A new Inuit organization has ostensibly been formed by North Baffin communities but many details have yet to be worked out, including how the group will co-exist with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
Qikiqtaaluk Uangnangani Katujjiqatigiit (QUK) was formalized as a not-for-profit organization in late December, according to executive director Neeko Inuarak, who hails from Pond Inlet.
Charlie Inuarak is recognized as president of the organization. Neeko declined to reveal the identities of the vice-president, secretary/treasurer and board of directors.
The organization – representing 7,500 Inuit residents in Clyde River, Arctic Bay, Sanirajak, Iglulik, Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord – has plans to form a separate economic development arm in the future. This will “help to ensure that economic opportunities arising from the Baffinland iron mine, and other regional resource development such as mining, fisheries and aviation are benefitting the seven communities and their beneficiaries,” a QUK news release states.
Neeko added, “We are currently working on developing several exciting opportunities, which will roll into the business arm. We have received board approval to proceed, and are currently starting the process of forming the group.
“Our expectation is that as a majority owned Inuit organization as defined under the NLCA (Nunavut Land Claim Agreement), we will be given an opportunity to bid on contracts with Baffinland, the GN and others,” Neeko stated. “We bring the voice of seven communities and so we believe that all those that operate in the region will be interested in providing us with a fair opportunity to participate in projects.”
He said Baffinland Iron Mines is already aware of QUK’s existence, but the mining company did not respond to Nunavut News’ request for comment.
Asked how QUK is covering expenses in the meantime, Neeko replied that various funding sources are being sought. To date, costs and time incurred have been covered by “the team,” he stated without further explanation.
In terms of how QUK and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association will interact, Neeko said the organizations do not have a relationship.
“Qikiqtaaluk Uangnangani Katujjiqatigiit is a stand-alone federally incorporated not-for-profit organization,” he said.
The QIA issued its own statement indicating that Neeko had made contact.
“At this time, our organization has little information about this group and their membership,” the QIA’s statement reads.
“While any group can form a society or advocacy group, only organizations created under the Nunavut Agreement have the designation to protect the constitutional rights of Inuit. QIA is the designated Inuit organization with the mandate to represent Qikiqtani Inuit in all matters related to development and protection of Inuit-owned lands in the Qikiqtani region.”
Merlyn Recinos, mayor of Iglulik, said he’s an advocate of “Inuit regaining their future and regaining their rights.” He welcomes the idea of augmenting economic development within the region and even within communities, as Iglulik is aiming to do itself.
“Our economy in Nunavut bleeds a lot of cash to the south, so I’m all in favour for communities to create their economic development corporations,” said Recinos. “They don’t have to compete with local businesses, they can co-exist.”
He cited the port at Pond Inlet, the Government of Canada looking at Arctic Bay for fuel reserves and other potential major infrastructure projects and said it’s paramount that Inuit entities are prepared to seize upon the associated opportunities.
“If our communities and community members want to ensure that we don’t miss the boat on all that development and all of that money, we need to create organizations like this to ensure that they’re there and ready to capture, to capitalize on those projects,” he said.
The QIA can still be relevant in the North Baffin, even though a new Inuit organization has emerged, Recinos added.
“I think there needs to be open communication from both sides,” he said. “They (the QIA) have a role to play … as long as they understand each other and what the main goals are: the language, culture and the well-being of Inuit people in those communities, that should be the main goal of everybody. As long as they define that, everything else can be worked around it.”