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Nunavut News/North: 2015 - The Year in Review


Nunavut park named third best place to visit in Canada


Auyuittuq National Park, located between Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq, was named on Jan. 1, 2015 the number three destination to visit in Canada for 2015.

NNSL photo/graphic

Every year, the Canadian travel website announces its top picks for the coming year. Toronto was named the number one place to visit in 2015 and Revelstoke, B.C., placed second.

"We think it's fantastic," said Karen Petkau, visitor experience manager for the Nunavut field unit of Parks Canada. "We think that Auyuittuq is a crowning jewel in Parks Canada's family of parks. Auyuittuq has stunning cliffs and mountains and just has a stark beauty to it."

Auyuittuq beat out heavyweights Vancouver (4), Jasper, Alta., (6), Montreal (8), Quebec City (12), and many more in a list of Canada's top 20. Dawson City, Yukon, was the only other Northern destination on the list, ranking 18th.

New Year's birth runs in family

Kimmirut/Lake Harbour

Nunavut's first baby of 2015, Mosesie Mark Parr of Kimmirut, kept a family tradition alive just by being born on Jan. 1, 2015.

Mosesie, born at 2:31 a.m. at Iqaluit's Qikiqtani General Hospital, shares the birthday with his birth mother, Ruthie Mingeriak's cousin Ningeorapik Kolola and Ruthie's maternal grandmother Tye Sagiaktuk.

"We thought the baby was going to come on Dec. 31," said Ruthie's brother Jawlie Mingeriak, who adopted the baby with his wife Tirak Parr. "She asked us, and we said yes right away because we love her. It was amazing when I saw him for the first time. Very touching."

The adoption would allow Ruthie, 24, the chance to pursue a university education, hopefully at Carleton in Ottawa.

Fisheries receive research boost


The Nunavut's fisheries sector received a $7.2-million joint funding increase Jan. 12.

Governments and fisheries associations were hoping the million-dollar boost would increase the opportunities available to Nunavut fishers, which at the time employed 370 people across the territory and brought in $86 million in 2013-14.

"This is good for our communities, it's creating jobs in our communities," said then CanNor Minister Leona Aglukkaq, announcing the agency's portion, which was $4.3 million, in Iqaluit.

The federal government would give its portion over two years and other partners were adding $2.9 million over that same time to increase research into the populations of fish and seafood off Nunavut.

Most of that money, $3.63 million, was planned for inshore fisheries science, including char, turbot and Qikiqtarjuaq clam fisheries.

Another $2.98 million was planned for offshore fisheries science, to perform an annual multi-species survey, porcupine crab research and exploration, Northern shrimp and Greenland halibut aging, and halibut population genetics.

Trudeau woos supporters


Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau quickly established a key message for Nunavut upon his visit to the capital Jan. 12.

He said he wanted a Liberal Member of Parliament to be "a voice for Nunavut in Ottawa, not just a voice in Nunavut for Ottawa."

For an estimated crowd of 200 appreciative Nunavummiut at Nakasuk School, Trudeau swiftly addressed the hot button topic of Nutrition North, saying the program needs to be rebuilt. This he framed with a quick speech, noting that the federal government has a responsibility to invest in infrastructure in Nunavut.

"Understanding how important the North is to Canada is understanding how important it is to support, work with, encourage and build a future with the people who choose to live here," he said later that night at a second gathering.

At the time, Trudeau would not say whether a Liberal government would position a Nunavut MP in cabinet, but added. "Nunavut deserves to be much better represented. The current MP has no decision-making power. That's not democracy."

Feeding My Family calls for boycott


Nunavut's food security advocacy group, Feeding My Family, had the North's biggest retailer in its sights, calling for residents across Canada and the United States to boycott the North West Company's stores on Jan. 31.

At issue was the high cost of food in the North. Although other retailers have similar pricing, the North West Company has the most buying power and is the most visible, with stores in communities across Nunavut, NWT, Yukon and Alaska, as well as Ontario and New Brunswick, said organizer Leesee Papatsie.

"They're widespread and they've have been gouging Nunavut for a long time," Papatsie said.

But the boycott was not without its critics.

"So when is the boycott-the-equally-expensive-expired-food-selling-competition day happening?" wrote Apex resident Aaron Watson on his Facebook page.

Seismic appeal goes forward

Kangiqtugaapik/Clyde River

Opponents of seismic testing received good news during the third week of January as the Federal Court of Appeal granted a request to expedite a hearing on Clyde River's challenge to the National Energy Board's approval of testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.

The hearing was expected to take place in April, time enough for a decision before seismic testing is set to start in the summer, lawyer Nader Hasan predicted.

"It's good news," said Hasan, who represented the hamlet, Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine, and the local hunters' and trappers' organization. "It means the Federal Court of Appeal is taking our concern about timing seriously. We were concerned about making sure the Federal Court of Appeal had all the arguments to make a decision before we got to the summer, and it looks like, with the current timeline, that will be possible. The proponents ... want to begin seismic testing in July."

Bishop sentenced to 20 years


Chris Bishop, who pleaded guilty to three counts of manslaughter and two accounts of attempted murder in a plea agreement Jan. 14, was sentenced to 20 years in prison less time served.

"The moral blameworthiness associated with Mr. Bishop's actions in deliberately shooting down his fleeing antagonists is extremely high," wrote Justice Robert Kilpatrick in his Jan. 22 sentencing decision. "The court is satisfied that the 20-year sentence proposed by the Crown and defence, being at the extreme high end for manslaughter offences, is nonetheless justified in this case."

The Cambridge Bay man would serve about four more years because Kilpatrick allowed a two-for-one credit for Bishop's eight years in prison since the tragic events of 2007 that saw him shoot and kill Keith Atatahak, 30, Kevin Komaksiut, 22, and Dean Costa, 29, during a home invasion.

Antoinette Bernhardt and Logan Pigalak were wounded.

"While Mr. Bishop's action in discharging the firearm was a direct consequence of the home invasion and was initially a step taken in self-defence, the defence concedes that the amount of force ultimately used by Mr. Bishop was excessive," stated Kilpatrick. "The rifle was fired not once, but 25 times. Mr. Bishop continued to hit human targets long after the risk to his own personal safety was over."

Bishop was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in a trial by jury in 2010, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The decision was overturned in the Nunavut Court of Appeal in January 2013 and a new trial was ordered. The plea bargain presented Jan. 14 meant a new trial was avoided but allowed the opportunity for victim impact statements to be made toward sentencing.


Capital to vote on beer and wine sales


Iqalummiut were informed they'd have a chance to vote on whether they want a beer and wine store to open in the capital city, giving residents the opportunity to purchase beverages containing alcohol over the counter for the first time in decades.

The plebiscite would be non-binding, with the territorial cabinet having final say on whether it opens or not.

"There are a couple of reasons for that," said Department of Finance deputy minister Chris D'Arcy, who added the Liquor Act states executive council must have the final say. "If we had a binding plebiscite, that would tie cabinet's hands. This is a continuing part of our consultative process (on) this very sensitive topic. If the vote is really close, I don't think anybody would want us to be bound one way or another to having to follow this particular plebiscite."

D'Arcy said a plebiscite would be only one piece of information to consider along with the other consultations his department has done.

There has been no retail outlet for the sale of alcoholic beverages in Iqaluit since 1975.

Former priest gets 19 years


Convicted child molester and former Oblate priest Eric Dejaeger was sentenced to 19 years, less eight years for time served, in a written decision by Justice Robert Kilpatrick released Feb. 4.

"Based on existing jurisprudence, this 19-year sentence is at the very high end for fixed-term sentences of imprisonment in Canada," stated Kilpatrick in his decision. "An exemplary sentence is needed to reflect not only the high moral blameworthiness associated with the crimes, but to denounce and deter sexual offences against children and adolescents in Nunavut."

In his decision, Kilpatrick noted several times "the court must also consider jurisdictional factors unique to Nunavut.

"The commission of sexual offences is a persistent and serious problem in all of Nunavut's communities. Nunavut leads the country in the per capita rate of commission of this type of crime."

