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Nunatsiaq News: June 7, 1996

The news in Nunavut this week:

Special feature:

Jumbo jet stranded in Iqaluit: A feature story by Jason van Rassel

Columns


Letters to the Editor:


Editorial


MLA warns GNWT may impose "empowerment"

On June 15, the territorial cabinet will decide how to carry out its community "empowerment" plans.

JIM BELL
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-Get ready.

The GNWT wants you to become "empowered."

And according to some, they want you to become "empowered" whether you want to be or not.

On June 15, the NWT's eight cabinet ministers will likely sit down to look at a major submission on two of the GNWT's most highly bragged about policies: community "empowerment" and community "wellness."

Community "empowerment" is the current government's new term for what used to be called the "community transfer initiative"-the turnover of GNWT responsibilities to municipal governments.

Community "wellness" is the term the GNWT uses to describe a variety of efforts aimed at putting health and social service functions together under one department, and turning those responsibilities over to communities.

Confidential cabinet documents obtained by Nunatsiaq News this week show that top Yellowknife bureaucrats are proposing to hack the GNWT's headquarters and regional staff down to the bone in preparation for those transfers.

Real power?

Depending on how you look at it, it's either a bold attempt to give real power and responsibility to ordinary people in the communities-or a sneaky plan to impose cuts in essential services in a way that shifts the blame from the GNWT to its municipal governments.

Already, some people are saying that Yellowknife plans to force community "empowerment" down the throats of community governments whether they want it or not-which is not how GNWT politicians have been selling the idea in their public statements.

"Community empowerment is fluff"

"I'm of the opinion that community empowerment is a program that, over time, will be forced on communities," Yellowknife Centre MLA Jake Ootes said in the legislative assembly last week.

"It seems that eventually we will have only a skeleton public service to support those communities that do not want to run their own services. It is my opinion that community empowerment is fluff, with an implementation plan that has not been thoroughly thought out."

Under questioning from Ootes, Premier Don Morin denied that the GNWT plans to force communities into doing what they don't want to do. "I'm sure and I'm confident that I can say today that the vast majority of our communities will embrace community empowerment," Morin said.


I'm of the opinion that community empowerment is a program that, over time, will be forced on communities." - Yellowknife Centre MLA Jake Ootes


Cutbacks in regional staff

But he also said that the GNWT's regional staff will be sharply cut back, implying that communities-whether they want to or not-will be forced to take on responsibilities now handled mostly by the GNWT's regional officials.

"Moving ahead and moving towards April 1, 1999, moving ahead even next year, there's no doubt in my mind that we are not going to have the same level of civil servants that we have today," Morin said.

"We have to reduce those numbers, we no longer can afford it. So whether you have community empowerment or if we decide not to have it, you will have fewer civil servants serving the program delivery portion of this government."

Municipalities will replace regional officials

At the same time, the GNWT will ask community governments to do what GNWT's regional employees used to do.

That will include the transfer of nearly all GNWT assets to community governments-as well as the responsibility for maintaining them.

And how will communities get the expert technical advice they'll lose when the GNWT dumps those head office and regional employees?

The GNWT says they'll be on their own: "Communities would be able to acquire these services on their own, assuming that the consolidation and elimination of duplication at the local level will achieve the savings necessary," the cabinet document says.

What will they do?

That means communities will have three choices if they want expert advice from engineers, planners, financial analysts, alcohol and drug addiction specialists and others.

They can either hire those people themselves, contract private businesses to provide the services or band together with other community governments in their regions through "a co-operative arrangement."

In defense of the GNWT's approach, Morin reminded MLAs that communities have been demanding more power for years.

And now the GNWT is ready to give it to them-along with block funding agreements that give municipalities more freedom than they've ever had before to make their own spending decisions.

"Every community leader I've talked to, many, many years in the past, has always said that they want the responsibility and they want to make the decisions at the community level," Morin said.

"I would be very surprised to see communities that would not move ahead with this priority of this government, and embrace it with great enthusiasm."

And Morin said the GNWT recognizes that some communities are better prepared than others to accept community empowerment.


"Every community leader I've talked to, many, many years in the past, has always said that they want the responsibility and they want to make the decisions at the community level." - Premier Don Morin


Plan to be decided June 15

A May 6 progress report prepared by a group of bureaucrats working on the community level says the cabinet will look at a major submission on community empowerment on June 15.

The list of "mandated items" that the GNWT wants to turn over to communities includes the following: Community justice; income support reform; community wellness: including alcohol and drug counselling and treatment, early intervention, family support; education-the parts that community education councils are responsible for; local economic development; and municipal services.

