The amount the Government of Nunavut is doling out for school insurance has reached the highest annual total yet: more than $1.8 million.

Sanikiluaq’s Paatsaali School, which opened in the 2011-2012 school year, is one of six Nunavut schools for which the Government of Nunavut would have to pay full replacement value if it were destroyed because it’s not worth more than the GN’s $20 million deductible. Qarmatalik School in Resolute, Umimmak School in Grise Fiord, Nanook School in Apex, Ecole Des Trois Soleils in Iqaluit and Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet are the others valued at less than $20 million.
photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

That’s up from $1.5 million in 2017-18, $653,891 in 2016-17, and $190,730 in 2015-16.

The GN’s deductible – the amount the government would have to pay towards repairs or replacement of a damaged or destroyed school – remains at $20 million. Six schools are worth less than that, meaning the GN would have to cover the entire replacement cost if destroyed. Those schools are Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet, Paatsaali School in Sanikiluaq, Qarmatalik School in Resolute, Umimmak School in Grise Fiord, Nanook School in Apex and Iqaluit’s Ecole Des Trois Soleils, according to Jeff Chown, deputy minister of Finance.

Last September, former finance minister Keith Peterson warned his colleagues in the legislative assembly that, following deliberately-set devastating school fires in Kugaaruk in 2017 and in Cape Dorset in 2015, Nunavut schools face the risk of becoming “uninsurable”.

“In other words, every school that burned down we had to pay the entire amount,” Peterson said at the time.

During that same legislative assembly sitting, then-education minister Paul Quassa spoke of all schools needing to have security, noting that some schools have hired guards and that the government was working on a broader security plan.

Pujjuut Kusugak, deputy minister of Education, clarified last week that the use of security guards or “fire watch” guards is only a temporary measure when a particular safety concern exists.

Kusugak said his department is working with Community and Government Services on issues such as securing under-school crawl spaces and ensuring intrusion alarms and surveillance systems are in working order.

“The department encourages all community members to understand the role they can play in ensuring the security of school buildings,” Kusugak stated.

In Kugaaruk, construction is underway on a $40 million replacement school.

In Cape Dorset, the new $34-million Peter Pitseolak School opened earlier this month. The building is less susceptible to fire as it was fabricated from metal and concrete and has a “massive” fire-suppression system, said Cape Dorset District Education Authority chair Claude Constantineau.

“It’s quite secure,” he said, adding that the school’s locks, alarms and video monitoring are also impressive. “I think we’re ahead of the game.”

Iqaluit District Education Authority chair Doug Workman said he was reassured when he found out in the spring that the Department of Education has plans to install high-resolution cameras at all Nunavut schools.

“This is a relief for our Iqaluit District Education Authority board members and school staff due to the number of vandalism incidents that have occurred at Inuksuk High School, Nakasuk School and Aqsarniit Middle School over the past several years,” Workman said.

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