The prison sentence was the result of eight charges for which Dejaeger pleaded guilty and 24 convictions that came after a trial in late 2013 and early 2014, all stemming from sex crimes committed against Inuit children and youth between four and 20 years of age in Iglulik between 1978 and 1982. Most of the victims were between nine and 13 years of age. When the matter came to trial, Dejaeger faced 72 charges.

For the victims, Kilpatrick expressed heartfelt care, acknowledging "this court is powerless to undo the past" and that no sentence can compensate them for what has been lost and for their "pain and anguish."

A new home for healing


A large number of men housed at the Baffin Correctional Centre, notorious for its woeful conditions, were to get a reprieve when they moved to the new 48-bed Makigiarvik minimum-security facility next door, Nunavut News/North reported Feb. 9.

"This facility is going to help justice out in a lot of ways," said Chris Stewart, manager of capital and special projects for the Department of Justice.

"One is to alleviate that immediate overcrowding at the Baffin Correctional Centre. As well, it allows us to have new programming space to offer programming for offenders staying at this building."

"It's absolutely been needed for years," said defence lawyer James Morton, who typically represents those facing the most serious charges and have spent time at Baffin Correctional Centre.

"My only concern is that it may be obsolete on opening with the number of beds. BCC has been so overcrowded for so long, my concern is this will take the overflow from BCC, and we'll need another one almost right away. What we really need is a complete rebuild of a full-sized facility."

Eiderdown plant on track in Sanikiluaq


With eiderdown duvets fetching $6,000 per kilogram of down used, the future looked bright in Sanikiluaq, where the hamlet's defunct eiderdown plant was set to reopen in March, Nunavut News/North reported on Feb. 9.

"We thought we were going to be able to do a partial year," said senior administrative officer Daryl Dibblee, noting this was before a very productive summer for down gatherers, who knew the hamlet was looking at reopening the plant.

"With the amount we have and the interest we have in our products, we're going to be able to go year-round and our revenues look like they may be about triple what we thought. It's exciting."

The excitement reflected the fact the 10 to 12 people the hamlet was expecting to employ seasonally might be employed full-time year-round.

"We're trying to create some economic activity here," Dibblee said. "They always talk about poverty reduction. As far as I'm concerned, the best poverty reduction is to create some employment. If we can do that, that's significant."

Most of the physical requirements of the plant were in place to get it up and running.

Sanikiluaq's eiderdown plant had not produced down and down products since 2005, when the government ended the plant's funding.

State of emergency declared

Mittimatalik/Pond Inlet

Pond Inlet declared a state of emergency Feb. 10 in hopes the government would help clear a backlog of sewage that MLA Joe Enook said was overflowing from residents' holding tanks into their homes.

"I haven't gone and counted how many are in each house affected, but I know of two houses where they have had to go and live with families while the housing guy (clears) out their sewage tanks," Enook said, adding the sewage overflows and then the tanks freeze. "Apparently there have been houses where sewage has leaked into the house."

The hamlet declared its state of emergency after submitting a letter to the Nunavut government stating it was needed for the "entire community of Pond Inlet" because of "lack of sewage pump-out due to equipment failure, raw sewage overflow onto the ground, causing health issues, spread of bacteria."

"The health department is concerned," deputy mayor Joshua Arreak said. "These overflows outside the houses are not healthy. If you're taking that stuff inside your house, it's a health issue."

Two trucks, worth between $200,000 and $300,000 each, were booked to arrive on the summer sealift. The hamlet council hoped the state of emergency would prompt the government to fly up at least one truck on a Hercules.

Keeyooktaq wins Uqqummiut seat

Qikiqtarjuaq/Broughton Island

Pauloosie Keeyooktaq of Qikiqtarjuaq, the former Qikiqtani Inuit Association president who ran unsuccessfully in the recent QIA election, was elected to represent his community and Clyde River at the territorial level after winning a byelection in the Uqqummiut constituency Feb. 9.

Keeyooktaq was the lone candidate from Qikiqtarjuaq and received more votes than two Clyde River candidates - 2013 runnerup Niore Iqalukjuak and former MLA James Arreak - who split the vote in their community.

"I'm going to have to meet with all the hamlet councils in Qikiqtarjuaq and Clyde River, and find out what I have to do after I hear from them," Keeyooktaq said. He was scheduled to be in Iqaluit the following week for orientation ahead of being sworn-in Feb. 23.

Keeyooktaq earned 220 votes, including 16 from Clyde River. Iqalukjuak was second with 195 votes, including 12 from Qikiqtarjuaq. Arreak was well behind with 105 votes, including nine from Qikiqtarjuaq. Sandy Kautuq of Clyde River was disqualified early in the race due to his failure to resign from his government job before running.

Councillor raises alarm over buildings


Iqalummiut are taking their lives into their own hands when using or working in city buildings, it was suggested in evidence presented in photos to Iqaluit council by councillor Kenny Bell Feb. 10.

Bell showed images of an emergency exit at the Arctic Winter Games arena closed with a hockey stick and blocked with a folded table. A wall of snow blocks the door from the other side. Such walls of snow were seen blocking emergency exits - from both outside and in - at other city facilities.

And so began a long list of dangerous issues with city buildings, including loose wires stick out from hydro boxes and walls.

"We're responsible for making sure these buildings are safe for the citizens of Iqaluit, for our employees, and right now, I think we're failing," Bell told council. "I don't know about you, but regardless of the money aspect, I don't want to be responsible for some little kid dying."

The city's top politician agreed with Bell's assessment.

"On one hand, the public is screaming at us because we're increasing the taxes," Mayor Mary Wilman said. "On the other hand, we are very aware of what we're up against. It's no easy task."

Wilman asked Bell to provide city directors with his photographs to fix the problems.

Those fixes would be just the start. A leaked city budget document shows the city was unlikely to be able to afford needed infrastructure repairs because it faced a $10-million deficit, illegal under the Cities, Towns and Villages Act.

Independent review ordered into actions following infant death


Three months after former Health Minister Monica Ell promised an independent review into the administrative process of the Department of Health after a news report revealed troubling questions surrounding the death of three-month-old Makibi Akesuk Timilak in April 2012 in Cape Dorset, her replacement said Feb. 24 it would be going ahead.

The news followed a petition launched in late January by former Cape Dorset nurse Gwen Slade calling for the review to go forward and a Jan. 12 letter to current Health Minister Paul Okalik from Cape Dorset MLA David Joanasie in which he made several pointed recommendations.

"The purpose of this review is to determine what steps were taken in the wake of Makibi's death and whether the steps taken were appropriate in the circumstances," Okalik told the Nunavut legislative assembly.

"The review will also focus more generally on what procedures are currently in place within GN departments for receiving and responding to complaints regarding nursing care in Nunavut and whether they were followed in this case," Okalik said.

The department commissioned lawyer Katherine Peterson to conduct the independent external review.


Auditor general slams corrections


Canada's auditor general, Michael Ferguson, released a damning report on corrections in Nunavut March 10.

In a memo leaked to The Canadian Press, a top bureaucrat who saw a late draft of the report warned the premier to be ready for legal challenges about the facility's constitutionality.

Viewing the draft report, Department of Justice deputy minister Elizabeth Sanderson warned cabinet secretary David Akeeagok that Premier Peter Taptuna should brace himself for the impending report, according to a memo leaked to The Canadian Press earlier in the week. Nunavut News/North did not see the memo first-hand, but it reportedly was copied to Justice Minister Paul Okalik and several other colleagues.

Aside from the possibility of lawsuits, Sanderson warned the courts could order the government to shut down Baffin Correctional Centre. Sanderson's concern stems from the slow pace of improvements at Baffin Correctional Centre.

Built in 1984 as a minimum-security facility, Baffin Correctional Centre (BCC) was upgraded in 1996 to add medium-security areas. Despite this, Ferguson writes that "subsequent reports (including one prepared in 2010 by an engineering firm) indicate that the Baffin Correctional Centre still lacked the basic security requirements of a correctional facility greater than minimum security."

