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Languages commissioner halts Kugluktuk election

Residents in Kugluktuk will go back to polls in January after Nunavut's languages commissioner shut down the hamlet election on Dec. 11.

Helen Klengenberg said she was made aware of Hamlet of Kugluktuk election literature being written solely in English right up until election day. Only on Dec. 11 were the public notices translated into Inuinnaqtun, she said.

She called the hamlet office and warned she would get a court injunction to stop the election, which was in progress. All ballots had to be destroyed, she said.

The hamlet complied.

"I decided that there was not sufficient notice given to the electorate of Kugluktuk in Inuinnaqtun," said Klengenberg. "I'm not doing my job if I just sit back and let it happen."

Don LeBlanc, Kugluktuk's senior administrative officer, refused to comment on the situation.

Klengenberg, who hails from Kugluktuk but has an office based in Iqaluit, said she was alerted to the lack of translation by a Kugluktuk resident. She said she encourages Nunavummiut to be vigilant and to contact her office when they see such violations of the language laws.

"We have investigators here to make sure that they're legitimate concerns," she said from Iqaluit.

She heard of other possible infractions of the territory's language laws in a couple of other hamlet elections, but those notifications came after the votes were counted.

"It's too late for me to do anything about it," said Klengenberg, who became languages commissioner in June. "We can only work with the municipalities and the lawmakers so it's an everyday thing – it's not a question of 'Should we translate them?' It should be 'Make sure they're translated.'"

The lack of a second language on elections materials – either Inuktut or French – is a contravention of Nunavut's Official Languages Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, Klengenberg noted.

She said she will make a recommendation to the 5th Legislative Assembly to revise the wording of the new Hamlet Elections Act to ensure that use of a second language in elections literature is emphasized.