B.1.1.7 Covid-19 variant identified in Iqaluit super-spreader event

During an April 26 press conference, Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said karaoke night at Iqaluit’s Chart Room Lounge on April 14 fit the description of a super-spreader event.

“Right now it appears that one night accounts for just over 20 per cent of cases in Iqaluit,” said Patterson.

Virus samples sent out for genome sequencing also came back, identifying the variant in the territorial capital as B.1.1.7, which originated in the United Kingdom.

While a specific source of origin wasn’t identified, public health officials say Covid-19 has been circulating in Iqaluit since April 10.

Baffinland braces for possible shutdown, outbreak suspends operations at Mary River Mine

A shaky price forecast for iron ore and regulatory uncertainty related to its Phase Two expansion plans had Baffinland Iron Mines is saying future production at its Mary River Mine in north Baffin could be affected.

Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq said Baffinland was advised by residents not to ship equipment related to Phase Two without regulatory approval, “they didn’t listen to the people … who were warning them not to rush things.”

Conversely, Qamaniq said a shutdown would have beneficial effects on local wildlife, a concern which the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Association have raised many times.

The round of public hearings related to Phase Two taking place in mid-April in Iqaluit was suspended due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the city.

A Covid-19 outbreak also led to operations being suspended at Mary River, with 23 cases of Covid-19 at the mine announced on May 6.

Mine’s environmental protection efforts fall short: QIA

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) has pulled its support for Baffinland Iron Mines Phase Two expansion at the Mary River Mine in north Baffin.

In June of 2020 QIA entered into the Inuit Certainty Agreement with Baffinland. However the organization still had a number of unresolved questions from the Nov. 2019 expansion hearings, particularly with issues surrounding dust impacts on the animal population among other matters following community consultations.

“We haven’t seen Baffinland successfully implement adaptive management … but it’s the mitigation (measures) and protection of the environment, that’s what matters most,” said Jared Ottenhof, director of QIA’s Qikiqtani Nunalirijikkut.

QIA also cited the lack of consensus in the communities affected by the mine expansion. On Feb. 5 a number of protesters from Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay blockaded the mine’s air strip and tote road. Among the terms to end the blockade were to have QIA and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated pay more attention to the needs of environmental and wildlife concerns expressed by harvesters.

Elders Home evacuated due to Covid-19

On May 10 the Government of Nunavut announced Covid-19 was exposure in the Iqaluit Elders Home and Baffin Correctional Centre (BCC).

One staff member at the Elders Home was diagnosed with Covid-19 while 12 active cases were found in the capital’s correctional facilities, all of whom were sent to BCC.

Four Elders were down south to Ottawa’s Embassy West while two others were sent elsewhere in-territory, one with family and the other to another facility in-territory.

Staff and residents of Nunavut’s long-term care facilities were among the first in Nunavut, and Canada to get vaccinated. However not everyone chose to get vaccinated, which the chief public health officer pointed to as the cause of the outbreak.

Iqaluit port delayed until Sept. 2022

The deep-sea port in Iqaluit is a year behind schedule and the Government of Nunvut announced it won’t be completed until September 2022.

Covid-19 and the “lower than anticipated productivity from the contractor prior to Covid” are the reasons Nunavut’s Department of Community and Government Services giving for the delays.

While project costs have risen it is still expected to be covered within the existing budget.

Tower Arctic, the contractor for the port has encountered a number of obstacles in constructing this port and a small-craft harbour in Pond Inlet.

Finding experienced workers is another problem due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions at the time in Nunavut.

Tower Arctic was awarded the Iqaluit contract for close to $65 million while the contract in Pond Inlet was for $24 million.

The projects are largely federally funded with the Government of Canada announcing up to $64 million toward the Iqaluit port and up to $30 million for the Pond Inlet harbour in July 2015.

Morley Hanson departs Nunavut Sivuniksavut after 31 years

On May 20, Morley Hanson, Nunavut Sivuniksavut’s (NS) Executive Director of 31 years attended his last graduation as part of the organization.

“I’m feeling all kinds of emotions, I guess. It was such a special time,” he said about this year’s NS graduation.

He started with NS in 1988, the program’s fourth year of operation. Moving from northern Saskatchewan to Ottawa. While he admits his inital knowledge on Inuit culture and history was limited at the start, he continued to learn as he worked at NS.

“It was a brand new world to me,” said Hanson.

Just a few streets away from the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN), precursor to Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated in Ottawa, Hanson also witnessed revolutionary changes in the political landscape for Inuit. Hanson even got students to listen in on TFN board meetings.

He also recalls being quickly accepted by Inuit, and he learned to appreciate the “persistence, solid perseverance and patience and determination” of Inuit.

Morley’s retirement plans include finishing a kayak in his workshop and travelling more.

“It’s like starting a new phase in life,” he said. “I’m going to have to figure it out.”

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