Arviat declares state of emergency

The Hamlet of Arviat declared a state of emergency due to a severe outbreak of Covid-19 that stretched into March.

Among the measures put in place were a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.; all retail and food service establishments/businesses were to be closed; nobody was to leave their property during this time unless it was an emergency or they were an essential worker going to and from work.

Four additional officers were hired to enforce the curfew, in addition to hamlet public safety officers.

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main later raised concerns in the Legislative Assembly because he said he was receiving calls from constituents asking how they can isolate in their crowded homes.

“The lack of housing has caused a lot more problems,” said Main. “They have been calling me and asking me, ‘Where can I go sleep? I can’t stay at my house. I don’t want to pass on the Covid-19 to my family, so where do I go now? Where can I go sleep?’ As an MLA, I have not had an answer to that, which is unfortunate.”

GN dodges deficit

Close to $130 million in Covid-19 financial aid from the federal government helped offset an expected large deficit in the 2021-22 territorial budget.

Mandatory 14-day isolation in southern hubs for those entering Nunavut, support for airlines, testing for Covid-19, vaccine delivery equipment and other public health measures cost the GN a great deal of money over 2020 and early 2021.

Another $78 million in funding from Ottawa covered a share of medical travel expenses under the Non-Insured Health Benefits program, which “brings the federal government closer to acknowledging the actual costs of delivering this important medical travel program on their behalf,” said then-Finance Minister George Hickes.

Artist earns prestigious award

A lifetime of artwork earned Inuk artist Germaine Arnaktauyok a 2021 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and an associated $25,000 prize.

“Germaine Arnaktauyok has charted her own course and created her own unique visual language, and her lifelong interest in her own unique Inuit culture has been an inspiration to many younger artists,” stated Darlene Coward Wight, curator of Inuit art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, who nominated Arnaktauyok.

The eight award winners, who were selected by a committee of their peers, were to receive a special-edition bronze medallion in recognition of their body of work.

In addition, each artist was featured in a video portrait.

“I was always drawing since I was little and I never questioned it and just kept going,” Arnaktauyok said in her video. “I’m 74 years old and I’m still at it.”

Born near Iglulik and now a resident of Yellowknife, much of her work depicts Inuit legends in pen and ink drawings.

MLA alleges racism, nepotism

Some “high-level” government officials are making staffing decisions and inappropriate comments towards Inuit “driven by racism and nepotism,” said then-MLA Cathy Towtongie.

“There are many Inuit who are experienced and qualified to do jobs, but are not being hired into positions. Instead of recognizing the skills and abilities of Inuit who can do the work, senior managers are hiring people from outside of the territory who often leave after a couple of years,” Towtongie, who represented Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, said in the legislative assembly on March 2.

“A number of my constituents have come to me, to my home a number of times to complain about racist treatment they have experienced, some of it in the health field … There should be no tolerance for racism in our health-care system. We need more Inuit working within our health care-system. If our government continues to tolerate racist attitudes, we will not achieve this goal,” she said.

Then-Health Minister Lorne Kusugak urged any public servant who is subjected to racism or harassment to file a complaint, even if done anonymously.

Meth warning in Pangnirtung

A former police officer warned residents of Pangnirtung that meth was being dealt in their community, and he said the drug almost killed a young relative.

“I am writing this to plead with you that if the people selling these drugs are not stopped right away that the situation is going to get really bad. If you thought drinking was bad, if you thought coke and speed were bad, just wait until you see the effects of meth will do to the community. It is destroying whole communities in the south,” David Lawson wrote on the Pangnirtung News and Announcements Facebook page. “It’s one of the cheapest drugs out there but it’s also the hardest drug to hit the body and mind and one of the hardest drugs to treat once you are hooked.”

Pangnirtung Mayor Eric Lawlor also expressed his concern about the situation.

“It was shocking to hear,” he said. “This is concerning because it’s one of the harder drugs that has actually shown up. The drug situation seems to be kind of getting worse, a little bit. We’re starting to see a little bit more harder and harder things up here.”

QIA withdraws support for mine expansion

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s board of directors announced on March 5 that it would not support Baffinland Iron Mines’ phase two expansion proposal for the Mary River project.

Then-QIA President P.J. Akeeagok said potential effects on caribou, narwhal, seal and fish from increased shipping and dust and the low rate of Inuit employment at the mine site are factors too serious to overlook.

“The fundamental questions that are still there, a lot of them weren’t being answered right at the impact review board … there’s already existing impacts that I think were being disputed at the hearings in terms of the baseline data and the … incorporation of Inuit qaujimajatuqangit (traditional knowledge),” Akeeagok said, adding that the proposal to double production to 12 million tonnes per year from six million tonnes at the mine exacerbated matters because the pace is too great.

Baffinland officials warned that the mine wasn’t expected to remain viable without the expansion.

BCC fire displaces prisoners

Thirty prisoners from Baffin Correctional Centre (BCC) were moved to the Joyceville Institution in Kingston, Ont. after a fire damaged BCC on March 18.

The remaining 30 inmates from BCC were transferred to other correctional facilities within Nunavut.

No injuries were reported as a result of the BCC fire.

Former Nunavut fire marshal Tony Noakes was critical of the Government of Nunavut’s track record on fire prevention efforts at the jail.

“The Government of Nunavut should be ashamed of its record on the safety issues at BCC,” he stated. “This fire, which is one of many, highlights why it is important to implement and maintain building safety measures. Fortunately, there was no loss of life. However, there will be costs associated with transporting and housing the inmates in Ontario.”

GN workforce grows, salaries up modestly

The territorial government’s workforce expanded by 132 positions in 2019-20 and the average salary reached $95,984, up by $384 from a year earlier, according to the 2019-20 Public Service Annual Report, released in March.

The average annual salary for Nunavut Inuit, who continue to comprise half of the public service, was $86,478. For non-Inuit it was $106,997.

Female employees, who make up 65 per cent of the territorial government’s staff, earned an average of $94,841 while male employees were paid $98,634 per year, on average.

“The differences between salaries can be attributed to employment categories, because Nunavut Inuit and female employees hold fewer professional and management positions than their non-Inuit and male counterparts. The GN is making every effort to ensure this imbalance is addressed through various career development training programs targeted at Inuit employees,” the report stated.

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