Includes welfare reform and justice

That means that other, previously unrelated GNWT policies, like community wellness, welfare reform and experimentation with community-controlled justice systems, will be combined with community empowerment.

Right now, bureaucrats are thinking about combining their community empowerment work with their community wellness work to produce a unified submission to cabinet on June 15, according to one document that Nunatsiaq News has obtained.

That means that the Department of Municipal Affairs-which is now heading up the empowerment project-would have to work with nearly all other government departments to ensure smooth transfers.

Whatever the GNWT decides after June 15, it's likely to bring sweeping changes to the way community residents get a variety of government services-including social assistance, social housing, health services, alcohol and drug counselling, and job training.

Anything left to decentralize?

And what does it mean for Nunavut?

It may mean that the Nunavut Implementation Commission will have to revise it's decentralization model for Nunavut.

That's because if the GNWT's headquarters and regional staff are reduced to skeletons, there may be little left to decentralize.

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Idlout urged to become like an inukshuk for his people

Bishop Idlout consecrated and adored

TODD PHILLIPS
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-The sun shone through the glass roof of St. Jude's Cathedral in Iqaluit Sunday as the first Inuk bishop in Canada was consecrated.

Paul Idlout, 62, became the first Inuk to hold such a high position in a Canadian church. Idlout was ordained as priest in 1990, and before that served many years as a special constable in the RCMP.

One woman who remembers Idlout when he was policing in Igloolik, expressed her joy that he had made it so far. She said she remembered when Idlout had problems of his own, and was glad to see he was able to overcome them.

More than 300 people packed the cathedral to take part in the Inuktitut and English ordination ceremony that went for almost three hours.

Idlout's wife Abigail sat near the front of the cathedral and wiped away tears throughout the service. After he was officially named bishop, she left her seat and hugged her husband.

Former bishop would be happy

Donald Marsh, a former bishop of the Arctic, had always hoped to see an Inuk in that post, Reverend Roger Briggs told the congregation.

"He prayed that one day soon there would be an Inuk bishop. That day is here. Let us praise God," Briggs said in a brief speech. Briggs replaced Rev. Mike Gardener, who retired earlier this year.

In his speech, Briggs compared Idlout to Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, saying he too was a little man, but was a giant for his people.

"Today another little man becomes bishop," Briggs said. "We pray that you will become like an inukshuk for us."

Gifts and smiles

After being ordained bishop, Idlout was given a bishop's ring, shepherd's crook and stole.

Then Inuit gave Idlout gifts of their own that were closer to Inuit traditions than Anglican ones. They gave him a pair of caribou skin kamiks, a warm hat, and a stole made of caribou skin and beads.

Idlout was also given a Toronto Maple Leafs watch he was urged to wear when he visits communities.

Idlout embraced and shook hands with everyone leaving the church at the end of the service. Many were beaming with pride, and passed on their congratulatory messages to him.

Arreak edged out

Originally from Pond Inlet, Idlout was working in Cape Dorset.


Today another little man becomes bishop...We pray that you will become like an inukshuk for us." -- Reverend Roger Briggs, in a speech praising Paul Idlout


Idlout is now expected to travel over much of the Arctic diocese, which includes the Northwest Territories and parts of northern Quebec. It's the world's largest Anglican diocese in geographical area.

Church officials estimate that about 75 per cent of Inuit in the Arctic diocese are Anglican.

Delegates at last week's Anglican synod picked Idlout over Benjamin Arreak. But it took 29 rounds of voting before enough delegates gave their support to Idlout.

In most rounds of voting, the clergy voted in favor of Idlout while the lay members of the synod supported Arreak. It was the third time Arreak has run for the position of bishop.

Arreak was one of six Anglican clergy who were sitting on the stage at the front of the church during Idlout's ordination ceremony. Also there was Canon Abeli Napartuk, of Puvirnituq, who was in the running for the bishop's job, but lost out in early rounds of voting.

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Ottawa drops charges against whale hunters

To see how our circumpolar neighbours in Alaska hunt bowhead whales,follow this link-- to read about whaling around the world,follow this link.

JASON van RASSEL
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-Simeonie Qaunaq says he's glad he can just be a hunter again.

For almost two years, Qaunaq, 58, and two other men from Igloolik awaited their day in court after being charged by federal fisheries officials for illegally hunting a bowhead whale.

Last Thursday, just two weeks before the men were due to stand trial, Inuit leaders from across Nunavut packed an Iqaluit courtroom to hear a federal Crown attorney enter a stay of proceedings in the case against Qaunaq, his son Levi, and his brother-in-law, Esa Kripanik.

