September 29, 2006

Ottawa dumps Anawak

“This position has been folded into the department.”

JANE GEORGE

Jack Anawak, Canada’s erstwhile circumpolar ambassador, talking to a gathering in Oslo, Norway earlier this month. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CANADIAN EMBASSY, NORWAY).

Canada’s Tory government has dumped Jack Iyerak Anawak, a former Liberal MP, from his job as Canada’s Arctic ambassador, and is eliminating the position from the Foreign Affairs department.

Anawak, appointed in December, 2003 by Jean Chrétien’s regime, was dismissed this past Friday, on Sept. 22.

As the federal government’s senior Arctic civil servant, Anawak represented Canada at meetings of the eight-nation Arctic Council.

Circumpolar affairs will now become part of the “bureaucratic, day-to-day running of the department,” said Dan Dugas, director of communications at Foreign Affairs.

This means a career bureaucrat will do the work formerly done by an Arctic ambassador.

“This position has been folded into the department,” Dugas said earlier this week in a telephone interview. “It’s important work and the department will assume it as part of the daily running of Canada. Someone will be responsible for those activities, but not at the ambassador level.”

Ambassadors are appointed by order-in-council, through the cabinet, and deemed to serve at pleasure, Dugas said. The government periodically reviews its appointments and how to best use its resources, and Dugas said “this is the case here.”

Anawak held the job for nearly three years. But observers at circumpolar events say his dismissal is no surprise.

Anawak replaced Mary May Simon, Canada’s first circumpolar ambassador. Simon held the job between 1994 and 2003.

Anawak’s appointment pleased groups such as the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, who feared the federal government might dilute the status of the job by simply giving it to the ambassador responsible for whatever country happens to be chairing the Arctic Council.

In Anawak’s first stint as a federal civil servant, Jean Chrétien’s cabinet appointed him as Interim Commissioner of Nunavut, heading the transition team that hired Nunavut’s first group of senior civil servants and prepared Nunavut’s first budget.

Anawak held that job, which he took shortly after resigning as Liberal MP for Nunavut, between April 15, 1997 and January of 1999.

In early January of 1999, he quit the interim commissioner’s job to contest the Rankin Inlet North seat in Nunavut’s first general election.

Though Anawak was highly touted for the Nunavut premier’s job, MLAs rejected Anawak and turned to the young Paul Okalik, but still chose Anawak to serve in Nunavut’s first cabinet. At various times he served as minister of justice, minister of community government and transportation, and minister of culture, language, elders and youth.

After numerous clashes, Okalik stripped Anawak of all cabinet portfolios in the midst of a dispute over moving public works jobs from Rankin Inlet to Baker Lake.

 

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