance of the protest at NorthMart. "Originally, when we started to protest, most, if not all, expired food was taken off the shelf. Now they're coming back. It's one thing to pay the high cost of food, but it's another when they're expired."
Papatsie was especially concerned that elders and others who can't read English would not be aware they were buying expired products.
Protesters wore placards giving examples of prices paid for food that was rotten or products that customers had unwittingly bought beyond the best-before dates.
Planning commission slams Ottawa
The long-anticipated Nunavut land-use plan ö seven years in the making ö ran up against a funding wall.
The Nunavut Planning Commission released a statement June 16 saying it is "astonished" that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is refusing to fund the public hearing to finalize the draft plan.
"The decision to go forward with the press release was very difficult," said planning commission executive director Sharon Ehaloak. "It was a unanimous decision by the board of directors. The commission has exhausted all efforts and resources at a bureaucratic level to secure the funding."
The land use plan is intended to be a legal framework to manage the use of 1.9 million square kilometres of land, fresh water, marine areas and wildlife in Nunavut and is a requirement of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement not yet met.
Rankin Inlet dump catches fire
A dump fire in Rankin Inlet had the eight volunteer firefighters in the community hard at work.
The fire started shortly after 2 p.m., June 24, according to Sam Tutanuak, deputy mayor of the hamlet.
"The fire department went up and they started extinguishing part of the dump and then 30 to 40 feet to the left, another part of the dump ignited while they were fighting the first bit," Tutanuak said. "A series of explosions happened and they deemed it too dangerous to fight, so the acting fire chief evacuated the site up until 10:30 last night."
On June 25, the wind shifted and sent smoke from the fire into the community. This prompted officials to open the arena as a gathering place for those looking for refuge from the smoke.
JulyClyde River refuses cruise ship visits
Expressing concerns about the way maritime visitors disturb wildlife and dump waste, Clyde River hamlet council barred cruise ships for the 2014 season.
"Hamlet council decided that we don't want to deal with them," said Mayor Jerry Natanine at the end of June, noting the ban would be reconsidered in 2015.
Four ships were set to stop in Clyde River, but he said the hamlet preferred to have the privacy to enjoy summer whaling, caribou hunting and fishing spots without interference from visitors.
In Pond Inlet, where a landing fee is levied for ships that do not request local entertainment, economic development officer Colin Saunders said two ships were told not to come after they refused to pay.
"If you're not going to provide any economic benefits, don't bother coming," he told the ship operators.
"Tell Clyde to send their cruise ships up here," Arctic Bay's economic development officer Clare Kines said. "We want them. We haven't had any for a number of years. Any visitor is good. It showcases your community to people, even if only $100 is spent."
More than 30 crosses were found vandalized at the Hall Beach cemetery July 2. The crosses were snapped at the base and thrown in a river, acting senior administrative officer Tracy Laine said.
"All the picture frames that had been leaning against crosses, everything that was glass out there, the vases, everything was smashed. It was just absolutely devastating."
The cleanup efforts were hampered by the lack of a cemetery map, which meant the hamlet had to invite residents to the cemetery to help identify where their loved ones were buried.
"Some of them are quite old, so we're looking for elders in town to help figure out if they know whose grave that is."
Most repairs were complete by the following night.
Reprieve from seismic testing
The National Energy Board (NEB) picked a fight in June by saying it would allow seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait to map the waters for oil and gas exploration.
Shoreline residents were not impressed that their opposition, voiced in 2013, was not considered.
"Everyone's saying, why is it going ahead when we were against it?" said Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine. "Our voices don't matter, don't count at all. They did their community tour and heard from the people, the people spoke and they do not seem to be considering what the people said. It makes me furious. It's ridiculous."
To reverse the decision, opponents had two means of appeal. One was to get the NEB to reverse its decision. The other was to go to the Federal Court of Appeal within 30 days of the decision.
Then there was some good news. Saying there is not enough time to meet its benefit commitments in 2014, seismic surveyor Multi-Klient Invest AS announced in July that it is delaying seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait until 2015.
"It means that our life can keep going without intrusion from seismic testing for another year," said Natanine. "Bad news is that the project was not shut down."
Expert says dump fire will cost $4 million
Landfill fire expert Tony Sperling spent the first week of July doing double-shift days trying to determine the best way to put out the Iqaluit dump fire, burning since May 20.
After going through 17 options with a working group of Nunavut-based experts from all levels of government, all agreed that creating a lined pond ö and dunking burning garbage into it ö was the only way to go.
Consulting with local companies, including heavy equipment provider Tower Arctic, Sperling revised the project cost from $3.4 million on June 30 to $4 million on July 4.
Seven firefighters from Hellfire Suppression in Alberta would be hired at a cost to the city of about $30,000 per day, and local heavy equipment rentals and operators would cost about $25,000 per day, he said.
He predicted the work would take about two months.
Arctic distance record set
Iqaluit's Eric McNair-Landry and Belgian explorer Dixie Dansercoer set an Arctic distance record June 3 by completing the first full circumnavigation of the Greenland ice cap without motorized vehicles, Nunavut News/North reported in July.
The two used kites to pull themselves on skis 4,044 km around the ice cap in 56 days. The record was broken 12 days later by a parallel team that covered 5,067 km in 58 days.
