Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone remains critical of Canadian North’s hiring practices for cargo staff, which he says target southern workers instead of Nunavummiut.
He also says that approach has hampered the airline during the latest COVID-19 lockdown in Iqaluit because southern rotational workers have been forced to isolate for 14 days, which contributed to the backlog of cargo.
Arreak Lightstone pointed out in the legislative assembly on May 27 that Canadian North is advertising for nine full-time cargo assistants and that the jobs are described as rotational positions that come into the community on a three-week on, three-week off basis. The airline also offers transient housing, another indicator that it’s pursuing workers from the south, said the Iqaluit MLA, who raised similar concerns in November.
“I noted that many of these jobs can and should be filled by local residents,” he said Thursday.
David Akeeagok, minister of Economic Development and Transportation, reinforced Arreak Lightstone’s point.
“Any business or any activities that are taking place in Nunavut, we highly encourage them that they do hire local and that they do hire Inuit as much as they can,” the minister said. “That’s the stance that this government has taken and it includes our government taking that initiative too.”
Arreak Lightstone noted that the Government of Nunavut has provided millions of dollars in direct funding to keep Canadian North flying during the pandemic, which gives the territorial government “some leverage” in setting terms and conditions. He asked what requirements are in place for Inuit employment at the airline.
Akeeagok said the government’s main objective is to have the airlines continue serving the communities during the pandemic, including medical and duty travel for Inuit and other Nunavummiut, when COVID conditions permit it.
The minister also noted that discussions are ongoing between Transport Canada and the airlines to help local applicants obtain identity cards to access restricted areas of airports, which is a requirement for hiring with some positions.
“There has to be a fine balance between safety of the airport and the airside and the workers in terms of how to continue to address that,” said Akeeagok. “We need to balance it on all fronts and these barriers do get highlighted, and try to get some resolutions around that.”