April 4, 2008

Youth not ready for new government, Makivik AGM ­delegates say

“The youth today don’t have motivation and education”

JANE GEORGE

QUAQTAQ - Nunavik needs a more educated workforce to make self-government succeed, said delegates at this week's Makivik Corp. annual general meeting in Quaqtaq.

"The youth today don't have much motivation and much education," said Joseph Nassak of Kangirsuk. "Are they going to be the ones who will be leading us? This is a scary thought. The youth who should be taking over seem to be evaporating."

Eva Deer, a Makivik governor and educator from Quaqtaq, said Nunavik is in a "social crisis," with high dropout rates among youth, coupled with drug and alcohol-related social problems.

"Are we going to be led by uneducated people who don't have what they need?" Deer said.

Quaqtaq has not seen any high school graduates for several years and will have to wait another year before students in secondary four, the equivalent of Grade 12 in other provinces, finish their studies.

Nunavik's new self-government may fall into place by 2012, following the approval of a final agreement on self-government some time in 2009.

It's already difficult to find qualified and skilled Nunavimmiut who want to work at the Kativik Regional Government, said Jobie Tukkiapik, the Makivik board member for Kuujjuaq, who is also the regional government's general director.

Other doubts about the self-government process also emerged at the AGM.

Makivik governor Johnny Epoo of Inukjuak said his community remains lukewarm about self-government. Other delegates said they lacked sufficient information.

Minnie Grey, the chief self-government negotiator for Nunavik, said a 23-point action plan to finalize the region's self-government agreement includes a training plan.

Grey also said Nunavik plans to set up a college program similar to Nunavut Sivuniksavut to prepare youth for self-government.

Grey also heads the committee charged with carrying out the recommendations of Quebec's human rights commission, which reported on widespread neglect and abuse of children and youth in Nunavik last year.

Grey said Nunavimmiut need to become "modern Inuit" like Greenlanders, urging everyone to "stand up for themselves."

"We have to encourage people to be well-informed and educated," she said.

Pita Aatami, the president of Makivik, told Nunavimmiut, who listened to the AGM live on the Taqramiut Nipingat Inc. radio network, to make sure their kids go to school.