"The first two weeks were pretty horrible," McNair-Landry said, noting high winds and heavy snow. "At one point, we were five days in the tent. We were in the tent almost 11 days in the first two weeks, pinned down, unable to go anywhere with high winds, 40 to 45 knots."
Northwest Passage ships at risk, union says
Flaws in technology that was designed to replace the Inuvik coast guard traffic service put ships travelling through the Northwest Passage at risk, a union representative warned in July.
"Realistically, someone could run aground or be taking on water, say, 'Mayday' or, 'We need help,' and my officers in Iqaluit might not be able to pick it up due to the equipment failure," said Chad Stroud, president of Unifor Local 2182, which represents marine communications and traffic officers across Canada.
The Inuvik Marine Communications and Traffic Service closed in 2013. Iqaluit is now the only Marine Communications and Traffic Service (MCTS) centre in the Arctic.
Delays in radio transmissions from distant transmitters, when bounced off of multiple towers, were leading to messages being garbled upon arrival in Iqaluit, Stroud said.
The Canadian Coast Guard expected to have glitches worked out by the end of the summer. Corresponding by e-mail, Department of Fisheries and Oceans media relations officer David Walters stated that ships were not at risk, but also that mariners should be prepared with backup communications systems anyway.
MLA charged with drunk driving
South Baffin MLA David Joanasie was charged with impaired driving after a July 7 incident in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
According to published reports, Joanasie fled police after going the wrong way down a one-way street while driving drunk with one tire flat on his rented vehicle.
"I accept full responsibility for my actions and make no excuses for my lack of judgment," Joanasie said in an apologetic statement released July 11. "I am very grateful that nobody was injured as a result of this incident."
He requested an early hearing, pleaded guilty, was fined $1,700 and given a one-year probation. He was also barred from driving for one year.
During the next legislative session, Joanasie apologized and was given a "warning" to behave Oct. 21.
Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes said he was being censured with no further punishment.
"It was very out of character for him," Hickes said.
Rankin quashes fire
Rankin Inlet firefighters were able to put out a fire at the hamlet's landfill in days, extinguishing the blaze July 8.
The fire started the afternoon of June 29, with unexplained explosions at the dump, putting residents on edge.
Eight volunteer firefighters worked all hours, and local contractors helped starting July 4, pouring gravel to help smother the flames.
Hunters rescue themselves
Seven Arctic Bay narwhal hunters, stranded on floe ice, were able to get themselves to safety and returned home after two days in peril. Three others made it home earlier after safely getting off the ice as it broke up July 14.
"The ice condition was not bad and we didn't know it was going to happen," said Tom Naqitarvik, one of the seven stranded men.
Riding snowmobiles and pulling qamutiks and a three-metre (12-foot) boat, the men had been hunting since July 12, and had some success catching narwhal.
And then the problems started.
"We were floating away. The ice started floating away and we're trying to go across. The solid ice started breaking into small pieces, and we were drifting away on a very small piece of ice."
The wind died down about six hours later, and the men were able to make it to land on foot and by boat.
Group can't save teen
Whale Cove was in mourning after an 18-year-old man drowned at Old Water Lake July 15. More than 20 people were involved in the rescue attempt, which happened as the group was swimming in the pond.
"He was always smiling and always on a positive side," senior administrative officer Paul Kaludjak said of the teen, whose identity was kept private.
"I really wish we were able to save him, but we couldn't do it," he said.
Airport construction starts
Nunavut's most ambitious infrastructure project ö a $298.5 million airport in Iqaluit ö launched July 10.
The runway repaving and a new, modern terminal building are set to open by late summer 2017.
"We have purposely worked to make sure that the increasing economic development opportunities specifically benefit Inuit through this project, meaning training and job opportunities," Premier Peter Taptuna said.
"This new airport will have much needed improvements for passengers and operators," Economic Development and Transportation Minister George Kuksuk said, noting universal access for wheelchair users, washrooms and refreshments on the air side of security, and more than one baggage carousel.
Runway lights and other safety systems are included in the upgrade. A new building for fire trucks and snow plows will also be built.
The territory's first ever private-public partnership means Nunavut contributes $68.7 million to the project, a federal agency gives $72.8 million, and Arctic Infrastructure Partners provides the rest as debt and equity. Nunavut will pay $376.2 million over 30 years to AIP to manage the airport.
Smoke blankets Kitikmeot
A wind shift brought smoke from the NWT's forest fires to the Kitikmeot region.
"This is the worst forest fire smoke invasion that anyone has seen up here," stated Cambridge Bay resident George Hakongak by e-mail. "The last time I remember having a lot of forest fire smoke was back in August 1998."
The NWT forest fire season was the worst in 30 years, with 209 fires burning by July 24.
AugustTop lawyer takes seismic case
Funded by Greenpeace and working on behalf of Clyde River, the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization and Mayor Jerry Natanine, Toronto lawyer Nader Hasan filed an appeal of the National Energy Board's seismic testing decision July 28. Hasan asked to have the appeal hearing in Iqaluit.
"The next step is to see how the appeal goes and also, to educate ourselves how else we can protest such a project," Natanine stated in an e-mail. "There are other means of getting the seismic data and we want to explore and learn about those."
