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Iglulik mayor aims for community self-reliance through an economic development corp

Recently-elected Mayor Merlyn Recinos comes from an economic development background and he has ambitions to help make Iglulik more self-reliant.

Iglulik Mayor Merlyn Recinos envisions the establishment of an economic development corporation that would be involved in building homes, training, mining contracts, tourism and establishing a mini-mall. Startup Canada photo

Recinos is determined to form an economic development corporation, to be owned by the community, that would take over construction of local houses, bid for contracts issued by Baffinland Iron Mines, offer employment training, nurture a mini-mall in the old hamlet building and set up a healing centre that would offer cultural healing.

Funding for a feasibility study for this bold venture is coming from the GN. The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the Kakivak Association have been approached to help finance the next phase. But it's a means to an end, Recinos explained.

“Communities can be self-driven. A lot of times we end up waiting for things from the federal and territorial government and we forget that we have the power to do a lot in our communities as well,” he said, adding that Iglulik is home to IsumaTV and some “extremely talented and very cultural” individuals.

Recinos said he wants to keep Inuit culture and language at the forefront, which can also be showcased in tourism opportunities. He foresees the economic development corporation marketing sealskin parkas to sell to high-end shops in China.

“We want to create an industry that supports the hunter, the person that cleans (the sealskin), the tanner and the seamstress in Iglulik,” he said, adding that the purchase of the parka can be coupled with a trip to Iglulik to experience the community, its people and culture.

Baffinland expansion decision

In regards to the proposed expansion of Baffinland's Mary River mine, the mayor said he didn't want the municipality arguing for the final say in whether phase two of the mine proceeds. Instead, the hamlet occupies two seats on the Iglulik Working Group. The hunters and trappers association also accounts for two seats with the others being held by an elder adviser, a female adviser, a male adviser and a youth adviser.

“They're the ones that review the information. They're the ones that go into the community, engage the community and bring back thoughts from the community,” Recinos said. “They're also the ones that look at the technical information. It's going to be their advice or their submission that we're going to take... it's really the community making the decision.”

Recinos entered the mayor's office by prevailing among a crowded field in the Oct. 29 municipal election. He finished with 103 votes, more than Joanna Haulli Quassa's 84, Matt Teed's 80, Illisapi Haulli's 50, Peter Ivalu's 37 and Josiah Kadlutsiak's 27.

Recinos runs Arctic Fresh, an independent grocery and dry goods supplier, along with his wife Rhoda, who's the CEO. He also served as the hamlet's economic development officer prior to being elected.

Over the years, he has volunteered his time to assist others in building business capacity, improving their employability skill and helping residents get their driver's licence.