During the 21 months leading up to Thursday's hearing, Qaunaq said through an interpreter that the charges often weighed heavily upon him, and it was all he would think about in the days leading up to each court appearance.

Now that the charges against him have been dropped, Qaunaq says he can now enjoy hunting without any worries.

Victory for land claim

And while the ruling may simply mean the end of a stressful ordeal for Qaunaq, for the Inuit leaders in the courtroom, the ruling has larger, more political implications: it was an important victory for the Nunavut land claim agreement, which gives Inuit wide-ranging aboriginal hunting and trapping rights throughout Nunavut.

"I think people are holding back tears today," NTI president Jose Kusugak said outside the courtroom. "It does say an awful lot about the strength of the claim."

"Today is a happy day for Inuit," Kitikmeot Inuit Association president Charlie Evalik said.

Evalik, who came from Cambridge Bay for the hearing, said it was important for Inuit from all of Nunavut's regions to show their support.

"I think it's very important to be here in person, to make sure the Nunavut land claim is being implemented as it should be," Evalik said.

Baffin Region Inuit Association president Blandina Tulugarjuk said the decision is also a victory for Inuit traditional knowledge.

"With the way the whale was harvested, it's a form of Inuit knowledge and tradition being formally recognized by the courts," she said.


"I think it's very important to be here in person, to make sure the Nunavut land claim is being implemented as it should be."

- Charlie Evalik, president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association

Trial "not in the public interest"

In his statement to the court, Crown attorney Sandy MacDonald explained why the charges were being stayed.

"Although the charges were laid in the spirit of the Nunavut land claim agreement, it became obvious that this was perceived as a challenge to aboriginal rights," he said.

"Having regard for the components of the issues raised, the public expenditure in weeks of litigation, the previous conduct of the Inuit hunters and the sentence that may be imposed... it would not be in the public interest to continue the prosecution," he added. MacDonald later said he had no further comment.

Whale was sick, hunter says

For his part, Qaunaq said through an interpreter that he is surprised the case attracted so much interest from federal authorities and the media.

On Sept. 19, 1994, the three men were hunting walrus and seal at the edge of an ice floe near Igloolik when they saw the whale surface. In an account of the hunt given by Qaunaq's wife Suzie, she said the men determined that the whale was sick. They shot the whale with a walrus hunting rifle, and then speared it with a harpoon fashioned from a paddle and a snow knife.

After returning to Igloolik, word of the kill spread around the community and attracted the attention of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which sent investigators to Igloolik to question the men.

At the time, Nunatsiaq News reported that the bowhead whale was killed to fulfill the dying wish of respected Igloolik elder Noah Piugaattuk.

But Suzie Qaunaq, who is Piugaattuk's daughter, said that the hunters didn't know that he had gone on community radio talking about his desire to taste maqtaq before he died.

She said, however, that she believes that having a taste of maqtaq prolonged her father's life. At the time he was given a taste of it, he was hardly eating, and wasn't even able to drink much water, she told reporters at the news conference.

Charged in January, 1995

In January, 1995, the hunters were charged under federal fisheries regulations for illegally harvesting a bowhead whale. At the time, there was a total ban on hunting bowhead whales in the waters of the eastern Arctic.

Since then, Inuit in Nunavut have been given permission to hunt one bowhead whale in 1996. Last February, federal Fisheries Minister Fred Mifflin gave the official go-ahead by approving the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board's decision to hold a hunt. The hunt will be held this summer, in Repulse Bay.

Although the land claim gives Inuit wide-ranging hunting and trapping rights, it can place restrictions on hunting if there is a need for conservation. The eastern Arctic bowhead population was decimated in the early part of this century by European whalers, but the current population is the subject of much debate.


"I think people are holding back tears today." - Jose Kusugak, moments after the charges were dropped against Igloolik whale hunters


An act of conservation

However, Kusugak said the whale killed by Qaunaq and his companions was sick and was going to die anyway, so harvesting it amounted to an act of conservation.

"They didn't do this to break the law," he said, adding later, "I think Mr. Qaunaq did an incredible assessment, a value judgment in deciding to harvest this animal, because otherwise it wouldn't have been usable to Inuit."

After the whale was killed, it was butchered and its maqtaq distributed to communities throughout Nunavut.

"If there's any humor in it, you could say that the evidence has been eaten," Kusugak joked.

(With files from Todd Phillips.)

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Let this be a lesson for youth, Kovic says

Kovic clashes with Kusugak over bowhead whale issue

TODD PHILLIPS
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-Like a whale surfacing for air, controversy keeps popping up for Ben Kovic, the chairman of Nunavut's wildlife management board.