Hasan is a constitutional law specialist and is arguing the decision did not take into account the possible adverse effects on marine life and that this contravenes a requirement under the land claims agreement that the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board must be consulted before such decisions are made.
The decision did not consider traditional knowledge, it undermines Inuit rights under the land claims agreement, and breaches the NEB's constitutional duty to consult and accommodate Inuit, the appeal reads.
"Once again, the NEB was a rubber stamp for the energy industry," Hasan stated.
Described by Precedent magazine as a lawyer with "superstar status," Hasan is a partner at Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan, a firm led by "celebrittorney" Clayton Ruby, whom Hasan helped on high-profile cases such as one accusing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford of conflict of interest.
GN says dump fire is Iqaluit's problem
Iqaluit's reserve fund has enough money for the city to put out the dump fire on its own, Community and Government Services Minister Tom Sammurtok told Mayor Mary Wilman in an Aug. 1 letter.
Fifteen minutes later, city council convened for a special meeting, and decided to start putting the fire out immediately.
Current cost projections are $2.6 million. The city had access to $7.5 million of reserves.
"Yes, we do have money in reserves," said chief administrative officer John Hussey, much of it set aside for new buildings and to replace the city's heavy equipment when needed, "but if we use all our reserve money, we're going to have to have a new plan of asset replacement going forward.
"If we have to find greater than $2.2 million, and I mean three, four, six (million), we'll have to really go into our day-to-day operational expenditures."
Solar freezer unplugged
A bright idea to power Kugaaruk's energy-sucking community freezer with the summer sun was on hold after substantial problems.
First, the solar panels were too long to fit into a regularly scheduled aircraft, and plans for a military Hercules lift fell through. By that point, they had missed the sea lift. Plus, Qulliq Energy put up regulatory roadblocks that forced delays.
This was despite the fact that the hamlet received funding from Economic Development and Transportation and Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada to try solar as a way to reduce the freezer's $10,000 monthly power bill.
"It is a big power consumer," said senior administrative officer Greg Holitzki. "With the sun in the summertime, you've got all the power you need. That's when the community freezer is being used at its capacity. Wintertime is not an issue. The freezer doesn't need to run in the winter. It's cold enough on its own."
A representative said QEC was waiting for paperwork to be submitted.
In September, interim senior administrative officer Gord Dinney said the solar panels were on their way from Calgary.
High school delayed
Iglulik's new high school will take a few more years to be built after the cancellation of a design contract with Guy Architects, which was set to begin this summer.
Community and Government Services shut down the project to develop a standardized design for new high schools in the territory. It's a practice other Canadian jurisdictions, such as Quebec and Alberta, have already developed.
"We decided that we would stop the work and develop this standardized design option," said John Cooper, senior manager of the program management office. "We paid (Guy Architects) for the work they had done to date and we have copies of the reports and studies done that will inform us as we go ahead."
The move will delay completion targets by one to two years. Standardizing will help schools be built faster and cheaper, Cooper suggested.
District education authority board member Philip Avingaq said the current facility, which houses the elementary, middle and high school grades, can manage until the new one is built.
Bear and cub killed
Faced with a crowd of residents gathered to get a closer look at a polar bear and her cub, attracted to town by a cache of meat on the shore, Hall Beach bylaw officer George Qayaqjuaq was directed to kill the bears Aug. 13.
There were "over 40 people," Qayaqjuaq said, noting they were less than "50 feet away."
Those gathered were emboldened by the crowd mentality, he said.
"When there's a lot of people around, people are not that scared anymore. When we asked them to step back or go home, or take their kids home, because there were too many people and I was alone with my partner Ian, they didn't. I called the RCMP for help."
Bear bangers and rubber bullets had no deterrent effect.
"There were too many people trying to get close, sometimes trying to sneak in to get closer to take a picture," said Qayaqjuaq.
Mayor Peter Siakuluk, vice-president of the Hunters and Trappers Association, directed Qayaqjuaq to kill the animals.
When Qayaqjuaq raised his gun, the polar bear charged. "It was 20 feet away and then in less than two seconds it felt like it was four feet away," he said. He ran around a shed, and "when I had a clear shot, I put it down."
Polar bears have been a growing threat in the community. The hamlet was twice flagged for over harvesting, with 12 defence kills in 2012.
Belugas stun Baker Lake
Aug. 7 marked the first time anyone in Baker Lake could remember a beluga swimming near the inland hamlet. The subsequent kill was celebrated by residents.
Peter Owingayak, Anson Kigusiunaaq, Jason Putumiraqtuq and David Owingayak shared the maktaaq with all who asked.
Later in the month, Paul Niego, Moses Niuqtuq and Mark Kingilik landed a second beluga at the mouth of the Thelon River.
Quarry brings good news
Nunavut's second-largest quarry, Qullisajanniavvik, is much bigger than thought, Nunavut's resident geologist discovered in August.
"An estimated production was 2,000 tonnes, so having reserves of 5,000 tonnes means there are reserves there for quite a while," said Linda Ham, acting director of minerals and petroleum resources for the Department of Economic Development and Transportation. The quarry is about 65 km from Sanikiluaq by boat. The stone is also top-notch, she said.
