The Hamlet of Kugluktuk is looking to take matters into its own hands, as government policies and timelines have left the hamlet waiting too long for a facility that allows residents to remain in the hamlet for care.

Legislation bars the hamlet from owning and operating its own facilities but a creative private partnership arrangement – where the hamlet gets the backing but a private company owns and operates the facility – seems a promising solution.

Too many Nunavummiut – the elderly, sick, foster children, and criminals – are housed or cared for outside of the territory. The distance denies these people opportunities to connect with their families, their homelands, their language and their culture. The stories of how this affects people long-term are too many to ignore the importance of facilities to bring Nunavummiut home.

The private partnership arrangement pitched by Kugluktuk is a good model, at least for those people living in communities that can guarantee the resources and supports. The Qikiqtani Inuit Association is another example of a non-governmental effort to develop land, which it is planning to do in Iqaluit, that will benefit more than the organization itself. That project proposes a heritage centre, performance centre, and an emergency services building for Iqaluit.

We need organizations and other developers to make things happen in the territory. It’s especially tough to develop large projects in the smaller communities without a guarantee of a tenant. We’ve attended enough community hall and arena openings to know these essential hamlet buildings are usually almost completely funded by government.

In the face of a booming population, hamlets need to consider creative development solutions, as Kugluktuk is doing right now. If these types of arrangements become the norm, though, there is a risk that Nunavut will become a territory of have and have-not communities.

Considering the arguments for government decentralization, and those against internet fibre-optic proposals that wouldn’t provide service to all communities equally, the government should expect pushback outside of Kugluktuk if it appears there is a workaround that enables one community to jump the line and get more services.

On the flipside, the City of Iqaluit would surely agree that going ahead without a guarantee of government support is risky. The aquatic centre is one example where the city had planned on federal funding, which fell through to the tune of $10 million.

But Kugluktuk’s pitch is for an essential service that the Government of Nunavut should be providing, not a swimming pool. The GN needs to make a move now to agree to use the facility, so that Kugluktuk doesn’t construct a building that will go unused. It’s in the GN’s interest – if it supports these types of partnerships – to show hamlets and private investors that there’s a value in making the government’s job easier, even if we don’t believe the GN should be let off the hook for its responsibilities to Nunavummiut.

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