Last week, Inuit leaders expressed their glee when a federal Crown attorney dropped charges against three Igloolik men charged with illegally hunting a bowhead whale in 1994.

But Kovic, who is the chairman of the organization responsible for co-managing Nunavut's wildlife stocks, tempered their enthusiasm with a message about responsible harvesting.

At a news conference in the offices of Nunavut Tunngavik last Thursday, Kovic said he hopes the news that the charges were dropped doesn't send a message to people, particularly youth, that it's open season on Nunavut's wildlife stocks.

"Even though we have learned through this process, our advice is that this process is not the right way," Kovic said. "There is a better way to harvest any species in Nunavut."

Was it the right way?

But the man sitting next to Kovic took exception to his characterization of the Igloolik whale hunt as not being the right way to do it.

Jose Kusugak, president of Nunavut Tunngavik, said he believes that the three hunters didn't knowingly break the law. Kusugak said he thinks the hunters did the right thing when they killed a whale that appeared to be sick.

"There are some times, once in a long while, and this happens to be one, a right decision by somebody that has that kind of background," Kusugak said. "In this case there was no sense of malicious intent of law-breaking. And it was the right decision."

Kovic walked out

Shortly after Kusugak made his comments, Kovic walked out of the news conference.

"I hope people in that news conference noticed I walked out when Jose rebutted my comments," Kovic said this week. "That's why I walked out."

Kovic said that he is going to try to educate people about conservation and the management of wildlife resources. But he says it's up to all Inuit organizations to help with that job-not just the NWMB.

"Is it all my job? I don't think so," Kovic said. "It's up to the Inuit organizations, and NTI to tell the beneficiaries that this is not the way to do things."

Kovic said he hopes that BRIA and NTI will support his efforts to help educate all people in Nunavut about hunting and conservation stocks.

Kovic has also been at the centre of a recent dispute between people in Coral Harbour and Repulse Bay over where this summer's bowhead whale hunt should be held.

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NTI close to infrastructure deal with Ottawa

Nunavut's four Inuit birthright corporations will build and manage the construction of Nunavut's new office buildings and staff houses, but Nunavut Tunngavik and federal government officials say all other Nunavut companies -- Inuit and non-Inuit -- will get a chance to bid on sub-contracts.

JIM BELL
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-It looks like Nunavut's four Inuit-owned birthright development corporations will get to build and manage Nunavut's infrastructure.

After a week-long meeting in Iqaluit that ended last Friday, officials from Nunavut Tunngavik and the federal departments of Indian Affairs and Public Works emerged to say they're close to a deal on how to manage the construction of Nunavut's infrastructure.

Úquot;The Inuit birthright corporations-which are 100 per cent Inuit-owned-will be the owners, investors and developers of Nunavut's infrastructure,Úquot; NTI president Jose Kusugak said.

Nunavut's four Úquot;birthrightÚquot; corporations are: the Nunasi Corporation, which has a Nunavut-wide mandate; the Baffin region's Qikiqtaaluk Corporation; the Keewatin region's Sakku Corporation, and the Kitikmeot region's Kitikmeot Corporation.

In theory, each of those companies is owned by Inuit beneficiaries of the Nunavut land claim agreement. And each has a close relationship with Nunavut Tunngavik and its three regional Inuit associations.

Nunasi and the three regional corporations have recently formed a company called Nunavut Construction, which oversaw the construction of Iqaluit's new Pairnivik building.

Kusugak said Nunavut Construction could likely turn out to be the body that takes the lead role in infrastructure development on behalf of Inuit.

Everyone will get a chance

But he said that NTI's agreement with Ottawa, expected to be unveiled soon, will specify that all Nunavut companies -- Inuit and non-Inuit -- must get a chance to compete for sub-contracts in infrastructure development.

Úquot;If it was any different than that this meeting would never have happened,Úquot; Kusugak said. Úquot;The federal government would never have entered into it.Úquot;

Kusugak said Ottawa insisted that in the agreement between NTI and Public Works Canada, all Nunavut companies should get a chance to bid for work on Nunavut infrastructure development.

And Kusugak said that provision ought to satisfy the GNWT, whose officials have accused NTI and Ottawa of attempting to direct all infrastructure contracts to Nunavut's birthright corporations, and to shut out everyone else.

To guide the process, Kusugak said, NTI and the federal government are now working on a list of Úquot;principles.Úquot;

Although those principles are still in draft form, and aren't ready to be released, Kusugak said they'll include statements to the effect that all Inuit and non-Inuit companies in Nunavut should be able to compete for contracts.

