Skip to content

COLUMN: Community input a valuable commodity

It's been quite refreshing to see Coun. Kelly Clark-Lindell soliciting community input as Rankin Inlet's hamlet council moves cautiously and, hopefully, realistically forward on a new community centre.

The needs of our community are many, and while an elder's facility should be at or near the top of everyone's wish list, a community centre would fight social isolation.

Ditto a number of the other suggestions that have made their way back to Clark-Lindell.

However, whether 80 per cent or 10 per cent of the ideas sent to the councillor prove themselves to be feasible the fact she's been actively seeking input from community members is a refreshing change of pace.

Yes, council sessions are open to the public. That's a crutch so many councillors of the past decade have leaned upon that there should be a silver variation hanging in council chambers to serve as a reminder to the average person.

Were council to meet during the evening hours, the open-to-the-public notion would carry a bit more weight, but, not so with afternoon meetings that preclude the attendance of the vast majority of the working public.

And don't get me started on the number of times hamlet council has historically gone in-camera to debate issues that fall outside of the Municipal Act's guidelines for doing so – the habit of which made even me a stranger to council chambers.

There is a tangible malaise concerning being open and accountable to the public affecting all levels of government these days, and municipal governments are far from immune to that mindset.

In fact – given the reluctance or outright refusal of the Government of Nunavut and the various Inuit associations to let their employees and members sit on a hamlet council – an argument can be made that they feel the negative effect of that malaise both directly and indirectly, making them even more vulnerable than most.

And, to be brutally honest, there is only so much any council can achieve in a community without much of a tax base, and one's sense of public accountability is certainly not enhanced when one is almost always playing with house money.

Still, elected office by its very nature has to be held to a higher standard if it is to have any chance of balance or success.

All too often, here in the North, actions are taken or not taken depending on their difficulty and the amount of possible backlash that surrounds them.

Case in point: it is far easier (and much safer to one's current employment or political future) to enforce maximum capacity regulations in the arena side of the community's current building for hockey games, than it is to enforce them on the community centre side during Pakallak Tyme.

However it goes about happening, and no matter who signs the cheques to construct it at the end of the day, a new community centre is a project Rankin Inlet has to get right the first time.

That is why public consultation and community input is so vital to the process. We can't afford to mess this one up.

No matter what the final wish list of programs and infrastructure is comprised of, one would have to view maximizing space as one of the main keys to its success.

Having the ulu-making space of the afternoon become the fur-working and sewing space of the evening is paramount to the success of any multi-functional building.

Hopefully, Clark-Lindell is compiling a significantly-sized list of ideas on viable programming and utilizing space for maximum impact that can be applied to numerous programs and developments moving forward.

And, to wax philosophical: the thoughts and needs of the community are best materialized by the co-operation of the many, rather than the direction of the few, and an engaged community greatly increases its chances of becoming a successful community.