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Kivalliq Mayors Forum in Naujaat

The 2018 Kivalliq Mayors Forum is being hailed as a success due to the levels of communication, participation and co-operation evident throughout the gathering in Naujaat from Sept. 11 to 13.
This year's affair not only had Premier Joe Savikataaq present; it had more Government of Nunavut (GN) ministers attend than any previous forum, said Arviat Mayor Bob Leonard.
The first day saw presentations by Premier Savikataaq and GN ministers David Akeeagok, Jeannie Ehaloak, David Joanasie and Lorne Kusugak, as well as Kivalliq Inuit Association president David Ningeongan, CEO of Arctic Co-operatives Rod Wilson and manager of community and investor relations for North Arrow Minerals Nick Thomas.
Day two saw Nunavut MLAs Patterk Netser and Cathy Towtongie step up, as well as Calm Air president Gary Bell, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo, GN minister George Hickes, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk, Dr. Maria Bronson (Building Strength in Naujaat) and Growing North co-founder Ben Canning.
Leonard said there was focused discussion on training citizens to work in the mining industry.
He said the mayors were unified on the importance of having as much training as possible take place in the Kivalliq and as quickly as possible.
"Everybody was together on that point, for sure," said Leonard.
"It was a really nice, sort of intimate, setting which produced a good meeting with everyone talking and participating."
Leonard said with the GN being about 18 months into its mandate now, there were no major surprises or announcements.
To him, the strongest aspect of the meetings was the level of participation from each hamlet representative, he said.
"These meetings had the best representation from cabinet we've ever seen," he said. "That led to us reaffirming our commitment to each other to work together as a group moving forward.
"There was full participation from every community, which doesn't always happen, so, for me, the overriding feeling leaving the conference was one of co-operation.
Leonard said Arviat is looking for help with mental-health issues, as is pretty much every community in the Kivalliq.
Demand far exceeds the capability of what help is available across the region, he said.
"There was ongoing discussion on a regional elders' facility of some kind, probably located in Rankin and the need for more workers in the mental-health field.
"Mental-health workers in Arviat kind of come and go. We're supposed to have three but, generally, we have one or two and, for the size of our community, three is probably low to begin with."
Host community SAO Rob Hedley said the forum was productive because leaders who had been wanting to talk for a long time were all in the room.
"As far as participation and communication between the parties involved, it was one of the most productive mayors' meetings we've had in quite awhile," he said.
There's been frustration in the past as to who was invited to the annual forum and who actually came, he said.
"One thing I worry about is that sometimes you get all the people in the room who say they have a lot to talk about and then they sit on their hands," said Hedley.
"To its credit, the GN came to us and said it was trying to address various issues and wanted frank and real discussions.
"I can't speak to all the past mayors' meetings – although I've been involved with all of them at various levels – but there has always been frustration over the fact we weren't talking to the people who we wanted to be talking to.
"We all have common cause in health and infrastructure and many of the presentations were quite good this time, especially with Health Minister George Hickes and Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo."
Hedley said the meetings did clear some of the air around the Kivalliq's infrastructure needs.
He said it's no secret what communities are struggling with, in that there just aren't enough dollars or resources to go around.