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Qualified and experienced Inuit overlooked for GN positions due to racism and nepotism, Towtongie says

Cathy Towtongie front
There should be no tolerance for racism in our healthcare system. We need more Inuit working within our healthcare system," says MLA Cathy Towtongie. photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

Some "high-level" government officials are making staffing decisions and inappropriate comments towards Inuit "driven by racism and nepotism," says MLA Cathy Towtongie.

"There are many Inuit who are experienced and qualified to do jobs, but are
not being hired into positions. Instead of recognizing the skills and abilities of Inuit who
can do the work, senior managers are hiring people from outside of the territory who
often leave after a couple of years," Towtongie, who represents Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, said in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.

"A number of my constituents have come to me, to my home a number of times to complain about racist treatment they have experienced, some of it in the health field ... There should be no tolerance for racism in our healthcare system. We need more Inuit working within our healthcare system. If our government continues to tolerate racist attitudes, we will not achieve this goal," she said.

She referenced a recent media article that outlined the downfall of the midwifery program in Rankin Inlet, which was "shoddily run for many years due to senior management paternalism and racial denigration of the Inuit workers, so it makes one wonder if we can even run one here in Nunavut where Inuit form the majority," said Towtongie. The two Inuit midwives resigned last year.

She asked Health Minister Lorne Kusugak about complaints received from staff within his department relating to racism.

He replied that such complaints may exist, but he hasn't been notified of them. He also explained that there is a complaint form that can be submitted anonymously to raise concerns about racism or any kind of harassment.

"I encourage anybody out there that are staff; senior staff or junior staff that feel that they are being misrepresented or bullied, or any of those to please fill out the form and make complaint," said Kusugak. "For anybody who feels that they have an opportunity in Health or any other department; that they have an opportunity to apply for a job that is higher than or lower than the position they’re in, please apply for it. You don’t need anybody’s permission to apply for a job. You go and do it without seeking requirements from your supervisor."

He added that he has instructed officials within his department to look into issues at the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre to correct the situation and "move forward so that this does not happen to them or anybody else again in the Department of Health."