Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette visited Pangnirtung Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 to meet with community members about challenges and realities facing Nunavummiut.

Photo courtesy of Government of Canada
Pangnirtung Mayor Komoartok greets Gov. Gen. Julie Payette at the council chamber during an Aug. 30 federal delegation to the community.

Payette’s three-day visit focused on Arctic research and Indigenous knowledge.

During her visit, Payette joined federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan and Canada’s chief science advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, to meet with Pangnirtung councillors.

In a private meeting, Pangnirtung councillors and Mayor Stevie Komoartok discussed the many challenges of Arctic life.

Councillors told Payette of the high rates of youth suicide, the need for a comprehensive healing centre, high rates of poverty and unemployment, food insecurity and the tuberculosis epidemic.

Councillors discussed gaps in educational opportunities and the challenges that graduates face in seeking post-secondary education.

“The suffering caused by those difficulties frequently results in substance abuse, violence and all too often suicide,” stated a news release from the hamlet.

Payette said challenges facing Nunavummiut are “complex and interrelated” and issues of housing, poverty and tuberculosis must be addressed, the release states.

Payette acknowledged the hamlet’s council has an important role in facilitating an ongoing dialogue with the federal government to address the array of social issues affecting the community.

“Indigenous knowledge and research are key to understanding the challenges that the Arctic faces,” Duncan stated in the release.

The federal science department “will continue encouraging stronger partnerships that help bridge the gap between Indigenous knowledge and research,” she said.

Earlier in 2018, the mayor and council of Pangnirtung made a formal plea to the Government of Nunavut to provide resources to the community to address mental health and suicide in the community. A working group formed in May will consider the Pangnirtung Urgency Intervention Response plan presented to the territorial government.

Komoartok said he and the hamlet’s council welcome the opportunity for closer federal cooperation on the social, health, economic and environmental issues facing Pangnirtung.

“Such a team between Pangnirtung and Ottawa could be a model for the Arctic,” Komoartok said.

Following the meeting, the community held a traditional Inuit feast for the public.

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