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Nunatsiaq News: July 18, 1997

The news in Nunavut this week:


Letters to the Editor:


Baffin leaders ponder the future

Baffin leaders talked for many hours last weekend about the creation of Nunavut, and passed a motion saying they're opposed to a GNWT-backed plan to build a new Baffin hospital with private money.

Nunatsiaq News

PANGNIRTUNG ­ As tourists gazed at the breathtaking view of the mountains around Pangnirtung, Baffin leaders plugged away at business, hour after hour, inside Pangnirtung's hamlet office last weekend

In marathon meetings, Baffin mayors, MLAs and Inuit organization leaders hashed out concerns ranging from the loss of health care services, rapid population growth and chronic unemployment, to community empowerment, Inuit training programs and the creation of Nunavut.

About two dozen leaders from around the Baffin region attended the semi-annual leaders' meeting in Pangnirtung.

They wasted no time getting down to business Thursday evening, but the mood was soon dampened by more than the continual rainfall.

Respect for Okpik's passing

Less than an hour into the session, delegates heard the news of the death of Abe Okpik, a well-known and respected Nunavut elder.

Anne Hanson, the chair of the Baffin Regional Health Board, was one of many delegates who spoke of his contribution to modern Inuit.

"I have known Abe Okpik for many, many years," she said. "It should be known that because of Abe Okpik we have surnames. If Abe Okpik hadn't undertaken that project, we'd still have our E-5, E-7 and E-9 numbers."

In respect to Okpik's memory, leaders adjourned the meeting for the evening.

Friday's 14-hour discussion was monopolized by the looming deadline of April, 1999, and the work that must be done before the creation of Nunavut.

"A major reason for creating Nunavut was to give Inuit an opportunity politically to lead their own territory and share in job opportunities," NWT deputy premier Goo Arlooktoo told leaders.

Anawak: employment goal may not be met

Interim commissioner Jack Anawak said his goal is to have 50 per cent Inuit employment within the Nunavut government at start-up, but the millions of dollars the federal government is spending on training programs won't speed up the training process.

"These people may not complete their training by 1999 and we may not achieve the 50 per cent objective," Anawak said, adding that hiring for the Nunavut government will continue after 1999.

More than 200 Inuit have already undergone management and business training.

Arctic Bay mayor Silas Attagutsiak questioned Anawak about long-term Inuit employment within the Nunavut government. Anawak said the ultimate goal is to have an 85 per cent Inuit workforce, but added that may be unrealistic.

"Not all Inuit want to work in an office nine to five and there are some who don't want to be wage earners."

Other mayors, such as James Qillaq of Clyde River, weren't able to get assurances from Arlooktoo that Nunavut isn't going to inherit a huge portion of the estimated $80 million GWNT deficit.

The erosion of health care service in the Baffin region was also a hot topic of discussion.

Health board chair worried about new hospital

Health board chair Anne Hanson urged delegates to lobby the GNWT to fulfill its promise to construct a new regional hospital in Iqaluit.

The current hospital, which dates back to the early 1960s, lacks proper examination and treatment space. She added patients and staff also risk contracting airborne infectious diseases because of poor ventilation within the hospital.

Hanson said private investors have approached the board with offers, but she fears the repercussions of putting health care into private hands.

"The board feels strongly that health care facilities need to be owned and leased by a government or a not-for-profit body," she told the delegates. "If we were to lease from a business, essential health services would be at the mercy of private businesses who are in business to make profits."

The group passed a resolution reinforcing the board's position and calling on a working group to continue pressing the issue with the GNWT.

In all, the leaders passed 17 resolutions during the three day's of business. They'll meet again in Iqaluit in November.

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Arctic residents say farewell to the humble name-giver

Like his bibilical namesake, Abraham Okpik's legacy will last for as long as the descendants of the Inuit give life and names to their children.

Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT ­ The name of the man who named a generation is now written among those who stand at heaven's door.

Abraham Okpik, 68, better known as "Abe" to his countless friends and relatives, died in Iqaluit July 10 after a lengthy illness.

About 500 mourners bid farewell to Okpik July 15 at a funeral service inside Iqaluit's St. Jude's cathedral.