"The Sanikiluaq quarry is excellent quality," the top ranking given by geologist Mike Beauregard and carver Jerry Ell. "Lightly banded, light green to light grey, and it carves nicely."
Unfortunately, the market for Inuit carvings is in a lull.
"I sense the market coming back, but it's cloudy," said Pat Feheley, owner of Feheley Fine Arts in Toronto. "We've just come out of a nasty recession. It has not been a good time."
Running a business focused on collectors and not tourists, Feheley called on the territory to get some of the raw materials to communities such as Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet where stone is not available, but where there are talented artists working in whale bone, which is forbidden for sale to U.S. buyers.
"As long as the stone is made into sculptures by talented artists who are making very good sculptures, the market is fine," Feheley said.
SeptemberHellfire descends on Iqaluit dump
One hundred days after the fire started, Hellfire Suppression Services of Alberta hit the ground in Iqaluit and started attacking the fire at the city's landfill. Aiming for a 30-day fight, they were able to put it out in 17 days.
The city issued a statement Sept. 16 saying the landfill fire was extinguished.
"The crews did an awesome job," deputy fire chief George Seigler said. "To come in before the 30-day deadline we did set, I'm extremely happy."
The speed of the effort cut the costs, as the teams were only paid for time spent on the ground, not on project basis.
"As a firefighter, it's always your goal to get it out and extinguished as fast as you can," said Hellfire's Ryan Stambaugh.
The final cost was about $2.75 million, council was told in November.
Brother-killer convicted of manslaughter
A 2010 fight between two Cape Dorset brothers ended in one brother dead, but the Crown did not convince Justice Neil Sharkey that Elee Geetah intended to kill his brother Jamesie Simigak.
As a result, Geetah was found not guilty of second-degree murder, but guilty of manslaughter, Sharkey stated in an Aug. 22 written decision.
Geetah was 19 and Simigak was 23 when the incident happened.
After an argument between the two, Geetah left and returned with a shotgun. Upon the brothers seeing each other, Simigak was killed by a single shotgun blast to the top of the head from about 10 to 14 feet away. He died instantly.
Geetahwent then began firing high-powered rifles out the window. Shots hit trucks, missing people walking down the street; another hit an RCMP officer's house, and one killed an RCMP officer's dog.
A standoff ensued, and eventually Geetah gave himself up.
He told police he intended to kill himself, not his brother, and fired a warning shot at the door just as his brother walked around the corner. Explaining the shots from the upstairs window, he said he hoped police would kill him.
Sharkey believed Geetah's version.
Resolute crash flight should have been aborted
In a Sept. 2 report responding to the August 2011 crash of First Air 6560 in Resolute, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Transport Canada didn't do enough to prevent the crash that killed 12 people.
The board noted in its news release that, as recommended, safety management systems "have been in place for several years for Subpart 705 (large commercial aircraft) operators, yet the incidence of unstable approaches has not been effectively addressed."
Long-lost ship found where Inuit said it was
Years of searching for the lost ships of John Franklin's ill-fated Northwest Passage expedition of 1845 finally paid off for Parks Canada, whose archeologists found Erebus ö one of the two lost ships this summer. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement Sept. 9.
Inuit traditional knowledge has been pretty clear about where one ship could be found in the southern search area.
Louie Kamookak, a teacher at Qiqirtaq Ilihakvik in Gjoa Haven, the community closest to the discovery, has collected the oral history of elders from sometime in the 1970s to the mid-1990s, which included stories of expeditions of white people that came up. After that, he started collecting and charting traditional place names.
"I told them about a theory based on all the information, whereabouts the ships might be."
Ex-priest convicted of 24 of 68 sex charges
Erik Dejaeger was convicted of 24 sex-related charges in a Sept. 12 decision by Justice Robert Kilpatrick.
Dejaeger, 67, pleaded guilty to eight counts of indecent assault in November and not guilty on the remaining 68 charges. Of those, he was found not guilty of 44.
All charges ö including indecent assault, unlawful confinement, rape, sexual assault, assault, acts of gross indecency, threatening, buggery and bestiality ö related to alleged crimes against Inuit children and youth between four and 20 years of age in Iglulik between 1976 and 1982.
In a highly emotional and sometimes horrific trial last November, more than 40 adult complainants testified.
"The reliability of the Crown's evidence on many counts is suspect," Kilpatrick wrote in his decision, noting the passage of time as a factor in the quality of the evidence.
Dejaeger is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
Heritage centre fulfills former mayor's dream
A new $2-million visitor and heritage centre in Kugluktuk opened Sept. 18, fulfilling the dream of former mayor Ernie Bernhardt.
"(Bernhardt) came into the office one morning (three years ago) with the idea that he would like to have a tourist centre for Kugluktuk that he wanted in the shape of an ulu," said Don LeBlanc, senior administrative officer with the hamlet. "He had a little piece of paper with a fancy drawing on it and showed it to me."
Bernhardt's idea made sense to LeBlanc.
The plan is to target companies looking for an inspiring location to hold employee retreats or meetings away from their usual boardrooms.
Tagaq promotes sealskin at awards
Cambridge Bay throatsinger Tanya Tagaq was awarded the $30,000 Polaris Prize for Canadian album of the year for Animism, and used her Sept. 22 acceptance speech to bring attention to the maligned seal hunt.