But those principles will also say that contracts should be awarded in accordance with Article 24 of the Nunavut land claim agreement, and that one of the goals will be the development of Nunavut's economy.

Wants to sit down with Goo Arlooktoo

As for Nunavut Tunngavik's strained relations with the GNWT, Kusugak said he and John Amagoalik, the chair of the Nunavut Implementation commission, want to sit down with the NWT's Public Works Minister Goo Arlooktoo, to work out their differences.

Arlooktoo, whose government is enraged at being cut out of Nunavut infrastructure development by NTI and Ottawa, recently accused DIAND of playing Úquot;divide and conquer politics.Úquot;

But Kusugak said he thinks that issue can now be resolved, since it's clear that private Inuit and non-Inuit businesses won't be cut out of the infrastructure process.

Úquot;Of course, we'll sometimes have disagreements,Úquot; Kusugak said. Úquot;But after all, we are adults and professionals.Úquot;

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GNWT starts risky mortage corporation

Some MLAs are complaining that the GNWT is using money from the sale of staff housing to help pay for the creation of a new Mortgage Investment Corporation.

Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-The GNWT will press ahead with its plans to create a mortgage and investment corporation after approving $5 million in start up money in the legislative assembly last week.

But some MLAs questioned just where the money is coming from, and whether getting into the mortgage business is a wise idea for the cash-strapped government.

The GNWT wants to set up the Mortgage and Investment Corporation to lend NWT residents money to buy homes. Finance Minister John Todd says the MIC is necessary because Canada's chartered banks don't serve people in the small communities of the NWT.

Need stakeholders dough

Although the MIC will get $5 million in start-up money from the GNWT, it will work independently from the government, with the rest of its funding coming from private investors, Todd said.

"Assuming we can find the other stakeholder investors of $15 million to start with, we will be a 20 to 25 per cent shareholder in this company on the initial basis," he said in the legislature. "We'll be just like a tenant, or bridge financing, if you want; another alternative to the banks."

Todd conceded that it's a bold assumption, but assured MLAs that the GNWT won't spend the $5 million unless those investors put their money forward, too.

"If we're successful, and I've said, and I'll go public again, that this is a bold and somewhat risky venture but I've, hopefully, assured most of the MLAs that we won't spend the money without a clear commitment from external financial stakeholders," he said. But some MLAs said the MIC is tied to the GNWT's policy of selling its staff housing, because the government's $5 million share of the MIC will be financed with money from housing sales.

Despite where the money is coming from, the two strategies aren't connected, Todd said.

"The selling of the staff housing is an issue that came up during the budget deficit elimination strategy as an overall policy of this government, but has no bearing on the mortgage investment corporation which we started to develop over a year and a half ago."

Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco was unconvinced, however, and said the chartered banks are interested in giving mortgages to people in small communities.

"The sale of the staff housing is part and parcel of the MIC. For example, here we are, the government of the Northwest Territories, entering the private market place where there are commercial lenders in place," he said.

But Mackenzie Delta MLA David Krutko disagreed with Picco, and said the MIC is a good investment to address the North's severe housing shortage.

"We have something like 3,000 houses needed because of the problem we have in housing in the North, and now we finally have a mechanism where the government is going to put in a five-to-one ratio, where, for every $5 we get, we put $1 in. I mean, you can't ask for a better deal than that," he said.

"Sure, Mr. Picco can say, well, these banks will go in, out and everywhere else. I've been talking to the banks myself. I have asked them if they could drive two hours from Inuvik to McPherson twice a month and have someone come in to help people with their pensions, help them out with their convenience cards and set up things like that. They can't do it and they won't do it."

Iqaluit residents probably have an easier time attracting the attention of banks because there are two in town, Todd said.

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"The bogeyman" haunts legislative assembly

Picco questions GNWT financial practices

Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-Finance Minister John Todd isn't afraid of "the bogeyman who haunts the legislative assembly to criticize the way MLAs run their government.

Todd called Canada's auditor general "the bogeyman" in the assembly last week.

Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco was questioning Todd about why the Worker's Compensation Board's investments weren't doing as well as they were in previous years.

Picco said that in 1993, the income from investment holdings was $13.6 million. But he said that dropped to only $4.8 million in 1994.

Todd explained that like many investments, they do better some years and worse in others.

Financial rules followed?

But Picco then questioned why those investment results weren't presented to members of the legislative assembly as is required under the Financial Administration Act.

Picco said that shortcoming was noted by Canada's auditor-general in a report that looked at some of the financial practices of the GNWT.

"The Auditor-General says lots of things, but that doesn't necessarily mean to say we agree with him," Todd replied to Picco.