In March, the facility continued to house inmates with a maximum-security rating.

"What we really need is a complete rebuild of a full-sized facility," lawyer James Morton told Nunavut News/North in February, foreshadowing Ferguson's report.

The Department of Justice estimated bringing BCC up to national fire code standards would cost $8.8 million, but that would do nothing to improve its ability to house maximum-security inmates.

Uranium mine opposed

Qamanittuaq/Baker Lake

A two-week hearing by the Nunavut Impact Review Board into the Kiggavik uranium project had an explosive start March 3 when the Baker Lake Hunter and Trappers Organization (HTO) tabled a motion to suspend the hearing.

The project's proponent, Areva Resources Canada, had admitted it could take up to 20 years until the site is developed.

"This is about more than terms and conditions," stated Richard Aksawnee, the HTO's chairperson, in a written release. "The big picture question, whether or not Kiggavik is a good idea, will be answered with this review. And a lot could change if Areva doesn't build it right away. Maybe the big picture will change in 10 years, maybe Kiggavik won't be a good idea. But if it's approved now, we can never go back."

Aside from the uncertainty caused by a devastated nuclear energy sector, opposition to the project was loud and clear from all Kivalliq hunters and trappers organizations, regional organizations and surrounding First Nations, including those in the Northwest Territories and Sakatchewan.

Areva's proposal would see one underground and four open-pit mines approximately 80 km west of Baker Lake, in between two caribou calving grounds - Beverly and Qamanirjuaq -and the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, considered the largest and most remote wildlife refuge on the North American continent.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board refused to pass the motion on the first day to suspend the hearing taking place in Baker Lake. The hearing continued to March 14.

Tentative deal reached


Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) tentatively settled its 10-year-old $1-billion lawsuit against the federal government, president Cathy Towtongie stated in a news release March 9, the same day the matter was to be heard in court.

Instead of hearing arguments at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, Justice Earl Johnson began proceedings by saying he'd received a letter on March 6 from Dougald Brown, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.'s legal counsel, notifying him of the tentative settlement in the 2006 lawsuit.

The settlement was subject to ratification by the parties, which included the Government of Nunavut.

In the lawsuit brought against the Government of Canada, NTI alleged the government failed to meet requirements under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NCLA), mainly that it failed to adequately fund education in the territory. As a result, the land claim's promise of meeting an 85 per cent Inuit employment rate with the government of Nunavut, a proportion equal to the population, has never been met as set out in article 23 of the land claims agreement.

Redfern calls for new Qikiqtani election


Madeleine Redfern lost the Dec. 8 Qikiqtani Inuit Association community director position for Iqaluit by one vote to Simon Nattaq, but she said the results were incomplete after Iqaluit Inuit living in Ottawa said they were refused the chance to vote for either candidate and she was willing to go to court over it.

"They were told they were not allowed to vote, and that only people in the communities could cast their vote for the community director, which actually goes against the information that was provided to me afterward that they could vote by proxy," Redfern said. "They were actually denied the right to vote."

The defence, it seems, is that it would have been too hard to manage voting by Inuit from different communities.

However, Redfern notes that the voter's list is broken down by community, and each voter had to prove upon voting that they are affiliated with a Qikiqtani community.

Redfern said the only solution was a new election for the position. After the two sides met in court March 9, Redfern said the QIA was creating expensive barriers to resolve the dispute.

QIA spokesperson Maude Bertrand said the Inuit organization would not comment while the matter was in front of the courts.

Two escape stalking bear

Ausuittuq/Grise Fiord

Prolific bear hunter Manasie Noah saved the day for one Grise Fiord boy, who was one of two people nearly attacked by a bear stalking people in the heart of the hamlet March 14.

Manasie Noah was in the process of picking up his children and their friends from the gymnasium when his 11-year-old son Nallinniq spotted the bear near the fuel tank farm.

Noah backed up the vehicle and shone the headlights in the bear's direction.

"We then saw a young boy walking towards it under a street light and the bear was not under the light," he said. Noah honked his horn and flashed his high beams, and the boy, Abraham Pijamini, looked and saw the bear. "(He) ran as hard and as fast as he possibly could back the way he came to a more populated area, the gym. And I raced to him to see if he was alright."

Making sure Pijamini was fine, Noah rushed home to get his Canadian Ranger rifle, which he had locked up after hunting seals that day. He returned to the scene to find the bear running across the river, where there are no street lights. People were heading that way, so he waited a bit to make sure no one went in that direction before taking his children and their friends home. He headed out again to find the bear near the tank farm.

"It had crossed the river where it then encountered Ooleesee Akeeagok and chased her into a neighbour's home," he said.

He picked up the conservation officer, and they met another man who said yet another man was chasing the bear in a car to keep it away from his dog sled team. That man had run out of ammunition and offered the kill to Noah.

After skinning it in -35 C temperatures, he found no meat was salvageable because its injuries were old, perhaps from a fight with another bear or from falling off an iceberg.


Power plant fire sparks crisis


Pangnirtung residents were without power and heat after a fire at the hamlet power plant in the early hours April 2.

A state of emergency was declared in the hamlet, stated Hillary Casey, an information officer for Nunavut Emergency Management.

The hamlet's long-distance telephone

and Internet services were degrading as the day wore on, while Northwestel reported it could maintain local calling capabilities

as long as its backup power remained in service.

The fire started at about 1:30 a.m., and firefighters were able to put it out. Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC) crews arrived in the hamlet at 6 a.m. to assess the damage, with more headed to the community to help co-ordinate an emergency plan.

QEC worked to bring more generators into the community to ease the load on the hamlet's backup generator.

Wellness a priority, symposium told


Jean Kigutikakjuk, Leena Evic and Ceporah Kilabuk lit three qulliit to welcome 100 or so researchers, policy makers, and indigenous youth to the Circumpolar Mental Wellness Symposium in Iqaluit March 25.

That mental wellness is a critical matter for communities across the circumpolar world is why Canada insisted on this focus during its tenure as chairperson of the Arctic Council, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, minister responsible for the Arctic Council, noted in her welcome speech.

"When I undertook consultations across the North before Canada took over as chair, this is the clear message I received - the well-being and prosperity of people living in the North had to be at the top of the Arctic Council's priorities," said Aglukkaq.

"Over 30 per cent of the population of Nunavut is under 15 years old. These youth represent our future."

The symposium was the culmination of two years of work conducted under the guidance of the Sustainable Development Working Group. The project was called The Evidence Base for Promoting Mental Wellness and Resilience to Address Suicide in Circumpolar Communities, and was co-led by Canada, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Norway, Denmark, the United States, and the Russian Federation.

Canada later handed off the chairmanship of the Arctic Council to the United States in the capital April 24 and 25, when the ministers for the council's eight nations met. It was hoped that the work related to mental wellness would continue, even as Arctic development became the focus for leaders.

25 years of serving breakfast

Taloyoak/Spence Bay

Netsilik Ilihakvik in Taloyoak celebrated the 25th anniversary of the school's breakfast and early morning gym and games programs in early April.

"Our programs are run by staff with occasional assistance from parents and older students," said principal Gina Pizzo.

"We recently got a grant of $10,000 from the Department of Health for breakfast program enhancement which allowed us to buy the new toaster, bowls, plates and glasses and a very large stockpile of country food, including caribou, and several different types of preparations of char, which the kids love."

The program served breakfast at 8 a.m., providing choices of cold cereal, porridge, toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes, orange juice, milk, yogurt, smoothies, fresh fruits and country foods.

"Then they can go to the gym or play board games," said Pizzo.

Seismic case in court


Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine was in Toronto to make the hamlet's case to Canada's Federal Court of Appeal that the National Energy Board should not have granted approval for seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, Nunavut News/North reported April 18.

At the time, the testing agency had permission to start testing - involving extreme underwater sonic booms to determine where oil and gas reserves are - in the summer.

"Inuit have lived off of this land and these waters for centuries," stated Natanine. "The marine mammals in these waters are central to our way of life. They are our food and are integral to our culture. If the oil companies take that away, we'll have nothing left."

