A look back at 2019’s top stories, month by month.
Millions promised for north Baffin
Federal and territorial leaders gathered Aug. 1 in Iqaluit and celebrated a conservation deal that would see millions in community investments. This deal included Inuit training and employment to the tune of $55 million and roughly $190 million in infrastructure dollars – for the northern Baffin region. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was joined by Premier Joe Savikataaq, Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) president P.J. Akeeagok, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president at the event.
Savikataaq explicitly stated, there is much yet to be done to bring Nunavummiut up to par with fellow Canadians.
“I encourage any federal representative, go to the store in Arctic Bay and look at the price of food. Go there. The cost of living is horrendous up here,” he said.
Savikataaq then said the economic benefits of the new conservation deal would benefit the smaller High Arctic communities.
Meanwhile, Akeeagok stated, “Today’s investment is a step towards addressing the infrastructure inequalities between Canada’s North and south.”
Feds apologize to Qikiqtaaluk Inuit
Twelve years after the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) launched a truth commission to record the federal government’s systemic efforts to colonize Inuit of the Qikiqtaaluk region, the government issued an apology on Aug. 14. The atonement included $20 million as an initial investment to begin correcting wrongs of the past. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett made the apology in Iqaluit while standing before elders from each of the region’s 13 communities.
But Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) president P.J. Akeeagok said, while the apology is meaningful, more was required: “true investments to revive what was lost.” What was lost included Inuit dignity, autonomy and culture.
QIA would place $15 million in its Legacy Fund, using roughly $600,000 of interest annually for programs. A further $2 million would be used for Inuit history and governance programs, and $2.9 million would go toward a qimmiit (sled dog) revitalization program – of which $100,000 annually for seven years would go to the Nunavut Quest dog-team race. Finally, $2 million would be devoted to a travel and healing program for Inuit impacted by the Dundas Harbour relocation, and the closing of Kivitoo, Paallavvik and South Camp communities.
Beyond the apology and $20 million, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the QIA and the federal government to establish the Saimaqatigiigniq Fund. The fund “allows Canada and QIA to turn the page on the apology process and look toward the future well-being of Inuit with long-term support for core social and cultural programs, as well as innovation and capacity development initiatives,” stated a QIA document.
Funds given for developing a treatment centre in Iqaluit
On Aug 19 in Iqaluit, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., along with the federal and territorial governments, announced plans to built a territorial trauma and treatment centre in the capital. Then federal minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan delivered the news that the federal government was committing up to $47.5 million toward the recovery centre. Funds were also committed for training, as well as costs to operate the centre, where treatment for addictions and trauma would take place.
No specific timeline was stated on when the recovery centre would open. Iqaluit was chosen as the site for a centre because the Qikiqtani General Hospital would be in close proximity.
Jakob Gearheard, who has worked for years as Ilisaqsivik’s executive director, was hired as the recovery centre’s executive director.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) president Aluki Kotierk, in Inuktitut, spoke of the hardships Inuit have endured and how some Inuit turned to drugs and alcohol.
The Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation, managed by NTI, contributed $11.85 million to train Inuit staff to deliver services in the mother tongue.
The GN also committed millions to the plan, including 30 per cent of capital costs for the centre.
Savikataaq signed the declaration of intent on behalf of Health Minister George Hickes, who was not present at the announcement.
“We need an addiction and treatment centre. It’s needed. We can’t keep treating the symptoms. We have to go to the root cause of social issues,” Premier Joe Savikataaq said.
Iglulik lands a bowhead
It took seven boats to tow a slain 30-foot bowhead whale back to Iglulik. The 50-km journey took several hours with the bulky mammal creating drag in the water.
Iglulik hunters last landed a bowhead three years earlier. That one measured 27 feet.
As the boats returned, community members dotted the coastline despite it being close to 3 a.m. More and more residents made their way to the beach. They grabbed a tow rope and dozens of them helped pull the whale onto the shore.
Then, over the next 12 hours, people took turns stripping away maktaaq to take home. Some was also shared with visiting elders.
“There’s lots of meat over there,” said Francis Piugattuk, a member of the bowhead hunt committee.
Ottawa funds mining road project; Rankin airport expansion
The federal government committed $45.5 million to add two new wings to the existing Rankin Inlet terminal building, making it four times its current capacity.
Ottawa also announced $21.5 million for the Kitikmeot Inuit Association’s slimmed-down request to get the Grays Bay Road and Port project “shovel ready” over the next couple of years. The route is expected to make Nunavut mining projects more economical and potentially reduce cost for community resupply.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) had already announced that it would give $7.25 million to the initiative.
Through its subsidiary Nunavut Resources Corporation, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA) originally sought $415 million from Ottawa for the $550-million Grays Bay project but that request was rejected in April 2018.
Franklin ship Terror artifacts documented
More than 170 years after the Franklin ship HMS Terror’s fate was sealed at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, archeologists finally took a look inside the sunken vessel.
A remotely-operated underwater vehicle entered the ship several times in August, revealing an “astonishing” number of well-preserved artifacts in the cold waters of Terror Bay, off the coast of King William Island. The researchers saw glass bottles, silverware, dinner plates, desks, cabinets, chests, scientific instruments and a surveyor’s tripod, among other objects.
“In every single cabin and compartment, there are things to see. It was sort of one discovery after the next,” said Ryan Harris, Parks Canada’s lead archeologist and project director.
Murder charge filed in Gjoa Haven
The RCMP laid a murder charge against a 34-year-old Gjoa Haven man.
Police responded to a complaint of a 33-year-old woman found in her home not breathing on Aug. 13. She was determined to be deceased.
“Victim and Family Services have been engaged with this tragic incident and are providing support to those affected,” the RCMP stated at the time.
-with files from Derek Neary