News of mass grave in B.C. strikes chord in Nunavut

A community vigil was held in Iqaluit on June 4 after the remains of 215 children were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residental School in B.C. in late May. Nunavummiut paid their respects across the territory, with children’s shoes being left at various churches in a number of communities.

The RCMP, Government of Nunavut and other government buildings lowered their flags to half-mast.

Then-premier Joe Savikataaq said “the legacy of Canada’s residential schools is one of deep inter-generational trauma, rooted in attempted cultural genocide and assimilation.

“This isn’t simply a dark chapter in Canadian history. It continues to be a very painful reality for all First Nations, Inuit and Metis,” Savikataaq wrote.

Thirteen residential schools operated in what is now Nunavut, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Government of Nunavut updates smoking legislation

On May 28, Nunavut’s legislators passed the Tobacco and Smoking Act, which will ban tenants from smoking in public housing units, prohibit the sales of flavoured vapour products and restrictions on where smoking is allowed in public spaces.

It is the first update to smoking legislation in Nunavut in 15 years, before vaping became popular.

The additional enforcement measures were wanted by Nunavummiut, noted the Health Minister at the time.

“Specifically the enforcement of smoke-free places and buffer zones,” said Lorne Kusugak, “Nunavummiut also emphasized the importance of protecting the health of children and youth.”

Tobacco use remains high in Nunavut, with an estimated 74 per cent of residents still smoking, a rate four times higher than the national average.

ITK and Pauktuutit publish National Inuit Action Plan

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada on June 3 released the National Inuit Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Inuit Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People.

Pauktuutit president Rebecca Kudloo said the implementation and monitoring of the plan must be at the forefront of the National Action Plan for Inuit.

Inuit women suffer the highest violence rates in Canada at 14 times the national average according to Pauktuutit. It is compounded by the fact that only 13 of Inuit Nunangat’s 51 communities have emergency shelters for women.

There are 14 themes to the National Inuit Action Plan encompassing shelters and housing; infrastructure; education; economic security; health and wellness; justice and policing; children and youth; anti-racism and reconciliation; governance; Inuktut; data and research; urban Inuit; men, boys and family violence.

Government of Nunavut nixes home construction in Taloyoak

The community of Taloyoak felt ignored when the Nunavut Housing Corporation post-poned the construction of two five-plexes in the Kitikmeot community due to rapidy rising housing costs.

Mayor Chuck Pizzo-Lyall said there haven’t been any new public housing units built in the community in almost four years. With more than 100 applicants in the community, the mayor knows of a three-bedroom home in Taloyoak where 18 people are living.

“Even just getting a piece of land (in Nunavut) is ridiculous,” he said. Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq spent day after day at the Legislative Assembly trying to get commitments from Housing Minister Margaret Nakashuk.

Nakashuk said the united in Talotoak are “not cancelled” just that they are not able to move ahead on this for this year.

Iqaluit’s Mary Piercey-Lewis is MusiCounts 2021 Teacher of the Year

On June 6, MusiCounts named Iqaluit’s Mary Piercey-Lewis as their 2021 Teacher of the Year.

The Inuksuk High School teacher was nominated for the award along with five other instructors back in March. Now Piercey-Lewis’ hard has paid off, with the annoucement made during the 2021 JUNO awards.

Piercey-Lewis has been a teacher in Nunavut for two decades, first in Arviat before she settled down in Iqaluit, developing the Inuit Inngiusingit to help further music education in Nunavut.

The Inuksuk music room will be getting $15,000 in new band equipment, something which is badly needed says Piercey-Lewis.

Changes made to Nunavut’s Path; vaccines approved for youth aged 12 to 17

Nunavut’s Path, the Government of Nunavut’s strategy for moving forward during the Covid-19 pandemic, will follow the youth vaccination clinics in each community.

Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine doses were approved for youth ages 12 to 17 and clinics were underway in Nunavut’s communities starting June 16.

Nunavut’s chief public health officer encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and to speak to youth about the vaccines so they could make informed choices on their health.

The Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus was also identified at the Mary River Mine outbreak.

Rankin Inlet begins enforcing ATV bylaws

The Rankin Inlet Fire Department initiated its annual ATV enforcement campaign and started enforcing ATV laws on June 7. Warnings were issued to first time offenders up until June 16.

“I would just as soon not write a single ticket. I’d rather see people driving around with helmets and obeying the speed limits,” said fire chief Mark Wyatt, adding this was a matter of keeping the community safe.

Helmets have been made mandatory for ATV operators in Nunavut since the Nunavut Traffic Safety Act was updated in 2019. Rankin Inlet’s bylaws also state people on ATVs, motorcycles and UTVs must also wear a protective helmet.

“Inevitably, we’ll have a few accidents this year and we have a lot of younger kids who think it’s a game,” said Wyatt.

Partnership forms to begin work on Inuit Nunangat University

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and the MasterCard Foundation on June 16 announced a partnership to form a university in Inuit Nunangat.

ITK president Natan Obed said the the partnership is an exciting next step towards developing a university for Inuit.

Work on the university will involve consultation with Indigenous educators, program development partners and research experts within Inuit Nunangat.

This was a part of ITK’s National Strategy on Inuit Education, which was published in 2011, the partnership announced on June 16 came on the 10th anniversary of the Strategy’s publication.

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