The Clyde River Solidarity Network, a group of 43 indigenous solidarity groups, social justice advocacy organizations, human rights advocacy groups, environmentalist organizations, and union working groups formed in March to back the appeal

The group planned to host a lunch-time demonstration in front of the Toronto courthouse April 20, with a feast of seal

meat, whale meat and Arctic char for supporters.

Energy board chairperson and CEO Peter Watson told Nunavut News/North in January that the board believed seismic testing is safe.

A release from Clyde River's legal representative argued the blasts are dangerous to mammals.

Sammurtok stripped of cabinet duties


Premier Peter Taptuna stripped Rankin Inlet North and Chesterfield Inlet MLA Tom Sammurtok of his Community and Government Services portfolio April 14 after Sammurtok was charged with driving under the influence the previous day.

Taptuna, who was in Quebec City for a summit on climate change, said Environment Minister Johnny Mike would assume all of Sammurtok's ministerial duties, including the Community and Government Services file.

"Pending Minister Sammurtok's court appearance, he remains minister without portfolio," stated Taptuna.

In the Nunavut legislative assembly, unlike in other jurisdictions, a member can only be removed by consensus vote.

Sammurtok released his own statement later that day, in which he apologized to his family, his colleagues and to all Nunavummiut for his poor judgment.

Elected in October 2013 and sworn in the next month, Sammurtok was a senior public servant before retiring and entering politics, including serving as assistant deputy minister of Community and Government Services.

Sammurtok was scheduled to appear in the Nunavut Court of Justice on May 21.


Man charged in Iqaluit


A man who held police at bay for 42 hours in the Happy Valley neighbourhood of Iqaluit appeared in court May 1.

Twenty-six-year-old Jamie Mikijuk of Iqaluit faced three firearm-related charges in the Nunavut Court of Justice, said RCMP Chief Supt. Mike Jeffrey at a news conference held the same day.

Mikijuk, who was in police custody, was charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, careless use of a firearm, and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

Holed up in a house in Happy Valley, Mikijuk let off more than 10 shots from inside the house during the standoff that started at about 3:30 p.m. on April 28 and ended peacefully and without injury at 10 a.m. April 30.

Police and municipal enforcement officers blockaded the neighbourhood, and eventually increased the size of the safety zone, which included nearby Joamie School, by the morning of April 29. The homes in the immediate neighbourhood remained on lockdown after the incident ended, as police needed to investigate the bullets fired and where they went.

"Everyone (in the RCMP detachment) had a role, whether it was covering for somebody on shift or going to the scene," said Const. Malcolm McNeil, noting emergency response teams and negotiators from the south came to Iqaluit to relieve local ERT officers and negotiators needing a break during the 42-hour standoff.

$255.5 million for training corporation


Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. announced it would use millions of dollars of lawsuit settlement money to train Inuit to fill jobs inside and outside of government, Nunavut News/North reported May 11.

The federal government agreed to compensate NTI with $255.5 million as part of an out-of-court settlement package that ended a $1-billion lawsuit the Inuit beneficiary organization launched against Ottawa in 2006.

NTI president Cathy Towtongie called the agreement-signing ceremony, which took place May 4 at the organization's headquarters in Iqaluit, an historic moment for Inuit. Then-Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt and Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna were present to sign.

Towtongie said NTI would create the Nunavut Inuit Training Corporation, using $175 million for initiatives to provide Inuit with the skills and qualifications needed for employment.

"The NTI board of directors will decide where to invest the remaining $80.5 million," she added.

In addition to investments in training, the settlement agreement requires the Government of Canada to complete a new Nunavut Inuit labour force analysis in close consultation with NTI and the GN, explained Towtongie.

The federal government also committed to new funding levels for institutions of public government, hunters and trappers organizations and regional wildlife organizations.

Those new funding levels were retroactive to 2013.

Commission struggles with land use plan


The Nunavut Planning Commission was moving ahead with preparations for a public hearing on the draft Nunavut Land Use Plan (NLUP) - with two meetings scheduled to take place in Iqaluit - but it still needs federal funding for the hearing itself, Nunavut News/North reported May 11.

"Those meetings are steps that we have to go through prior to holding the public hearing," said then commission chairperson Hunter Tootoo.

Funding for the public hearing remained subject to judicial review.

The first meeting, for technical experts, was planned for June 23 to 26 at the Cadet Hall in Iqaluit, and a pre-hearing conference was scheduled for July 14 to 16.

The purpose of the public hearing was to offer parties a venue to present comments and rationale after each has reviewed the plan.

Covering two million square kilometres, the plan's purpose is to provide for the conservation, development and utilization of the land.

Following the hearing, a final draft would be presented for approval to the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The proposed cost of the hearing itself was estimated at the time to cost $1.2 million and Tootoo said he was sending an official letter requesting those supplementary funds again.

Ottawa slammed for Inuktuk funding


The backlash was immediate when Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq announced May 6 that a language agreement between the Government of Nunavut and the federal government would see $1.65 million in support of French and $1.1 million in support of Inuktut languages.

The agreement is in place to provide the GN with funds to help it deliver services in Inuktuk and French specifically.

Nunavut Languages Commissioner Sandra Inutiq and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.'s (NTI) vice-president James Eetoolook immediately released a joint statement critical of the agreement, both citing inadequate and inequitable funding especially considering the accelerating erosion of Inuit language in the territory.

In a telephone interview with Nunavut News/North, Nunavut's Culture and Heritage department deputy minister Joe Adla Kunuk was blunt.

"We've made it clear all along, from the beginning, and previous ministers in the past have, that this amount was not high enough and that since 1999 the amounts haven't changed," he said. "Our minister and minister's office, including last fall in Charlottetown, made it clear that the amounts were not sufficient for our needs in Nunavut."

Eetoolook said the inequitable funding had been a concern for many years.

Areva uranium mine denied approval

Qamanittuaq/Baker Lake

The French company Areva could not proceed with its proposed Kiggavik uranium project outside Baker Lake due to the company not having a firm start date, the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) announced May 8.

"The Kiggavik Project as presented has no definite start date or development schedule. The board found that this adversely affected the weight and confidence which it could give to assessments of future ecosystemic and socio-economic effects," stated the board's chairperson, Elizabeth Copland.

That's the recommendation the board submitted to then-Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt and other responsible ministers. The final decision remained in the hands of the federal government.

Areva's proposal would see one underground and four open-pit mines approximately 80 km west of Baker Lake in between two caribou calving grounds - Beverly and Qamanirjuaq - and near the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, considered the largest and most remote wildlife refuge on the North American continent.

Prior to the hearing, the company admitted it could take up to 20 years until the site is developed.

"The HTO is very happy with the decision," chairperson Richard Aksawnee told Nunavut News/North.

In an e-mail, Barry McCallum, Areva's manager of Nunavut affairs, stated the company was disappointed.

Radio station going silent


After 16 years of operating as a volunteer organization, with 200 volunteers in its heyday, the Kugluktuk Radio Society was likely closing its doors, Nunavut News/North reported May 25.

The volunteers numbers were dwindling and those that remained were burned out.

The society's two buildings were for sale -the Milukshuk Centre and the staff house. The plan was to transfer the funds into "a trust for scholarships to help reinvest back into our core educational mandate, without all the work and stress of running a daily operation," said executive director Mike Webster.

The society served as an example of a successful community development venture, where countless youth benefitted from their experiences through the organization and listeners from all over the world tuned into the station.

"Back then, half the houses didn't even have radios, so we bought 130 or something and gave them out. Little radios with night lights for kids," said Webster. "Nowadays, people have Internet, download music, have cellphones, iPods."


Missing people found safe

Kugaaruk/Pelly Bay

Two people who went missing from Kugaaruk for five days were found safe, Nunavut News/North reported June 1.

A 63-year-old male and 57-year old female had gone out on the land and not returned, said Iqaluit

RCMP Const. Malcolm McNeil.

"They had camping equipment with them," said McNeil, who wasn't sure if they also had survival tools such as rifles and gas.

