The Government of Nunavut is working on a schedule to send driver examiners on tours of communities to fill the gap left when RCMP stopped testing drivers as of July 1.
The GN also hopes to train hamlet staff to become driver examiners. That’s now a reality in Arviat, where two hamlet workers underwent 60 hours of training each – in April and June – to become qualified. They can now offer testing in Class 5 and Class 7.
Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak has expressed interest in having his community’s hamlet staff to receive training as well, but the needs there extend into industrial vehicles.
“Considering the fact that we also have an operating gold mine, when I look at it overall, Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 driver’s licences is a very essential thing here in Baker Lake now,” Mikkingwak said, adding that the municipality also has to make sure it has enough qualified heavy equipment operators. “People want to work but the thing is they need that (licence).”
To address the growing backlog — currently standing at about 70 people — in need of testing, the GN is considering hiring driver examiners on an interim basis and training community-based contractors to provide the service, according to John Hawkins, assistant deputy minister with Economic Development and Transportation (ED&T).
The void was created when the RCMP, which had been testing drivers in communities for many years, put a halt to the practice earlier this month.
“Driver’s licensing and examination is not considered a core policing function,” stated RCMP Insp. Mark Crowther. “Some of our detachments do not have the capacity to provide this specialized service when competing with other emergency calls for service that require an immediate police response.”
Crowther added that the decision also hinged on the GN’s driver examiners having the “prerequisite training and experience as subject matter experts in the area of driver’s licensing and examination.”
Former ED&T minister Elisapee Sheutiapik addressed the issue in the legislative assembly in March, acknowledging that the RCMP have other priorities. Sheutiapik committed to having driver examiners visit every Nunavut community before September. At the time, she said the schedule would be finalized and released publicly “in the coming weeks.” However, those details were still not available as of July 19.
“The driver’s licence examination schedule is still in the works and the department will release it to the public once it’s done,” Hawkins stated. The GN won’t charge extra for appointments with travelling drivers examiners, but there are standard fees associated with licensing examinations, ranging from $15.40 to $68.40, depending on the class of licensing.
Neither Arviat Mayor Bob Leonard nor senior administrative officer Steve England returned requests for comment on the hamlet’s newly-trained driver examiner staff members.