"People should eat and wear seal as much as possible," Tagaq said, holding up and displaying her sealskin bracelets. She then directed a choice swear word toward People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Teacher says Harper pushed her
She refused to shake Prime Minister Stephen Harper's hand during his visit to Pond Inlet Aug. 23, and as she turned away from him, elementary teacher Tessa Lochhead said Harper pushed her.
The alleged incident happened during a meet-and-greet on the tarmac at the community airport.
"I felt someone grab my arm and push me aside," she said. "It was only a few moments later after he had moved on through the crowd that I had people ask me, 'Are you OK?' I said, 'Yeah, why?' They said, 'The prime minister just pushed you.'"
"There is no substance whatsoever to this," said Jason MacDonald, Harper's director of communications. "I was in Pond Inlet and the incident ... simply did not happen."
OctoberHigh hopes for big shrimp
First Grise Fiord and then Qikiqtarjuaq got good news from the work of their Arctic Fishery Alliance ö a group that also includes Arctic Bay and Resolute ö that the two communities have some big shrimp in their waters.
The discoveries happened by accident, as the AFA's boat Kiviuq I was looking for whelk in September.
"They put some whelk pots to the bottom of the ocean," said Iviq Hunters and Trappers Organization chairperson Jaypeetee Akeeagok. "They discovered that even shrimps were going inside these pots because they're in a significant amount. The whelk pots have larger mesh than shrimp pots, and if you start pulling it up, the hole is big enough for shrimps to fall out, and yet they were picking up shrimps in good quantity and good quality."
Coldwater shrimp garner $1 per pound upon landing in Newfoundland and Labrador, while whelks command $.80 per pound.
"What they found was just a stone's throw from the community, where you or I could go for a Ski-Doo ride during winter," Akeeagok said.
As Kiviuq I passed through Qikiqtarjuaq on its way south, the community was treated to similar news.
"The shrimp are so plentiful that they were still able to land enough to let us know we have a new abundant food source," said senior administrative officer Arthur Nicomedes after the community sampled the find Oct. 17.
"Excellent size and super delicious," he said.
Shooting injures police officer
A police officer was recovering after being shot during a standoff with an Iglulik man armed with two rifles near the hamlet's RCMP detachment Oct. 4.
Iglulik senior administrative officer Celestino Uyarak told Nunavut News/North he saw a man in his mid-20s drive by on a snowmobile carrying two rifles.
"He said he'll be hunting," said Uyarak. "He drove away not too far and I heard a gunshot. I turned around and there he was reloading, shooting at the RCMP detachment."
When officers arrived, police vehicles were fired upon by a man who then fled the area.
One officer suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound and received medical treatment.
The man kept moving around the community, finally ending up near the breakwater, said Uyarak.
After additional police officers arrived in the hamlet, Uyarak said the accused called him at home before giving himself up.
"He was crying, saying he was sorry and says he won't be shooting again. But he told me he doesn't want to go to local RCMP and he doesn't want local RCMP to arrest him," Uyarak said.
He heard five shots and then saw several local people approach the man, who surrendered to police at 2 p.m.
Donovan Iyerak, 27, made his first appearance by video in Iqaluit court three days later. Iyerak is charged with four counts of attempted murder and reckless discharge of a firearm.
Negotiations begin toward devolution
The Canadian government started land and resource devolution talks when Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt appointed chief negotiator Brian Dominique Oct. 3 at the Nunavut legislative assembly.
The goal will be to transfer land and resource management responsibility to the territory and to give Nunavummiut a greater say in their own future.
"Territorial devolution is an important step that places more control in the hands of those who are best placed to make decisions about their future in order to stimulate growth, development and economic prosperity," said Valcourt. "It is clear that with the progress of world-class diamond mines and massive oil and gas reserves, the economic potential of this region is just tremendous."
An agreement-in-principle is expected to be reached in a year, with offshore resource negotiations to take place at a later date.
Simon Awa will be Nunavut's chief negotiator. NTI's chief negotiator, tasked with protecting the rights secured in the land claims agreement, is Udloriak Hanson.
Fire hall catches fire
Firefighters were called to the fire hall in Grise Fiord Oct. 6. There, they found the hall on fire.
The ceiling-mounted furnace caught fire a few hours after the building maintainer turned it on early in the day when he noticed there was no heat in the building.
"We have a bit of a history in that building in terms of furnace problems," said Marty Kuluguqtuq, the hamlet's assistant senior administrative officer and a firefighter. "A couple hours later, around 4:30 (p.m.), we received a call on the fire phone and on the land line that there was a considerable amount of smoke coming out of the chimney of the fire hall."
Fortunately, the furnace was ceiling-mounted, so they were able to get the garage door open, letting some smoke out so they could access the truck and gear in the building.
The fire was contained to the ceiling, and took more than two hours to extinguish. Three firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation.
"The truck is OK," Kuluguqtuq said. "We were able to retrieve most of our equipment. We have moved the fire truck to another garage."
Elders voice alcohol concerns
The Finance Department held a town hall meeting at Iqaluit's Frobisher Inn Oct. 7 to hear residents thoughts about opening a beer and wine store in Iqaluit, and the elders came out in force to voice their discontent.