A team of search and rescue volunteers was deterred by blizzard conditions early on and hoped for the weather to clear so they could search by plane. The pair were found walking home north of Kugaaruk.

Taloyoak on the road to recovery

Taloyoak/Spence Bay

The Hamlet of Taloyoak has been working on a deficit recovery plan but faced a few bumps on the road to solvency, Nunavut News/North reported June 1.

As of March 31, 2014 the hamlet was $3.463 million in debt.

Ralph Ruediger, director of community development with Community and Government Services (CGS), explained ''no hamlet should carry a deficit.''

''If they do have a deficit in the end of a fiscal year they must put a deficit recovery budget in place to recover that deficit the following year.''

In Taloyoak's case, Ruediger said the hamlet had a staffing problem.

''I do know they had some difficulty with their finance director. They didn't have a proper person in place there to do the finances and they had a vacancy in the (senior administrative officer position), as well.''

Hamlets are responsible for developing their own deficit recovery plan. CGS approves them.

Senior administrative officer Greg Holitzki, who made the move to Taloyoak from Kugaaruk the previous summer, said the hamlet had an unrealistic plan in place when he arrived.

Hamlets have a maximum of five years to get out of a deficit position. By 2020, Taloyoak should be out of debt.

''In the fifth year, we should actually have a surplus,'' said Holitzki.

As of June, eight or nine hamlets were on recovery plans, which was less than in the past.

''I think they're getting a little more in control than in the past,'' said Ruediger.

Polar Knowledge Canada comes into force

Ikaluktutiak/Cambridge Bay

Cambridge Bay's Canadian High Arctic Research Station, set to launch in 2017, officially had an "Act" to its name and the Polar Knowledge Canada organization had been established, Nunavut News/North reported June 8.

The organization's role is to build on the former Canadian Polar Commission's mandate to serve as Canada's primary point of contact for Arctic science. It will be headquartered in CHARS.

Construction of the station is expected to generate up to 150 jobs, mostly people from across the North.

"Our government is proud to contribute to projects that support a strong, sustainable and prosperous Nunavut," stated Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq in a news release.

"Inuit are already seeing the benefits of the research station through the construction, with more than 65 per cent of the construction work tendered to date awarded to Inuit-owned or Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) registered firms."

Cambridge Bay rallies for Nepal earthquake victims

Ikaluktutiak/Cambridge Bay

Residents of Cambridge Bay dedicated themselves to helping out Nepal earthquake victims, Nunavut News/North reported June 8.

Multiple community events to fundraise for the victims had been going on since the April earthquake, including a formal dance in the high school gym.

Another group of residents held a carnival to raise money on June 6. The carnival featured a wide variety of events, including a bouncy castle, ring toss, face painting, mini golf, bowling and more. Tickets were 25 cents per person and the event raised $131, all of which is going to help people in Nepal. The earthquake hit Kathmandu and killed approximately 8,800 people, leaving thousands homeless.

Senator disputes audit findings


Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson was one of 30 sitting and retired senators whose expenses were deemed not for Senate business by auditor general Michael Ferguson, but Patterson believed his actions were appropriate, Nunavut News/North reported June 15.

The auditor general recommended other authorities -- such as the RCMP - investigate the expenses of nine senators, while recommending the Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration review the files of the other 21. Patterson was in the latter group.

Patterson was disputing the last of four audit items, which involved $13,762 in legal fees to clarify a constitutional matter. Senate rules require that each senator must own a specific type of property in the region he or she represents. Patterson owns property in Iqaluit. However as of 2015, no individual may own land in any municipality in Nunavut, which poses the question: Can anyone be a senator for Nunavut based on the Constitution.

As of May 7, Patterson had repaid travel expenses, but not a media monitoring expense.

Patterson told Nunavut News/North he had paid all but the $13,762 legal expense as of June 9.

Funding sought for recreation

Ikpiarjuk/Arctic Bay

Thomas Levi had been with the Arctic Bay recreation department since 1995, the year the community arena was built, when he decided to enter a contest that might fund a new basketball court, reported Nunavut News/North June 15.

But the facility hasn't seen a major renovation since '95, and this year, his goal is to renovate the Tununirusiq Arena and create an outdoor basketball court.

"When (the arena) closes in June, it stays closed until November because the rink is sand, not cemented," Levi said, explaining that cementing the rink will mean it can be used year-round for basketball and soccer.

"I'd rather have it used spring and summer."

To do so, he made a pitch to win Kraft Project Play's $250,000 grand prize to make recreation facility upgrades. Three runners-up get $25,000.

Levi had unsuccessfully applied in the past for funding for minor repairs, for a scoreboard, and a new ice-flooding machine.

Kraft Project Play was focusing on soccer, basketball and tennis this past year. The community's basketball court is a dirt area with a net attached to the water tank outside a hamlet building. A cement pad would help make that sport more playable in the community, said Levi.

Unfortunately, when the winners were announced in August, Levi did not win.

Fire causes school to shut down

Kangiqtugaapik/Clyde River

Two people faced charges after a commotion and house fire that led to the community school being put into "hold and secure" mode on June 12.

The incident happened as the school day started. Police were called to respond to the commotion.

Upon arrival, they found Clyde River firefighters at the scene of the fire, which police said was related to the incident.

Two adults escaped a house unharmed. The incident was believed to be alcohol-related, and two people faced public intoxication charges.

The fire marshal's office was assisting in the investigation.


Property owners owe back taxes


A public 'shame list' of people who owe the government more than $10 in property taxes was published for the first time on the government's website at the end of June.

The list of dignitaries on the list included Family Services Minister Jeannie Ugyuk, Environment Minister and Community and Government Services Minister Johnny Mike, MLA Alexander Sammurtok, former MLAs James Arreak, Lorne Kusugak, Samuel Nuqingaq, and Fred Schell, and even former Commissioner Edna Elias.

It's a group Martha Hickes, a Rankin Inlet councillor and receptionist at the NTI office, told Nunavut News/North she was eager to leave.

"Oh! How do I take it off? Where do I owe taxes, in Rankin or where? It's news to me," Hickes said, when reached by phone.

Higher up at her workplace, NTI vice-president James Eetoolook owed $1,288.

There, too, on the list were Pond Inlet Mayor Charlie Inuarak ($519) and former Pangnirtung mayor Sakiasie Sowdlooapik ($7,295), former MP Peter Ittinuar ($649), and former Iglulik deputy mayor and famed film director Zacharias Kunuk ($2,265). Even Finance Minister Keith Peterson's brother was being outed, as Bruce Peterson and his various business interests owed thousands of dollars.

Workers, employer battle it out during strike


Power workers hit the picket line just after midnight July 16 after final negotiations between Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC), the Government of Nunavut and the Nunavut Employees' Union hit the breaking point.

"I'm not happy, to be honest, because we were pushed to get out," said Anamaria Barabas, who worked in the engineering department and was striking outside the corporation's office in Iqaluit, July 16.

"(QEC and the Nunavut Government) are not even trying to do anything. The only thing we are asking is to have a wage increase to keep up with the cost of living in the North."

Nunavut Employees' Union president Bill Fennell said the employer came to talks during the weekend of July 10 with no intention to bargain.

The company countered and stated in a release that the union walked away from talks. QEC insisted its offer of six per cent over four years is "more than reasonable."

Polar bear prints cause for concern


Polar bear sightings are rare in Iqaluit, so two in one week caused a social media frenzy as residents scrambled to either stay safe or get a glimpse of the bears.

The first bear was spotted near the Telesat building, south of the landfill, on July 13. Wildlife officers tracked the bear into the evening hours.

The following morning, it was seen on the ice heading across Koojesse Inlet to the city. That was too close for comfort for the local Hunters' and Trappers' Organization and Department of Environment wildlife staff, who killed the animal as it headed along the beach toward Apex at about 6 a.m. on July 14.

South Baffin wildlife division regional manager Jason Aliqatuqtuq said the bear was a young male, very healthy and fat. In his four years in the city, it was his third polar bear occurrence but the closest to being a threat to the public.

