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May 2019 in review: Angela Amarualik wins music award; Nunavut gets first female RCMP commander; GN looks to add 156 long-term care beds

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

GN scopes cost of adding 156 long-term care beds

The Government of Nunavut posted a request for architectural designs for new long-term care facilities in Iqaluit and in the Kivalliq and the Kitikmeot regions – a total of 156 beds.

The proposal involves 108 long-term care beds in Iqaluit and 24 long-term care beds in each of the Kivalliq and the Kitikmeot. It was later revealed in the legislative assembly that Rankin would host the Kivalliq long-term care centre and it would be the first to be constructed.

The Iqaluit facility is expected to consume 108,000 square feet while the two regional buildings would be 46,500 square feet.

Nunavut gets first female RCMP commander

Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones, center right, who receives the V-Division flag at a May 1 RCMP ceremony, took over command duties at RCMP V-Division in early January.
Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

The territory's RCMP V Division passed on the torch from one commander to another in a ceremony in Iqaluit on May 1. Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones took over command duties earlier in the year from Chief Superintendent Michael Jeffrey, who served as commanding officer from November 2014 to Jan. 2 of this year.

Premier Joe Savikataaq, Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Taptaqut Kusugak and other dignitaries attended, with the Inuksuk Drum Dancers adding to the ceremonial atmosphere.

"As Nunavut's eighth commanding officer and the first female commanding officer, I'm confident Amanda's experience and perspective will help RCMP services evolve while respecting the long-standing traditions and customs of Nunavummiut," said RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

Lucki elaborated on Jones' experience, including community based, operational and leadership roles.

Jones was the recipient of the Canadian Peacekeeping Service medal, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo medal, the Queen's Golden Jubilee medal, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal, the RCMP Long Service medal and the Canadian Forces Decoration.

Jones said she looked forward to working with communities to help ensure they are safe and have healthy places to live.

Nutrition North worsens food insecurity

Food insecurity in Nunavut's 10 largest communities rose by 13.5 per cent during the transition to Nutrition North Canada from the Food Mail program. This hike in the percentage of food insecure households from 33.1 to 46.6 per cent took place between 2010 and 2014, stated a study titled Food Insecurity in Nunavut Following the Introduction of Nutrition North Canada, published May 21 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"If anything, this is an underestimate," said Andree-Anne Fafard St-Germain, who co-authored the study with Valerie Tarasuk and Tracey Galloway.

The study made it clear that people are not able to meet their food needs.

Fafard St-Germain pointed out that just because Nutrition North does bring the costs of some foods down, it doesn't mean people can afford to buy it. She also said a program like Nutrition North can't be expected to bring Nunavut food insecurity rates down to the national level.

"Maybe it's time we move past a food subsidy program and start thinking of the other kind of actions that are needed to meaningfully and sustainably bring those rates of food insecurity down.

"We wanted to really bring forward this notion that we really don't know what this program is doing," said Fafard St-Germain.

Public housing units plagued by mould

Hall Beach public housing tenants George Qayaqjuaq and Josh Alorut expressed concern over numerous deficiencies plaguing their residences, including extensive mould, and they say repeated complaints to the local housing organization haven't resulted in action.

Qayaqjuaq and Alorut also worried about possible effects on their families' health.

Jerome Sheaves, manager of the Hall Beach Local Housing Organization, declined to comment on specific circumstances.

"All that I can say is that all work orders are processed in a timely manner and we do the best that we can with the resources that we have to rectify the problems brought forth in front of us," Sheaves said, directing further questions to Nunavut Housing Corporation officials in Iqaluit.

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk later called upon the GN to offer rent reductions in mouldy homes until the problems can be fixed.

Iglulik's Angela Amarualik will release her self-titled debut album in Iqaluit on Nov. 16. She wrote or co-wrote all seven of the tracks. photo courtesy of Angela Amarualik
Iglulik's Angela Amarualik wrote or co-wrote all seven of the tracks on her debut self-titled album, which won an Indigenous Music Award. photo courtesy of Angela Amarualik

Music award for Angela Amarualik

A couple of rising stars on the Nunavut music scene received even wider acclaim at the 2019 Indigenous Music Awards in Winnipeg on May 17.

Iglulik's Angela Amarualik took home the award for Best Inuit, Indigenous language, or Francophone album while Pangnirtung's Colleen Nakashuk, who performs as Aasiva, was nominated in two categories. Both Nunavut singers were contenders for Best New Artist. Nakashuk was also a finalist for Best Folk Album. Amarualik was also in the running for Best Producer/Engineer.

Nunavut collaboration wins $10-million prize

A project titled Community, Connectivity and Digital Access for Suicide Prevention in Nunavut won the $10-million Smart Cities Challenge through Infrastructure Canada.

The project partners are Pangnirtung-based Pinnguaq Association, the Embrace Life Council, Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre and the Nunavut Association of Municipalities (NAM).

The money would be used to create physical locations for play and learning – with a focus on arts, science, math, engineering and technology – in several communities in the territory.

Inuksuk High School student benefits from science fairs

An Inuksuk High School student reaped the rewards of participating in the first regional science fair in the Qikiqtaaluk in almost 20 years, and then the CanadaWide Science Fair (CWSF).

"It was such an amazing experience. I'm so glad that I got to participate in such a thing. I met so many different people who were like-minded, who really wanted to change the world in a positive way," said Penelope Armstrong about the national fair held in Fredericton, N.B., May 15 to 17.

Roughly 500 students from across Canada participated.

Armstrong explained how science fair participants had to pick an award and apply for it. She chose SHAD – a 27-day STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and entrepreneurship-based summer enrichment program at a university.

Her project was one of the top three of six regional projects at the Qikiqtaalummi Science Fair and addressed the question "What is in your water?" by analyzing Iqaluit water from various locations for pH, alkalinity, chlorine, and hardness.

Armstrong encourages all students to get into science projects.

"Even if you are not interested in science, it showed me what university is going to be like, and all the different people out there, because Iqaluit is kind of isolated sometimes. I definitely recommend it," she said.

-with files from Rajnesh Sharma