Residents filled the 80-seat room to overflow capacity, and once the microphone opened, 15 elders stood, each speaking at length.
"I have seen family members die because of alcohol and I have seen murder because of alcohol," said Nutaraq Nowdluk. "I've seen people abused in the past, and I'm pretty sure we'll see more black eyes in the future. The shelters would be filled up more. I'm pretty sure the people in the community would have a difficult time."
Deputy minister Chris D'Arcy and cabinet, too, see the problems. Their solution is to introduce a beer and wine store, opening up same-day sales of lower-percentage alcoholic drinks to move those desiring a drink away from hard liquor bought from bootleggers.
Europe allows Inuit sealskins
Seal hunters and fashion designers were happy to hear the news that the European Union would allow the unhindered import and sale of sealskins from Nunavut's Inuit hunters as of Oct. 10.
Two major changes under the new agreement are that the EU will now allow indigenous seal products without restrictions based on type or intended use, and that non-indigenous people can now participate in the production of seal products.
"I think it could create many jobs," said Apex-based fur fashion designer Rannva Erlingsdottir Simonsen. "It can create more jobs for hunting, skin cleaning, and producing things. I can envision many jobs for sewers out in the communities."
"We are pleased with this result," MP Leona Aglukkaq said in a Canadian-EU joint statement. "This joint statement charts out the course for greater market access for Canadian seal products and will help indigenous communities that depend on the seal hunt to provide for their families and maintain their traditional way of life."
Education credit 'colossal mess'
As an Oct. 31 deadline approached, many residential school students were still unclear about or unaware of the ways a $3,000 personal education credit could be used, and some were frustrated by the terms of the credit's use, which were dictated by the federal government.
Lawyer Stephen Cooper, involved with the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement process since the beginning about 10 years ago, said he was "absolutely stunned" and suggested the credit was designed to ensure as little uptake as possible.
"This will compete with the absolute worst programs ever designed in any democratic state in the world. I have to think it was three 30-year-old white males in downtown Toronto for whom an exotic trip is Ottawa. I am just appalled at how horrific this is."
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) protested a possible extension of the Oct. 31 deadline if it meant more administration fees would use up the multimillion-dollar fund, a portion of which would come to NTI if unclaimed.
Early ice stalls sealift
Larger loads and unusual ice conditions meant some sealift goods didn't make it to Kugaaruk and Cambridge Bay this past year.
The complicated sealift process for Kugaaruk residents was part of the problem. Loads gathered in Valleyfield, Que., are shipped to Nanisivik, and then transported by the Canadian Coast Guard to Kugaaruk.
Senior administrative officer Gord Dinney says the Coast Guard ships made a few trips, and then they disappeared.
In 2014, the Arctic experienced a severe concentration of ice and Mario Pelletier, assistant commissioner with the Canadian Coast Guard, said this had an impact on icebreaking and search and rescue requests. Any ship in the vicinity of a search and rescue has to respond.
Pelletier also notes that in the past Kugaaruk has had an average of 40 sea cans, whereas this year there were 77 containers stockpiled in Nanisivik. In the previous two years the Coast Guard managed the resupply in three trips, while this year it managed five altogether before conditions halted its efforts.
The Government of Nunavut was forced to transport a seacan by air from Churchill, where it was dropped due to the weather. A garbage truck was set to arrive, but remained in Churchill.
Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) had to abandon its final barge of the season, destined for Cambridge Bay.
Uqqummiut MLA booted
The people of Qikiqtarjuaq and Clyde River sent Samuel Nuqingaq to the legislature to represent them as the MLA for Uqqummiut, but Oct. 24, his fellow legislators sent him home.
"The member ... has been disciplined by the legislative assembly on a number of occasions for his unacceptable conduct," Justice Minister Paul Okalik's motion read, "including persistent absences from sittings of the house and meetings of its committees and caucuses without reasonable explanation."
Nuqingaq missed the first week of orientation for new members last year and was suspended March 6. Later it was revealed that he faced criminal charges of assault and unlawfully entering a dwelling with intent to commit an indictable offence.
He spent 60 days receiving counselling for substance abuse. He showed up on Oct. 21 for the first day of the fall session and was assigned to several committees. But he didn't attend scheduled sittings on Oct. 22 or Oct. 23 and, on Oct. 24, he was expelled. A byelection to replace Nuqingaq is set for Feb. 9.
NovemberOrder invests Father of Nunavut
The Father of Nunavut, John Amagoalik, was invested into the Order of Nunavut Oct. 28.
"I have received a number of awards and this award is the one I appreciate the most. It comes from Nunavut and the people I love," Amagoalik said.
The honour is bestowed upon those who have provided an outstanding contribution to the cultural, social or economic wellbeing of Nunavut.
Amagoalik, in the 1970s, was the first of many to call for the creation of an Inuit homeland called Nunavut, during his time as Inuit Tapirisat of Canada vice-president. He later served two terms as president.
After the ratification of the Nunavut Act in 1993, Amagoalik was appointed chief commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission, the organization that oversaw the arrangements leading up to Nunavut's creation on April 1, 1999.
Amagoalik was born at a seasonal camp near Inukjuak in northern Quebec. When he was five, his family and 17 others were relocated to the High Arctic communities of Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord.