Two days later, another bear was even bolder, blazing a visible trail from the Plateau residential neighbourhood, where it left paw prints in a playground, down behind city hall and across to the RCMP building before apparently heading to the inlet.

Hungry mouths fed in Resolute


It didn't matter your age, circumstances or employment status in Resolute Bay if you wanted food, you could get it.

That was the goal with Sarah Salluviniq's food bank, which started earlier in the year and garnered a lot of community support and positive feedback.

"I noticed a lot of food banks opening up in the North and Resolute wasn't one of them, so I thought I'd give it a try," said Salluviniq. "It seems to be doing good."

Once a week she gave out food and the number of recipients kept increasing.


'Weird ice' delays sealift


It was a year of "weird ice," one sealift operator said. But the season started to get back on schedule after major delays in southern Nunavut.

"We have this year a very weird ice situation in the Arctic," said Waguih Rayes, general manager at Desgagnes Transarctik Inc., which operates Nunavut Sealift and Supply Inc. (NSSI).

He noted the first sealift is usually delivered to Iqaluit no later than July 12 or 13. Instead, the ice in Iqaluit started clearing Aug. 5, giving sealift companies a chance to bring cargo ashore just in time to meet drop-dead deadlines. That put the first eastern sealift more than three weeks behind.

"Usually when we start our operations, we start with the southern part of the Canadian Arctic," Rayes said. "This year, the ice in the western side of the Hudson Strait and the north of Hudson Bay was particularly bad. This situation persevered long enough to cause serious delays for the ships.

"The Kivalliq is not affected as much," he said, other than Coral Harbour. For that hamlet, NSSI had to leave the hamlet's cargo in Rankin Inlet until the next sealift.

Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping (NEAS) is facing similar problems, especially in Iqaluit.

"The ice is exceptionally bad this year," said Mark Bray, vice-president of sales and marketing. "Normally, we would have a northwest wind blow that ice out of the bay."

Baffin Island caribou ban lifted

Baffin Island

After a ban on all caribou hunting earlier in the year, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board gave the green light to a limited harvest.

Effective immediately after the August announcement, 250 male caribou were allowed to be harvested in the Baffin Island sub-population.

The Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board had the responsibility for determining allocation of the caribou tags among community hunter and trapper organizations.

"The densities of caribou in North Baffin are extremely low, and any harvest there may create conservation concerns," stated Environment Minister Johnny Mike in a news release.

Harper visits Nunavut


Then-prime minister Stephen Harper stopped into Iqaluit on Aug. 14 on the campaign trail for the Oct. 19 federal election, championing the North and announcing plans to further support the Junior Canadian Rangers.

"I always enjoy visiting our true North, strong and free, and there is no truer North than right here in Nunavut," Harper told a crowd of supporters in a Tower Arctic warehouse.

Dozens of staff joined him on the trip from Hay River in the NWT to Iqaluit that day. He came off his chartered plane to a staged selection of supporters, pausing for a few photos before getting in a vehicle on the tarmac and heading to the city.

On his way out of the airport, Liberal nominee Hunter Tootoo and about a dozen of his supporters held up pro-Liberal signs.

On the road to the airport and to his speech at Tower Arctic warehouse, a handful of people held up New Democratic Party signs, including one bearing the name of the party's late former leader, Jack Layton.

Residents steamed over water delivery cuts


The City of Iqaluit cut Wednesday water deliveries to trucked-water homes in August in an effort to reduce its ballooning debt load but the abrupt move had many people upset and demanding answers.

Resident Anne Crawford led a group of about a dozen people filling city council chambers and spilling into the hall.

"The issue here is, do we have reliable access to water?" asked Crawford, who represented one of the 491 Iqaluit homes with trucked-water services.

She came to council asking that the city have a public consultation meetings with residents, so that people could ask questions and get direct answers.

"Trucked water people are not the people you're looking for if you're trying to reduce overall water consumption," said Crawford, anticipating the issue was about costs.

Coun. Terry Dobbin agreed with the idea of a public consultation.

"I consider water delivery an essential service," he said.


Two large fires strike

Kinngait/Cape Dorset and Iqaluit

Peter Pitseolak High School in Cape Dorset was completely destroyed by fire, hours after another fire caused major damage to the new airport in Iqaluit currently under construction.

"We've still got people on the ground there right now," said fire marshal Robert Prima of the high school fire just after noon on Sept. 6.

All areas of the structure were destroyed and one pumper was insufficient to the task, stated John Corkett, a Nunavut Housing Corporation employee in Cape Dorset.

"As you can see, there is nothing left," Corkett stated in an e-mail.

Police charged three youths with arson-related charges following the fire. The youths, identified as between the ages of 13 and 16, were charged with arson with damage to property and arson with disregard for human life.

"A criminal investigation was initiated and it was determined the fire was deliberately set," stated an RCMP news release.

The community was working hard to cope with the reality of such a great loss, the immediate challenges and challenges to come.

"It has a large impact," said senior administrative officer Ed Devereaux.

"The community is dealing with it. There is grieving going on for some people in regard to the school because they worked so hard to get things in there."

Meanwhile, the roof of Iqaluit's new airport terminal, part of a $300-million construction project, caught fire the night of Sept. 5. The airport fire was reported at 7:22 p.m. and took 45 minutes for fire crews to get under control. Dense black smoke blew into the Iqaluit downtown core for the duration.

There were no injuries in the fire.

No opposition to brewery


Not one person spoke in opposition to a proposed Iqaluit-based brewery when the Nunavut Liquor Licensing Board held a mandatory public consultation on the matter Sept. 9.

It was a shock for board chairperson David Wilman.

"This is the easiest public hearing I've ever had to be involved in and there have been quite a good number of them," Wilman said after only three members of the public stood up to speak on the matter, all in support.

"So no one else wishes to say anything?"

Nunavut Brewing Company earned board approval the day following the meeting thanks to a slam-dunk effort by a well-prepared group of five Iqaluit investors, which pitched the idea to city council June 23.

"We are convinced that if we do our job in offering a unique and quality craft beer that the consumers in the community and territory may enjoy the product and choose it over imports from national brands," said company representative Sheldon Nimchuk.

Fishery alliance vessel denied fuel again

Ikpiarjuk/Arctic Bay

For a second year, the Arctic Fishery Alliance (AFA) and the Government of Nunavut faced off about refuelling the alliance's research vessel, the Kiviuq I, in the High Arctic.

After construction blocked the boat from refuelling at Nanisivik in early September, the alliance tried to refuel from the community's breakwater but the Petroleum Products Division (PPD) said no.

"It is extremely disappointing the GN's PPD for the second consecutive year has failed us by disallowing a supply of fuel for our vessel when it is doing valuable research in the far North," chairman and CEO Lootie Toomasie stated in a news release.

"The manager in Rankin Inlet seems to not understand what AFA is, that it's Inuit-owned by four communities' HTOs and the four trusts in the communities," he said when reached by phone in Iqaluit on Sept. 17. "He was not willing to help us out at all."

The fishery alliance was told the Petroleum Products Division did not have fuel "for you or anyone else who thinks they can siphon off fuel which is destined for the well-being of Nunavummiut," according the alliance's release.

Jury calls suicide rate public health emergency


A six-person jury at the chief coroner's inquest into Nunavut's high rate of suicide stunned those in attendance Sept. 25 when it led the delivery of its recommendations by forcefully calling on the Government of Nunavut to declare the issue a public health emergency.

The jury, made up of Inuit and non-Inuit, presented its recommendations in Inuktitut and English to an emotionally tense and absolutely silent crowded courtroom.

It was the unprecedented high number of deaths in 2013 - 45 - that spurred chief coroner Padma Suramala to call for the establishment of the discretionary inquest.

Overwhelmed by the incomprehensible numbers of preventable deaths she attended, the grief and trauma she witnessed in families and communities, the general inaction of government and a failure to implement the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy, Suramala acted by calling for an inquest in January 2014.