Picco continued his line of questioning and then Todd replied. "Mr. Speaker, I have just been advised by Mr. Hamilton that this report by the Auditor General-this bogeyman who comes out once a year-does go to the Government Operations committee for review and I believe Mr. Picco is on that committee, so he will have the opportunity to fully review it and ask these very demanding questions that he is asking at the present time."

Picco then defended the auditor general, and other bogeymen. "Mr. Speaker, there are many bogeymen in the world. I am sure the auditor general for Canada doesn't like to be called the bogeyman," Picco said.

Todd countered that everyone has the right to express an opinion about what they think of the auditor-general. He also assured Picco that his government would try to adhere to the rules outlined in the Financial Administration Act.

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Unexpected Arctic stop for Brits, Yanks

JASON van RASSEL
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-About 400 British and American travellers-including some celebrities-were expecting to walk off the plane in balmy Los Angeles this weekend but ended up cooling their heels in the Arctic instead.

A Virgin Atlantic Airlines 747 en route to Los Angeles from London had to land in Iqaluit Friday afternoon after a passenger suffered a heart attack about four hours into the flight.

But a mishap on the ground turned what should have been a short stop into a 15-hour delay while the airline scrambled to charter two jets to pick up the stranded passengers.

Prince Michael of Kent, a member of the British Royal Family, and British pop star Gary Barlow were among the 397 passengers and crew stranded in Iqaluit. Now a solo artist, Barlow was a member of the defunct British pop band Take That.

But last Friday, Barlow was just like everyone else-riding a school bus to the curling rink after local officials had to evacuate the jumbo jet.

Prince Michael fared better, however: he had an RCMP escort and was able to catch a scheduled flight out of Iqaluit later that afternoon.

Fuel spill

The delay was caused when one of the jumbo jet's engines hit a fuel pump on the tarmac, causing a fuel spill and damaging the engine. Howard Rothenstein, an investment banker from Carmel, California, said he had a great view of the mishap.

Firefighters responded quickly by pouring foam onto the spill, but it still caused tense moments. Rothenstein said he was alarmed that the passengers were kept on the plane while fire crews worked nearby.

"Ninety per cent of the passengers had no idea what was going on but I was seeing this happening, and at the same time I was quite worried that a spark or something could ignite the gasoline," Rothenstein said.

The blanket people

Once the passengers were off the plane safely, few were properly dressed for the 3 C temperatures. Some brave souls ventured out of the curling rink and onto the streets, many protecting themselves from the stiff breeze by wrapping themselves up in brightly-colored airline blankets.

"We're all wearing the latest fashions from Virgin," joked London resident Alison Siviter, as she walked down the street with two other blanket-clad passengers.

Londoner David Hedges speculated that the town's residents may have mistaken the blankets for the latest fashion trend from England.

"Everyone's been nice, but they look at us a little funny," he said. "I think it's our attire."

Bingo and Valium

Back at the curling rink, local volunteers kept the passengers warm and fed with blankets, coffee and sandwiches. A doctor from Baffin Regional Hospital tended to people who were without their medication and calmed frayed nerves by handing out Valium to some.

Iqaluit resident Bob Hanson kept the passengers entertained with a game of bingo, and local groups donated souvenirs to give away as prizes.

As the delay dragged on, emergency measures staff ordered dozens of pizzas and portions of take-out chicken to feed the passengers. Hotels, dormitories and private homeowners provided tired passengers with a proper bed to sleep in.

Despite being dressed in shorts and a light windbreaker, Californian Gary Rohr declared that he was "very comfortable" and praised the townspeople for their hospitality.

"Everybody's been very pleasant," he said. "We're amazed how quickly they put this together."

Finally, at about midnight, officials began rounding up the passengers for the trip back to the airport: Virgin had managed to charter two jets to pick them up.

Off to...New York?

But there was one snag: the planes would only take the passengers as far as New York City. But despite not leaving until about 3 a.m. and still facing the prospect of spending untold hours in New York trying to catch a connecting flight to Los Angeles, many of the passengers were cheery to the end, thanking local volunteers and waving goodbye as they headed to the airport.

The GNWT's emergency measures coordinator, Mike Ferris, praised everyone in Iqaluit who helped make the delay tolerable for the passengers by feeding them, giving them a place to rest, and keeping track of them.

"The people we talked to were quite impressed with how much hospitality they encountered," he added.

Airline responded quickly

Ferris also praised the passengers and the airline, Virgin Atlantic. "They were obviously disappointed with how the flight was delayed, but they were also very supportive and they did what we asked them to," he said of the passengers.

Virgin has offered to pay for the cost of feeding and lodging the passengers while they were here, Ferris said.