Guide to help abused women
A new legal resource introduced Oct. 24 will help Nunavut women fleeing family violence know their rights and where to access legal assistance.
"This is a one-stop guide for all the communities for staff and victims of violence to access every single door to justice," said YWCA Agvvik executive director Suny Jacob. "Most of the time, when they are coming, they need the support from legal services due to the situation they are in. They are from all communities and they have many resources in their communities, and this is very helpful for them."
About two-thirds of women accessing the women's shelters don't know their rights.
"They get tired because it's not easily accessible to them," Jacob said. "Because they can't access that, they get frustrated on top of the trauma they are already facing. This is too much for them. So most of the women give up, and say, 'Whatever.'"
NTI president calls for summit
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. drafted 19 resolutions for the year ahead after its three-day annual general meeting Oct. 21 to 23.
Among the priorities for president Cathy Towtongie are improving government procurement to benefit Inuit; an Inuit summit on social and cultural issues; opposition to seismic testing; curbing alcohol and drug abuse; and elders' care in communities.
"There are social issues right across Nunavut that are pressing, very pressing," said Towtongie. Suicide, homelessness on the increase, food security, mental health issues, crowded housing, and loss of language, culture and tradition are a few that she lists.
"And administration of government is mainly not Inuit, so there's a disconnect with the Inuit culture and these policies, programs and services. They have to better reflect Nunavut. We have to come up with made-in-Nunavut policies and programming soon."
Tide power investigated
An Apex entrepreneur hopes to take advantage of one of the world's highest tidal variations to introduce technology to harness tidal power and reduce the territory's reliance on diesel-generated energy.
Kirt Ejesiak, working with three Western Arctic partners, is hoping turbines installed on the sea floor can do the trick. He asked Iqaluit city council Nov. 12 for a letter of support to build a case for launching a feasibility study..
"They have tried a tidal energy project in the Bay of Fundy," said Ejesiak, who is vice-president of marketing for Apqak Renewable Energy. "The technology is proven, but there haven't been that many commercial projects because the tides aren't as high as the ones we have here."
New funds boost housing, a little
The federal and territorial governments will spend an extra $3 million (combined) per year for five years to build more houses in Nunavut. George Kuksuk, the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation, and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq officially signed the almost $15-million deal in the legislative assembly Nov. 10.
The money adds to $100 million pledged by the federal government in 2013. So far, Nunavut has received $30 million of that money.
The money is being used to build 213 new public housing units in 12 communities by December 2015, said Nunavut Housing Corporation president Lori Kimball.
The government saved $10 million in the process, and with the addition of another $10 million in the 2015-2016 territorial budget, Pond Inlet, Kugaaruk and Arviat will each receive three five-plexes for a total of 45 more units.
But $3 million per year is a drop in the bucket of what is needed. The new funding is enough to build a five-plex each year.
"With the population growth, we'd have to build 90 units a year to keep the problem from getting worse, and we have a back-log of about 3,000 units," said Kimball.
Nunavut needs about $1 billion to eradicate the housing problem.
Health probes Cape Dorset infant death
Nunavut's health minister directed her department to conduct an external independent review of administrative processes in the wake of allegations that a nurse at the Cape Dorset health centre refused to see a three-month-old boy, who subsequently died of a common viral infection.
The incident happened in 2012, and the nurse was later promoted to the top position at the health centre despite continuing complaints over a three-year period.
Monica Ell announced the review Nov. 6 in the legislative assembly while responding to a statement by South Baffin MLA David Joanasie.
According to documents made public by the CBC, Roy Ingangasuk, then regional director of health, stated in an e-mail dated Jan. 9, 2014, that, "I believe we missed the boat on this file after the death of the infant. Another nurse had to make an official complaint surrounding the unfortunate death of the infant and our region/department did not do due diligence regarding the serious incident."
Ell was removed as minister of Health in a Nov. 28 cabinet shuffle.
Premier aims at public service graduates
They spent 16 months in a variety of public service jobs, and on Nov. 13, Premier Peter Taptuna told 12 Inuit graduates of a pilot project he wanted to hire them.
"The government is dedicated to increasing beneficiary employment," Taptuna told graduates of the Inuit Learning and Development pilot project. "So hopefully you'll be putting in your resumes to the Government of Nunavut tomorrow."
The students spent four months in each of four positions with the GN, the Government of Canada and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), so they could get a taste of opportunities that exist in the public service.
The end goal is to give Inuit the skills needed to get hired with the three partners to increase beneficiary representation.
"The networking opportunities and possibilities we had through the program (are) off the charts," said Nastania Mullin, who was hired by Community and Government Services.
Nutrition North funding boosted
The federal government announced an additional $11.3 million to top up the Nutrition North retail subsidy program. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Parliamentary Secretary Mark Strahl made the announcement in Iqaluit Nov. 21.
The total funding for 2014-15 is now $133.7 million for 103 eligible Northern communities.
The announcement came after a scathing assessment published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health by University of Manitoba assistant professor Tracey Galloway and before the anticipated release later this month of an audit report by the auditor general of Canada.
Strahl praised the reduction in the cost of the revised Northern food basket for a family of four by an average of 5.6 per cent thanks to Nutrition North, even as food prices elsewhere in Canada have risen four per cent.