Over nine days, Sept. 14 to 25, the realities of the tragedy that has plagued the territory were exposed.

Newly elected ITK president faces questions on language


Natan Obed, the former director of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.'s department of social and cultural development, started out in his new position as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami under stormy conditions.

His lack of fluency in Inuktitut came under fire by his now former employer, NTI president Cathy Towtongie.

This in turn caused outrage with young non-fluent Inuit on social media.

"I think what happened last week in Cambridge Bay and then the media and social media, and also with the number of people that have come up to me in the last week and pumped me about language and about culture and identity, has been profound," said Obed.

"It certainly feels as though we're in a moment that could produce some very positive change."

Heated words over water service


Impassioned residents pleaded with city council and administration to reverse a reduction in trucked-water services in Iqaluit.

"You guys are charged with the delivery of water, which is one of the most basic responsibilities you have," said John Graham, a former mayor of Iqaluit, during a public forum on the issue Sept. 25.

"I'm begging with you, I'm pleading with you to reverse this decision and put it back the way that it was five weeks ago."

The change has come to be known as "waterless Wednesdays," a new money-saving policy enacted by city administration on short notice to stop trucked water deliveries on Wednesdays.

"I was given a mandate when I moved to Iqaluit to try and transform the city and how we do business," said chief administrative officer Muhamud Hassan, who spent two hours fielding questions from more than a dozen residents in a full Parish Hall.


School's sealift order vandalized

Taloyoak/Spence Bay

Youths in Taloyoak ripped through and destroyed an estimated $6,272 worth of school supplies freshly arrived on the sealift at Netsilik Ilihakvik in the early morning hours of Oct. 4.

Principal Gina Pizzo received a call Sunday morning, Oct. 4, alerting her that some youth had gotten into pallets filled with school supplies.

"It is always very disappointing to see something like this happen," stated Pizzo by e-mail. "And of course the biggest irony is that the people who did this are the ones for whom these supplies were meant to be used - notebooks, books, art supplies, glue, puppets, listening centres, book shelves, etc."

Several people contacted Pizzo throughout the day and she was able to piece together that the vandalism occurred between 2 and 4 a.m. on Oct. 4. The youth were chased off by witnesses.

Sewage spill costs thousands


Problems at the wastewater treatment plant in Pangnirtung caused a sewage spill that impacted clam harvesters and came with a hefty repair bill.

"We have finally finished cleaning the inside of the wastewater treatment plant, so it's safe for people to go in and out of it," said senior administrative officer Shawn Trepanier on Oct. 8.

On the inside of the plant is an aerator tank and a membrane tank, which were producing too much foam and lead to an overflow. That spurred the Government of Nunavut to issue a clam advisory warning residents not to harvest around Kingardjuak Point, Aulatsivik Point or anywhere within 10 km of Pangnirtung.

"We received the anti-foaming agent on Monday, so the sewage plant is no longer overflowing and we have slowly started bringing our raw sewage into the plant and processing it, and hopefully by (Oct. 9) it will be fully functional," said Trepanier.

Nunavut catches Liberal red wave


Hunter Tootoo rode the red wave to victory on election night Oct. 19, trouncing incumbent and three-time winner Leona Aglukkaq.

"I'm confident that the Liberal party will honour your choice," Tootoo told jubilant supporters once he was declared the new member of Parliament for Nunavut. "We have a strong leader, a great team committed to a new kind of politics. One that governs for all Canadians and dismisses hyper-partisanship and the politics of divide and conquer."

Elections Canada's final numbers saw Tootoo take 47.2 per cent of the territorial vote, with NDP's Jack Anawak hanging on to a narrow second-place margin with 26.5 per cent over Aglukkaq's 24.8 per cent. The Greens' Spencer Rocchi received 1.5 per cent of the vote.

School library wins big


The eyes of the nation may have been on the federal election at the time but for weeks it was another set of numbers many people across Canada watched avidly as they climbed.

Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik joined the Indigo book store chain's Adopt a School contest, thanks to teacher Nicole Wutke.

The contest saw schools in each province - the territories are included in the Manitoba category - vying for a top prize of a $10,000 gift card. Second prize receives $7,500.

Jimmy Hikok came in second.

"It is exciting. I'm exhausted," Wutke said about the results.

Throughout the three-week campaign people could "adopt" Jimmy Hikok and throughout the campaign the Kugluktuk school was neck and neck with Warren Elementary School located in Warren, Man., with one school, then the other, trading first place.

In the final hour, Warren outstripped Jimmy Hikok with 12,464 adopts to 12,151.

Government wants to seize profits of crime


The Government of Nunavut (GN) was considering legislation that would allow it to seize property or assets that are suspected to be instruments or proceeds of illegal activity.

"The main focus of the legislation is on the dealers that deal in alcohol or drugs throughout Nunavut, and going after their profits," said Justice Minister Paul Okalik. "Eight other jurisdictions in the country have been using forfeiture as a tool to stop these types of activities. They've been proven to be somewhat effective. We've been reviewing their legislation and their experiences and learned from their issues and we're moving forward with our own to try and tackle these activities in our territory."

This legislation is commonly called civil forfeiture and has become controversial in the rest of Canada, with innocent people who have had property seized suing governments in some cases.

Fishery alliance crew member dies

Ikpiarjuk/Arctic Bay

Arctic Bay resident Tommy Tatatuapik, 41, was found drowned Oct. 10, during a stop in Greenland while working on the fishing vessel Suvak for the Arctic Fishery Alliance.

"It is with great sadness that we report the death of one of our valued crew members," stated fishery alliance CEO Lootie Toomasie in a message to his staff.

"We are deeply shocked and saddened by this news. Our hearts and our condolences go out to Tommy's family during this difficult and heart-wrenching time."

Toomasie was in Iqaluit preparing to fly to Arctic Bay to meet with Tatatuapik's family and deliver them the body.

His body was found about 300 metres (1,000 feet) away on the shoreline. Local authorities told Toomasie that Tatatuapik had drowned.

No foul play was suspected, according to the chief coroner's office. How Tatatuapik ended up in the water is not clear.

"He had been working for us for three years," said Toomasie. "He's very friendly."

Cabinet committee struck on suicide rate


Premier Peter Taptuna declared suicide a crisis in Nunavut and announced the formation of a special cabinet committee Oct. 22 in response to recommendations from a coroner's inquest into the high rate of suicide.

The declaration on the second day of the legislative assembly's fall sitting came after the jury at a two-week inquest in September heard the Government of Nunavut had failed to do its part in implementing a lapsed suicide prevention strategy.

Saying the government heard the jury's recommendations loud and clear, Taptuna outlined action being taken immediately.

"We have struck a special cabinet committee that is mandated to follow and implement recommendations from the coroner's inquest," said Taptuna.

Redfern returns as mayor


Madeleine Redfern returned to the mayoral seat in Nunavut's capital in the Oct. 19 election.

"I'd like to thank my family, friends and supporters and the community for giving me the opportunity to hold office again," she told Nunavut News/North shortly after hearing word of her win.

"There are going to be lots of challenges in this term."

This will be the second time Redfern has held office as mayor of the city. She won a byelection in 2010 but decided not to run for re-election in 2012. John Graham won that race, and quit last year. Deputy mayor Mary Wilman took over and was later installed as mayor for the remainder of the term.

Redfern named the city's large deficit, infrastructure and human resources issues as key challenges for Iqaluit to tackle in her new term.

Meanwhile, on city council, with four fresh faces, the newly elected members appeared optimistic about the future.

Incumbent Coun. Romeyn Stevenson led vote getters in Oct. 19's election, while Coun. Joanasie Akumalik, Coun. Terry Dobbin and Coun. Simon Nattaq were back for another term.

New to council were Megan Pizzo-Lyall, Jason Rochon, Kuthula Matshazi and Gideonie Joamie.

"I was stunned by the amount of support the voters showed me," said Pizzo-Lyall, 27, who garnered the second-most votes in the election last week. "It's overwhelming."

No beer and wine store


Finance Minister Keith Peterson shot down hopes that a beer and wine store would open in Iqaluit in 2015.