"We would have done it anyway-people needed to be looked after-but the airline stepped in and that was a nice touch."

Over the weekend, technicians repaired the jumbo jet's engine and it left Iqaluit Monday morning.

The heart attack victim-an American man-checked out of Baffin Regional hospital Monday. He had been listed in stable condition since being admitted Friday.

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My Little Corner of Canada

The names of things to come

Over the past several years, a process of renaming communities has taken place in the Canadian Arctic.

This is all part of the decolonization of the North. It is understandable that the process has been slow. We must give people enough time to adjust.

This Little Corner thinks it is time to expand this renaming to other place names and other things that get names attached to them. Like the W. G. Brown Building in Iqaluit. Who knows or who cares who W. G. Brown was? (He was a Deputy Commissioner decades ago).

And who was Sylvia Grinnell? (Some lady in the court of the King of England in the 1700s or 1800s) While these may have been fine citizens of their times, they are absolutely irrelevant to the local population.

Looking at the map of Nunavut, one can see many places with names like Prince Charles Island, Melville Peninsula, Cornwallis Island, King William Island, Queen Maud Gulf, Rowley Island, etc., etc.

Surely, we can do better. I am not suggesting a wholesale change to place names, but we need to change a lot of them to make them more relevant to our own people and our history.

Instead of the Sylvia Grinnell River, we can have the Simonie Alainga River. Has a nice ring to it.

As for Martin Frobisher, the town of Iqaluit dropped his name some years ago. But the bay still bears his name. I would prefer that the bay be renamed as well and Mr. Frobisher's name be restricted to the small island where he mined his fool's gold.

(Editor's note: Perhaps the Brown building can be renamed "The John Amagoalik Centre.")

This corner quotes:

"They boycotted seal skins. Now they're getting their own medicine."

- CBC Radio morning show host Jonah Kelly referring to the ban of English beef because of mad cow disease.
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Ipellie's SHADOW

The Shadow meets the Pope

by Alootook Ipellie

This little brain thrust of mine had me laughing moments after I woke up the other morning.

I had another memorable dream. It was about-of all people in this minute world we humans occupy today-His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. And this is the scenario:

I find myself walking up the stairs beside His Holiness, to my humble house on top of the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. His Holiness had his entourage with him as he always does on his world travels.

The Pope was walking on my right when I stepped to my right to avoid stepping on one of the many ridges along the way to my house. In the same instance, I bumped against His Holiness and almost sent him flying down one of the many cliffs that jut off the most famous mountain in the world.

What a rush as I reacted like that hero of my long-forgotten comic books, the Flash. I managed to grab his pure white robe before he went off to Kingdom Come.

"Sorry about that, your Holiness," I said, quite shaken.

The pontiff mumbled something about forgiveness, but I didn't make it out clearly enough, since my mind sort of went blank at the enormity of the moment that I had just about sent our most sacred saint over the cliff...

With this little excitement out of the way, we made our way to my house, which turned out to be a huge mansion, suitable for any royalty, including the monarchs who presently occupy Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

I had the good fortune to have invited His Holiness for a state dinner when he was making one of his pilgrimages to the Himalayas for the very first time.

And what, you ask, was on the menu this holy day? Muktuk, of course. Or as we say in Inuktitut, "maktaaq."

What merriment we created as we devoured hundreds of pounds of the delicious maktaaq. I have never felt so good to give what I have to a holy man like the present pontiff.

Nevertheless, for some reason, Pope John Paul II has always been one of my favorite people in this world, even though I am not a religious man. There is something about the pontiff that touches the hearts of so many people in this humble earth we call home.

I think, in the back of my mind, I always remember my dear grandfather, Inutsiaq, whenever I have occasion to see the pontiff on the telly, kissing the ground whenever he gets off a plane in some part of the world he happens to be visiting.

Some years ago, the pontiff touched down in Ottawa and his Popemobile passed by a huge crowd on the side of Wellington Street on his way to the Lebreton Flats where he was to appear before a throng who had come from all parts of Canada.

The Popemobile was going at a good 60-70 kilometres an hour. I barely had a moment to even see his face. I did not go where he had gone, but I could well see the masses down on the Flats from my vantage point. And at that moment, I thought, "It would be such a thrill to have a private audience with the man himself."

I suppose in a way, I finally had a private audience with Pope John Paul II, albeit in that particular dream.

I love dreaming. And dear readers, His Holiness does make a cameo appearance in my novel, "Akavik, the Manchurian David Bowie." One of these days, if we are all lucky, you will get to read about him more, if and when the novel ever hits the book stores in the not-too-distant-future.

