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June 2019 in review: Order of Nunavut for Kunuk; Greenland donates $100,000 for food; feds approve airline merger

A look back at 2019’s top stories, month by month.

Filmmaker recognized for bringing Inuit culture to global audiences

Filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, left, watches as Commissioner of Nunavut and Chancellor of the Order of Nunavut Nellie Taptaqut Kusugak signs the official document signifying he has been invested in the Order of Nunavut the evening of June 5 at the Legislative Assembly.
photo courtesy Michel Albert

Filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk received the territory's highest honour for his creative vision, which has taken Nunavut Inuit to an international audience. Nunavut's Commissioner Nellie Taptaqut Kusugak, in her capacity of Chancellor of the Order of Nunavut, presided over Kunuk's investiture in the legislative assembly on June 5.

After calling Kunuk a great ambassador for Nunavut, Kusugak listed a few of the many films Kunuk has made, which show the world Inuit traditional skills and culture, in Inuktitut.

Kunuk, co-founder of Igloolik Isuma Productions, was previously named an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

His film Atanarjuat was chosen as the greatest Canadian film of all time by filmmakers and critics at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015.

"In Repulse Bay I saw a video camera and I decided to have one too. I brought some carvings down to Montreal, sold them and bought my first TV set, 26-inch, a porta pack and camera and a VCR," he told Nunavut News in 1999.

Since then he's never looked back.

Brothers motivated to open store in Clyde River

A Clyde River resident checks out some of the early offerings at the Baffin General Store. Fresh shipments are on the way after an unexpected early launch of the store.
photo courtesy Martin Kigutaq

Martin Kigutaq transformed his old shipping containers into the Baffin General Store, also known as The Containers by residents. The Baffin General Store launched on May 20 in Clyde River.

Kigutaq opened a grocery store with his brother Daniel Benic for several reasons.

"The most important being food prices are a heavy burden on many families, including my own. I believe the current prices of many food items available for sale in the High Arctic are not reflective of the true costs of doing business here," said Kigutaq.

Secondly he wanted to provide for his family using his own hard labor.

Lastly, he felt his community deserved another grocery store.

Benic was the logistical point man in Ottawa, where the brothers leased a warehouse space to stage inventory for air cargo and sealift shipping.

The new entrepreneur said he'll be stocking the shelves with everything people need on a day-to-day basis.

"I am in the process of shipping up a lot of everyday grocery items. Spices and baking goods usually not available in the store, and hygiene products," he said.

Kigutaq said the process of moving forward with a store is theoretically straight-forward. "But, in reality it has been a long journey. Operating in the North has its own challenges. Many items readily available elsewhere are just not here – items such as building materials and actual inventory to sell."

He's learning to plan ahead, far ahead, he said.

Those Who Dwell Below released

Author Aviaq Johnston's Those Who Dwell Below was published June 11. This was her second novel that follows the adventures of Pitu, the young shaman, who became lost in the world of the spirits.

Johnston's first instalment, Those Who Run in the Sky, was repeatedly recognized: as a finalist for the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for Young People's Literature, as an Honour Book by the 2017 Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Metis Literature, as the winner of the Most Significant Work of Prose in English by an Emerging Indigenous Writer in 2018, as a finalist in 2017 for the Foreword Indies Award for Young Adult Fiction and as a 2017 Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens.

Johnston, who also authored the bestselling children's picture book What's My Superpower?, came to writing by way of elders in Iglulik.

"I really liked traditional stories growing up. My favourite time in Inuktitut classes was when elders would come in to tell us stories. I started reading more, as I got into middle school and high school. I was really inspired by that style of storytelling," said Johnston.

Those Who Dwell Below has been widely available at any bookstore and online and at the Inhabit Media online bookstore.

Greenland donates $100,000 for food

The Government of Greenland donated $100,000 to help improve food security in Iqaluit, a move prompted by media coverage following the Northmart warehouse fire in November 2018.

The funds were turned over to the City of Iqaluit’s Makkuttukkuvik Youth Centre cooking club, the Apex District Education Authority’s School Food Security and Nutrition program and the Iqaluit District Education Authority to support cooking clubs and programs at the Inuksuk, Aqsarniit, Joamie and Nakashuk schools.

Federal government approves airline merger

The proposed merger of First Air and Canadian North received all necessary regulatory approvals, according to the Makivik Corporation and Inuvialuit Development Corporation – the Inuit-led proponents behind the deal.

Among the terms that Transport Canada imposed were denying price increases for both passenger travel and cargo delivery beyond those related to operating costs and no reductions to the weekly schedule options on all routes of the airlines’ combined network. In addition, quarterly financial updates and yearly financial statements must be sent to the minister of Transport Canada.

Inuit workers deserve better, MLA says

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk.
photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

Some Inuit tradespeople actively seeking work in Iglulik were being overlooked by a Quebec-based contractor building houses in the community, according to Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk.

"There are Inuit electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and oil burner mechanics. Inuit are skilled in these sectors. However, there always seems to be a caveat as southerners treat them with disdain even though they are qualified," Kaernerk said in the legislative assembly. "They hired the bare minimum of Inuit, and hardly any employment income is coming into the community."

He called on the GN to increase Inuit labour in the construction industry.

Kaernerk would later tell Nunavut News that he also believes Inuit should be managers at Nunavut mines, not just labourers.

RCMP charge Pond Inlet man with second-degree murder

RCMP charged a 19-year-old Pond Inlet man with second-degree murder after another man died from his injuries following an incident in Iqaluit.

The accused was arrested on June 30 after a man in Iqaluit's 2600-block area was found in medical distress during the early morning. That individual succumbed to his injuries at Qikiqtani General Hospital a short while later, the RCMP stated in a news release. The accused also faced charges related to a break and enter, theft and arson after multiple firearms were stolen in Apex.

-with files from Derek Neary