"A beer and wine store pilot project is a bit of a sensitive issue for the city of Iqaluit and I appreciate that," said Peterson in the legislative assembly Oct. 28, responding to a question about the store's status from Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes.

"I think 40 per cent of the eligible voters came out and voted. Seventy-five per cent of them voted in favour of a beer and wine store and I believe they spoke for everybody in the community. Our government recognizes and respects the decision of the voters."

Peterson said before the government will proceed, it wants to work with fellow departments to give them time to put programs and policies in place under the Sivumut Abluqta mandate.


Cabinet minister assembles team


Newly elected Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo swore his oath of office as the minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard on Nov. 4 in a ceremony.

Tootoo wore a red sealskin tie and a sealskin wrist band. He also replaced the "I" in his oath with the Inuktitut "uvanga."

"Every chance I get, at a public event, I wear sealskin," said Tootoo. "And I have ever since I was an MLA and when I was Speaker, any conference or meeting I attended, even overseas."

By Nov. 5, Tootoo was already meeting with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada deputy minister, long-time public servant Matthew King, working on a staff and other logistics.

"I'm assembling my team," he said.

Mine boss backs university pledge


Talk of a university in the territory has gone on for years but the landscape changed when, in 2014, Jim Nasso, the chairperson of Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. board of directors, pledged $5 million for a building fund.

He was even more passionate about the need for a university in November and backed a move by the territorial government to have a feasibility study completed.

"We're the only circumpolar nation amongst eight that doesn't have a university. And we're a G7 country. It's scandalous. There isn't any reason for it," he said by telephone from Toronto.

The company carries out substantial job training with its Inuit employees, including in literacy, and he acknowledges Nunavut Arctic College and Piqqusilirivvik are fine learning streams but, he said, they're not a university.

"Nunavut needs professional people and they should be Inuit," Nasso said.

Politicians pursue expansion of Baffin jail


Millions of dollars in repairs and upgrades to the Baffin Correctional Centre are on the way, according to documents presented in the legislative assembly.

The total cost of the project has been indicated to be approximately $68 million and may be eligible for funding under the federal New Building Canada Plan, which would require going through an approval process.

Renovations to the territorial jail would allow the department to address the lack of maximum-security and programming space at the facility. A number of inmates will be transferred out of the facility as renovations take place.

Earlier in 2015, the department opened the new Makigiarvik facility to begin receiving low- and medium-security offenders and allow the department to work on the mould remediation project at Baffin Correctional Centre.

Healthy babies impress nurses


New mothers in Sanikiluaq impressed nurses so much they threw a special event in November for them and their babies.

"I felt really inspired by this awesome group of women who have all had babies born in 2015," said nurse Manya Quinn.

By the end of the year, the community will have welcomed 25 new little faces.

"This group of moms in particular have just been incredible," said Quinn.

Mothers were diligent about showing up to their prenatal appointments, she added.

More than half were breastfeeding and their newborns had been getting all their vaccinations.

"We've had a lower number of medevaced babies this year," said Quinn. "I felt it was really important to let this group of women know how special they are. I see a lot of strong leaders in this group of moms."

Nurses held a red carpet event for the babies and fundraised for the mothers with sales of a calendar.

Debt a challenge for Iqaluit


Only a few weeks in and the new Iqaluit council was confronted with the city's debt as councillors examined the third quarter 2015 financial report.

The city's $9.4 million in debt was a top issue in the past election.

Uncollected property taxes left millions on the table in past years for the city, but the chief administrative officer told council he's working to crack down on it now.

"Everybody is in place to try and act," said CAO Muhamud Hassan, explaining that the city is working with the Government of Nunavut and other partners on the issue.

Overhaul started on Mental Health Act


Nunavut's Mental Health Act, inherited from the Northwest Territories in 1999, was receiving an overhaul by the Department of Health in 2015 and, according to executive director of planning Lynn Ryan MacKenzie, the goal was to make it relevant to Inuit.

"To reflect Inuit values throughout," said Ryan MacKenzie. "As opposed to a statement at the front of the act."

To that end, the department has travelled to communities to consult and engage people.

The team hosted its last public meeting in Iqaluit Nov. 26. Consultations were held in 11 communities throughout November.

Social assistance forum hears food security plea


Nunavummiut had no shortage of suggestions on how to improve the territory's social assistance program at a community forum in the capital.

The Department of Family Services has

been touring the territory seeking input for reforms.

In a stop in Iqaluit Nov. 24, food security and housing topped the most-mentioned list.

"It's very, very clear to me, it's crystal clear, that people who come from all of these communities on Baffin Island are so hungry," said Caroline Anawak, referencing her experience as manager of the Pairijait Tigumivik Society.

"It is not uncommon, in fact it is normal, to see people absolutely gorging on food, taking food, hoarding food, trying to take food back home. People are so very, very food insecure that they demonstrate all of these behaviours."

She advocated shifting the emphasis to creating a solid foundation for growth - full stomachs.


Government failed Baby Makibi

Kinngait/Cape Dorset

A Journey Through Heartache was the title of long-awaited review into the 2012 death of an infant in Cape Dorset.

Author and retired lawyer Katherine Peterson said she titled the document to acknowledge the pain of mom Neevee Akesuk and dad Luutaaq Qaumaqiaq, who lost their child under circumstances that remain largely unknown, despite three pathology reports.

The report spoke of a government bureaucracy that failed time and time again.

"Two policies in the Community Health Administration Manual mandate an in-person assessment of infants under the age of one year," states Peterson in the review.

"These policies were not followed ... at the time the mother of Baby Makibi contacted the health centre on April, 4, 2012. This report is not mandated to conclude, nor does the author have the expertise to conclude whether this would or would not have resulted in the survival of Baby Makibi."

Traditional wisdom meets high-tech


Traditional knowledge and high-tech gadgets came together in Sanikiluaq to develop a community-made resource that tracks area geography and sea ice trends.

The Arctic Eider Society launched an interactive website titled IK-MAP, which maps Sanikiluaq and four regions in northern Quebec with information found by hunters and community members.

Joel Heath, executive director of the society, said the project is focused on trying to get a better understanding of Hudson Bay and trends in its water with respect to the impact from hydroelectric projects.

"To try and have the communities working together in a meaningful way, we developed this interactive online mapping platform," said Heath from Vancouver. "The idea is that the results from our programs go on there in real time, so a hunter goes out from one of the communities and does a salinity sample or takes an icicle and people from the other communities can see what's been going on."

Quebec wants to extend Plan Nord into Nunavut


Nunavut's senator sounded the alarm about the province of Quebec's desire to extend its northern border for economic development.

Extending Quebec's offshore border into Nunavut would directly impact the community of Sanikiluaq and several other jurisdictions, Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson said in senatorial chambers Dec. 10.

"I understand that the Government of Quebec believes that having jurisdiction in the offshore will simplify the construction of Plan Nord (Northern Plan) infrastructure on the coast," said Patterson.

"I welcome infrastructure investment anywhere in the Arctic. Infrastructure is notably lacking. However, I want to stress that there are other parties whose interests would be affected by this initiative. And there are larger interests at stake."

Patterson quoted Sanikiluaq MLA Allan Rumbolt's member's statement made in the Nunavut legislative assembly Oct. 21 and repeated Rumbolt's claim that the people of Sanikiluaq must be consulted.

Hundreds of narwhal harvested after getting trapped in sea ice

Mittimatalik/Pond Inlet

Hundreds of trapped narwhal near Pond Inlet provided an early Christmas bounty of country food for the community.

"While the full number entrapped is still unknown, 176 narwhal have been landed since the humane harvest started on Dec. 5," stated Rosaleen O'Mahony, communications advisor with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Rumours of the trapped narwhal spread in November as government jurisdictions teamed up to look into the issue.

It was determined the narwhal were trapped naturally by ice and had no chance for survival, giving the green light for a humane harvest.

Fisheries and Oceans scientists also took samples from the narwhal to investigate their diet, reproductive history and stock structure.


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