Within days, auditor general Michael Ferguson slammed the program in a report released Nov. 25, saying Nutrition North has failed to make nutritious and perishable food more accessible and affordable in Nunavut. Ferguson's report stated that AANDC could not show how the subsidy passes to consumers from retailers.
Retailers, including the largest, North West Company, disputed the report's findings, saying customers benefit from every dollar of the subsidy.
DecemberMP denies seeking apology
Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq denied demanding an apology from Rankin Inlet's deputy mayor for saying elders in the community were scavenging food from the dump after Aboriginal People's Television Network aired a documentary Nov. 21 showing elders doing just that.
During the 30-minute broadcast, deputy mayor Sam Tutanuak said the federal government's Nutrition North program was not working.
After the program aired, senior administrative officer Tom Ng called Tutanuak into his office to tell him that Aglukkaq had called Ng, saying she was upset by comments he had made on the food situation in Rankin.
"I was stunned when the SAO (Ng) told me she (Aglukkaq) was demanding an apology for what I had said," said Tutanuak. "Then he said she also wanted a letter from the hamlet stating that Nutrition North was working. The rest of the conversation is a little blurry because that just floored me."
Aglukkaq issued a strongly worded statement denying she had ever asked for an apology from anyone.
"The deputy mayor's claims about this conversation are completely false," Aglukkaq stated. "I am currently reviewing all of my legal options."
In a later interview with CBC-TV, Aglukkaq said she only left a message at the hamlet office.
Iqaluit pool will be built by locals
A local company, Kudlik Construction, won the contract to build Iqaluit's $40-million aquatic centre, with city council approving the company's $29.6 million bid for the construction portion Nov. 25.
Despite being the lowest bid, it came in almost $1 million more than budgeted.
The city plans to find savings elsewhere to ensure the $40-million budget, approved in a 2012 referendum, isn't exceeded.
The land cost $200,000 less than planned, and savings will be found in soft costs, such as financing fees, design fees, furniture, fixtures and equipment, recreation director Amy Elgersma said.
"Some choices have been made to make responsible reductions," she said. "I don't see any negative impact to the public or the users of the facility by doing this."
The aquatic centre is scheduled to open in November 2016.
Jury wants investigation into death reopened
The 2012 death of 26-year-old Solomon Uyarasuk, an Artcirq performer who died in police custody, was a mystery even to a coroner's inquest jury, which convened Nov. 24 to 28 and recommended the investigation be reopened.
The biggest mystery was why police were unable to strip Uyarasuk of all his clothing except for a belt, which was later found wrapped around his neck and attached to the door. The cause of death was determined to be asphyxiated hanging, but the jury could not determine whether it was a suicide, a homicide, an accident, or a natural event.
The jury of three men and three women made nine recommendations ö eight for the RCMP and one for the Department of Health ö to avoid a similar incident.
Most of the recommendations deal with Nunavut-specific officer training, equipment and video surveillance. The Department of Health recommendation directs the GN medical staff to adhere to policy and see injured patients in RCMP custody only in designated health centres or hospitals in Nunavut.
Days after the jury's report, on Dec. 1, fellow Artcirq performer Joey Ammaq was found without vital signs in an Iglulik house following a disturbance. He could not be revived.
QIA presidential candidate disputes recount
The day after the Qikiqtani Inuit Association presidential vote ended with a three-vote spread, triggering a recount, leading candidate Mikidjuk Akavak went public with his accusations that the second-place candidate, PJ Akeeagok, and acting president Larry Audlaluk, who placed third, shouldn't have been candidates at all.
Akavak said both were employees of QIA and therefore ineligible. He had raised his concerns with chief returning officer Nancy Karetak-Lindell in early November, but she replied that both were eligible.
Akeeagok said he took a leave without pay from his role as assistant executive director on Oct. 28 to run in the election. The QIA confirmed that Audlaluk was also on leave without pay.
"I followed all the procedures, and as long as I took a leave without pay I was eligible," Akeeagok said. "I was on leave, and it was made clear to Mickey in November. It's making an issue out of something that was already resolved."
Akavak went into the recount with 758 votes, while Akeeagok had 755 and Audlaluk had 657.
After the recount Dec. 14, the official results went the other way. Akeeagok won with 756, two more than Akavak, who ended with 754.
Shack fire kills man
One man died after a Dec. 18 fire destroyed a beachside shack beside the Iqaluit elders' home.
RCMP officers were responding to another call when they noticed the fire and called for help. Flames were visible across town, and the structure ö a wooden shack ö was engulfed before fire crews arrived. Upon arrival, they faced temperatures reaching -26 C. There were few signs of a structure remaining the next morning.
A group of homeless men, including one who lives in a neighbouring shack, said between eight and 12 people live in such shacks along the beach.
Help line open all hours
As of Dec. 15, the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line will now offer around-the-clock service in an attempt to reduce suicides and other crisis situations in the territory.
Until now, the help line has only operated five hours per day. A Department of Health pilot project worth $31,500 for each of two years will allow the help line to team up with the Distress Centre of Ottawa, which will take over the line during the Nunavut service's off-hours.
"Everybody calls for a different reason," said executive director Sheila Levy. "Whatever somebody wants to talk about, we're there to listen."