A Sanikiluaq daycare fears it may close in months after losing its Saturday night bingo, leaving it at odds with the hamlet government which revoked its licence this fall.

Photo courtesy of Najuqsivik Daycare
The Najuqsivik Daycare risks closure if the hamlet does not restore its Saturday bingo licence, which supplements the cost of basic building operations, according to board members.

In the last two years, the hamlet began operating multiple weekly bingos, eventually issuing itself a licence for a Saturday night operation.

Najuqsivik Daycare argues the hamlet is penalizing them for pointing out the conflicting licences and falsely claiming that the daycare did not submit its financial statements, wrote treasurer Tim Hoyt in a letter to the municipality.

In a Sept. 1 Facebook announcement, the hamlet said it would hold four bingos a week until Jan. 31.

Hoyt pointed out that the bingo conflicted with the daycare’s Saturday licence. The hamlet notified the daycare in an Aug. 30 letter that it was cancelling its licences and fining $5000 for operating three Chase the Ace lotteries and a large ticket bingo with a $10,000 prize without listing it on their licence application.

Losing the daycare could put the families of 12 infants and 16 toddlers in bind to find trustworthy, affordable and reliable childcare, said board member Liza Appaqaq in an interview.

“Students put their children through daycare so that they can complete high school,” said Appaqaq.

“I’m very angry because they could have let us know if we were doing something wrong. It seems like we didn’t do anything wrong. We just want our one day lottery licence back,” she said.

The hamlet asked the daycare to apply for a licence on Monday, when board members cannot volunteer, or on Wednesday when the community has church and would be averse to a lottery, state letters to the hamlet.

The daycare earns approximately $80,000 per year through its Saturday bingo. Two daycares, their maintenance, light and heat are subsidized by the bingo proceeds, said Appaqaq.

“We have hope. We have to have hope. I wouldn’t be able to work if we didn’t have a daycare,” she said, adding that she has two small babies and that her own mother works.

“I’m really worried about the students not being able to go to school. My sister just graduated from high school last year. She would not have been able to attend school if not for daycare,” she said.

On Sept. 5 the Najuqsivik’s board chair Annesie Appaqaq wrote a letter to the municipality to stating that the senior administrative officer (SAO) made factual errors and assigned fines without an opportunity to correct the alleged violations nor did it seek additional information.

“(The bylaw) applies to organizations operating a ‘licensed premise.’ As you are well aware, we operate a daycare, not a bar,” wrote Annesie Appaqaq.

The Nunavut Lottery Act does not require licences for 50/50 draws and cannot be subject to a fine, unless the daycare is convicted of an offense, she wrote.

“We certainly hope that this was an honest mistake made out of ignorance and not an attempt to bully or punish the Daycare because of your dislike of individual board members,” she wrote.

A 2018 statement of account shows that the daycare brought in a net revenue of $38,362 and $82,215 for bingo and Nevada pull tickets respectively.

Sanikiluaq is the only municipality in Nunavut with the authority for the SAO, instead of Community and Government Services (CGS), to issue licences.

In a formal complaint to CGS, Hoyt said the hamlet does not have any definition of 50/50 in its bylaws.

The municipality is revisiting its 20-year-old bylaw, which “does not address 50/50s directly,” said SAO Michael Rowan in an email.

The municipality is working with legal counsel to implement the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission’s definition of 50/50.

“There is a division of opinion about whether or not a 50/50 qualifies as a raffle or not … we are interpreting it as a raffle with a cash prize,” wrote Rowan.

Additional lottery events are taking place to deal with “remaining cost-recovery of the Elders Gathering,” he said.

“To a degree this is anticipated to monopolize the available days for a few months,” he wrote, adding that the daycare never submitted financial statements for Chase The Ace.

The daycare feared reprisal, the cancellation of its lottery licence or refusal to approve future lottery licences, wrote Hoyt in a November 2017 complaint to CGS.

Hoyt alleges the hamlet conducts bingos with “little oversight and accountability,” and pays its volunteers.

“When we made this specific complaint to the SAO … (they) threatened to withhold school breakfast funds if the Daycare didn’t ‘mind their own business,’” he wrote.

A Sept. 6 complaint to the CGS asks for an investigation into “abuse of power” by the Sanikiluaq SAO and says its fear the daycare would be retaliated against was “well-founded.”

It asks for the cancellation of the municipality’s delegated authority because it “lacks the capacity to properly manage lottery licences and the SAO is abusing his delegated power under the Act,” wrote Hoyt.

On Sept. 7, the municipality responded to a letter from the daycare, stating that its allegations were “mischaracterizations.”

The Mayor and Council agreed to waive the fines and asks that the daycare submit their application for a Monday lottery, the letter states.

Avery Zingel

Avery Zingel is a reporter and photographer in Yellowknife, regularly covering environment, health and territorial politics. Avery is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism and Political...

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