Skip to content

September 2019 in review: fires trouble communities; classroom violence harms teacher recruitment; Arctic Bay strives to reopen daycare

A look back at 2019’s top stories, month by month.

Increasing classroom violence driving away teachers, rep says

Classroom violence is one of the factors that is keeping teachers away from the territory, according to Nunavut Teachers' Association president John Fanjoy.
NNSL file photo

As the GN was racing to fill more than 50 teaching positions across the territory in early September, the president of the Nunavut Teachers' Association said some factors responsible for the recruitment and retention problem are an increase in violence in the territory's schools, stressful workloads and covering for vacant positions that the Department of Education hasn't been able to fill.

Asked to elaborate on increasing violence in schools, Fanjoy said his comments are based on first-hand accounts from teachers and community members. Associated statistics have not been kept to date but that's about to change, he said. The teachers' association is working with the Department of Education on a joint Safe Schools and Anti-Violence Committee that will be tasked with devising violence reduction strategies in schools. There will also be a related incident reporting and a data compilation system, he noted.

Arctic Bay hopes to reopen daycare

Arctic Bay's mayor hoped the community's daycare would open its doors again by 2021, thanks to a $50,000 donation from Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. Reopening the daycare has been a part of Arctic Bay's economic development plan for 20 years, but funding to refurbish the old daycare had been hard to find.

“It was very celebratory,” said the company's vice-president of community and strategic development, Udlu Hanson, about the cheque presentation event.

The reopening of Tununirusiq Daycare would provide much needed spaces, enabling parents and guardians to enter the workforce.

A daycare in the community would allow workplaces, such as the Co-op or the schools, not to be disrupted when a pre-school-aged child was sick or there were no babysitters available.

After the announcement, the community held a feast. Martha Qaunaq, who originally opened the daycare in the early 2000s, recited a special prayer to kick-off the event. The funding came from a pot of money Baffinland called the donations and sponsorship fund.

“There was a lot of clapping and appreciation, understanding that this is a major step towards opening the daycare,” said Hanson.

Fires trouble Kugluktuk, Iglulik

Flames from a house fire light up the early morning sky in Iglulik on on Aug. 27. contributed photo

Youths were believed to have started a Sept. 3 fire at Kugluktuk High School that closed the building for a few days and resulted in close to $100,000 in damage.

Approximately 15 firefighters responded to the blaze at close to 7 p.m. It took almost two hours to extinguish.

The hamlet consequently hired two individuals to be on the lookout at the high school as a security precaution.

Meanwhile in Iglulik, the hamlet, businesses and a few volunteers initiated security patrols after three fires were started in three days in late August. An unoccupied house, an old municipal truck and the landfill were all set ablaze.

25-year-old geography major aspires to become political leader

Joshua Komangapik at Kangiqtualuk Uqquti, Sam Ford Fjord, near Clyde River, a stop on last summer's Students on Ice expedition.
photo courtesy of Joshua Komangapik

People, place and the environment – these were a few of Joshua Komangapik's career passions and for this 25-year-old leaving the territory led him to develop his goals and find his passion. Earlier in 2019, he graduated from Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Geography, with a focus on resource management and Northern geographies.

"A lot of the subjects that I wrote about had to do with the Arctic," Komangapik said. "So an example would be the Clyde River seismic testing case. Others would be about the influence of climate change on traditional Inuit food security, about the history of the sealskin ban. It really helped me within my career and where I am right now."

Before he had left Nunavut for school, he had to navigate through a very difficult period of time, which included seeking help for mental health issues. Therapy helped. But so did his time at Bishop's, which followed a college degree in social science from Cegep de la Gaspesie et des Îles in Quebec.

Komangapik's dedication to his post-secondary schooling meant he put himself through school on loans. Along the way he earned nine scholarships – the most recent was the 2018-2019 John Amagoalik Scholarship, worth $5,000.

Komangapik said he plans on doing a master's degree in Northern studies at Carleton University in Ottawa and a distance graduate diploma in Indigenous governance.

"With the hopes of being able to be a leader within the territory politically, especially from an environmental focus. I want to be just as educated as any other person that comes up here," he said.

Plans to expand housing for homeless men in Iqaluit

With the final piece in place, the Uquutaq Society moved forward with its plan to vastly expand its offering for homeless men in Iqaluit. On Sept. 24, executive director Laurel McCorriston said the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) would fund its application to purchase buildings 1077 and 1079 in Iqaluit for $7.5 million.

"There's a lot of services, money, resources put towards women and children but there's really nothing for the men. And they feel like they've been left behind.” said operations manager Erika Alexander. Roughly 40 per cent of the homeless men who were using the decrepit shelter in Iqaluit were between the ages of 18 and 34. They were from all over the Qikiqtaaluk region and other communities in the territory.

The project to take over buildings 1077 and 1079 would see the shelter continued to house up to 60 men, but would also offer transitional housing and affordable housing. Programming, that was being developed, would help lead the men through each step.

ITK chooses Inuit writing system

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami's board of directors adopted Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait as the organization's writing system.

The decision was made at a board meeting in Rankin Inlet in September.

Although controversial, basing written Inuktut on the Roman alphabet makes it easier to type, text and use various forms of information technology such as standard keyboard layouts; younger Inuit are generally more familiar with the Roman alphabet than syllabics; and the Roman alphabet allows options for certain sounds in Inuit dialects that don't have standardized syllabic symbols, according to ITK.

"It is important to note that Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait does not replace syllabics – regions can and will continue use of syllabics and other distinct writing systems," an ITK news release issued stated.

For centuries, nine different Inuktut writing systems have been in use across Inuit Nunangat, comprising Nunavut, the Inuvialuit region of the NWT, northern Quebec and Labrador. A call for a standardized Inuktut writing system has been growing over the past decade.

Man charged with murder in Iqaluit

A man was charged with second-degree murder after a woman was found dead in an Iqaluit apartment around 4 a.m. on Sept. 20.

The apartment in question was in the 4100 block area.

No names were included in the RCMP's news release. The police stated that a publication ban is in place.

-with files from Rajnesh Sharma