In the meantime, I look forward to my next dream about the good ol' pontiff of our times.

Sweet dreams to you, too.

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Letter to the Editor

Airline passengers praise hospitality

My wife and I were amongst the 400 passengers on board Virgin Flight 7, May 31, 1996 en route to Los Angeles, which made an emergency landing in Iqaluit to remove an ill passenger.

The ensuing accident and damage to the number four engine of our 747-400 caused us to spend approximately 16 hours within your community.

We would like to thank all the wonderful residents of Iqaluit who gave so freely of their own time to make our stay as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. The community spirit which they displayed was truly outstanding and will long be remembered by my wife and myself.

This was my second emergency visit to Iqaluit the first being to "Frobisher Bay" in 1959 on board a TWA 1649A Constellation. At that time we only spent one hour and 15 minutes at the airport. However on this occasion, we were able to learn much about your community and experience some of the wonderful hospitality and generosity of the residents.

Again, we would like to thank all the residents who were responsible for making our stop over safe, pleasant and most agreeable.

We are sending a copy of this letter to the Transportation Minister of Canada in the hope your community will receive some appropriate recognition from Ottawa.

Peter and Carol Greenhalgh
Marina del Rey, California

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Editorial

A big test for NTI

Nunavut Tunngavik has won the battle.

But what will NTI now do with the ground it's won from the GNWT?

Through hard work and persistent lobbying, and by taking advantage of the GNWT's bumbling leadership, NTI has won the right to control how Nunavut's infrastructure is built, in a partnership with the federal government.

Officials with Nunavut's Inuit land claim organization now appear to be well on their way to striking a deal with Ottawa that will, in theory, ensure that Inuit workers and businesses will get to build Nunavut to the greatest extent possible.

The Nunasi Corporation and the three regional birthright development corporations are owned 100 per cent by Inuit beneficiaries-and they will manage all infrastructure development.

NTI President Jose Kusugak and the organization's director of economic development, Tagak Curley, deserve a lot of praise for the work they've done to make sure Nunavut's Inuit get the economic opportunities they deserve.

Like a lot of other people in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, they recognized that many of the GNWT's economic policies-such as the business incentive policy, known as the BIP, the cabinet's negotiated contract guidelines, and others-were not producing what the territorial government promised, especially in the area of Inuit employment.

Unlike many others, they also had the courage to speak out about it. At no time was that more evident than last fall, when they exposed the stench of favouritism and questionable conduct that hung around the GNWT's $90 million eastern Arctic fuel supply contract, which was eventually awarded to the Northern Transportation Company Limited.

It may well be that it was the GNWT's woeful performance on that issue, as well as the GNWT's narrow interpretation of its obligations under Article 24 of the Nunavut land claim agreement, that persuaded Ottawa not to let them handle the construction of Nunavut's infrastructure.

In addition to his obligations to aboriginal people, Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin also possesses important obligations to the Canadian public. So it's perfectly understandable that Irwin and other federal officials are reluctant to entrust the GNWT's bumblers with more Canadian taxpayers' money.

As we've said, there's no doubt that Nunavut Tunngavik and its allies in Nunavut's four Inuit birthright development corporations have won a major victory over the GNWT.

But they will soon face a bigger test-doing a better job than the GNWT has ever done in hiring Inuit workers and giving sub-contracts to private Inuit companies.

There's no doubt that the GNWT, and many private business people-Inuit and non-Inuit-will be scrutinizing the performance of NTI and the birthright development corporations on that issue.

In Iqaluit, many non-Inuit businesses have been quietly grumbling that if the GNWT's business incentive policy had been applied to the construction of the Parnaivik building, the contractor would have had to pay a penalty to punish them for the low numbers of Inuit who worked on the project.

It's clear that the public will want to see large numbers of Inuit workers and trainees on Nunavut infrastructure construction sites. And it's also clear that the meaning of Inuit "ownership," when used in connection with companies like Nunasi, Sakku, and Qikiqtaaluk, will have to be given real meaning.

Does the average Inuit hunter, seamstress, carver, or housewife really feel that they own buildings like Iqaluit's Parnaivik and others?

That's hard to tell right now.

But now the pressure has shifted, from the GNWT to NTI and its associated birthright corporations. We hope they'll be up to the challenge. JB Back to Top
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These materials are Copyright (C) 1996 Nortext Publishing Corporation (Iqaluit), and may be freely distributed throughout the Internet, or other electronic computer networks or bulletin boards, as long as this notice remains intact and the articles are reproduced in their entirety. These materials may not be reprinted for commercial publication in print or other media without the permission of the publisher.


Last updated May 3, 1996
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