"He was always a humble man," Okpik's oldest son, Roy Inglangasuk, said this week in an interview.

"He said he felt humbled when he was with the Queen in 1970 and just as humbled when he was with an Inuit trapper on the land."

Okpik is survived by his wife, Martha Ningeok, their children, and a long chain of people stretching from Baffin Island to Alaska who consider him family.

He also leaves a reputation for treating everyone the same way, no matter who they were.

Iqaluit resident Bill Riddell, one of several people to eulogize Okpik at his funeral, said Okpik was like a father to him for the nine years during which they worked together.

"In my heart, he was my father," Riddell said.

Okpik's niece, Judy Allen, shared a letter from Okpik's family in the Western Arctic, who said Okpik's passing is a loss for everyone in the NWT.

Okpik's friends and relatives in the Western Arctic attend a memorial service for him in Inuvik last Sunday.

Like many Inuvialuit, Okpik's grandparents migrated to the Mackenzie Delta from Alaska in the late nineteenth century. Okpik was born January 12, 1929 near Kipnik, a seasonal Inuvialuit camp in the Delta.

In his youth, Okpik spent years at the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton, where he learned to speak fluently in Cree, which he learned from other aboriginal patients sent there to recover from tuberculosis.

Overcame disability

In the 1940s, Okpik suffered from a leg injury while running his dog team that left him permanently disabled.

But, Roy Inglangasuk said, Okpik overcame that disability and became a respected hunter and trapper.

Later in life, Okpik was to champion the cause of disabled people ­ first as a worker at the Apex rehabilitation centre during the 1960s, and later as a community activist and volunteer in Iqaluit.

In the 1960s and 70s, Okpik worked in Spence Bay, Frobisher Bay, Yellowknife and Ottawa. His jobs included social welfare and administrative work for Indian Affairs, interpreting for CBC during the time of the Berger inquiry, and teaching Inuktitut in Frobisher Bay.

The two herculean jobs that will get Okpik's name indelibly printed in the history books took him to nearly every community in the Northwest Territories between 1965 and 1971.

An early voice for Inuit

The first was as an appointed member of the Northwest Territories Territorial Council, the body that later evolved into the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly.

Okpik was the first Inuk to sit on the territorial council. When he received the appointment in 1965, the NWT's governing body ­ made up mostly of federally-appointed bureaucrats ­ still sat in Ottawa.

To do that job, Okpik had to endure sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with dark-suited Ottawa mandarins who rarely, if ever, actually visited the land they governed.

Simonie Michael, who in 1966 became the first Inuk to gain an elected seat on the territorial council, said the people of Iqaluit will always remember the help Okpik gave them when he worked at the Northern Affairs rehabilitation centre in Apex.

Named a whole generation

Okpik's second historic job was as head of Operation Surname between 1968 and 1970.

In those two years, he gave European-style surnames to an entire generation of Inuit, creating a legacy that will last for as long as those names are passed on from one person to another.

Until then, Inuit were legally known only by government-issued identity numbers printed on round leather disks that resembled dog tags. People living east of Gjoa Haven received "E" numbers, and people living to the west received "W" numbers.

Even when Okpik sat on the territorial council, his legal name was still "W3-554" ­ one of his first requests was to be allowed to be named like other Canadians.

To do his work on Operation Surname, Okpik visited Inuit camps and communities all across northern Quebec and the Northwest Territories. On every visit, he wrote down the names that people said they wanted for themselves.

Some Inuit had already adopted surnames for themselves, but for others, it was the first time they ever had a given name and a surname.

Roy Inglangasuk says it was a mighty task for his father ­ and that he did it with meagre resources under tough conditions.

"He didn't have a budget for it and he had to hitchike on government charters to get to the communities," Inglangasuk said.

Shortly after, Ottawa rewarded Okpik with the Order of Canada for his work on Operation Surname.

A servant of the people

After settling down in Iqaluit for good, Okpik served his adopted community in many ways.

Okpik helped organize and run Iqaluit's elder's society, served on the NWT Literacy Council, helped with disabled people, and worked as a counsellor at the Tuvvik alcohol and drug center.

As well, Iqaluit residents elected Okpik to the community's village and town councils many times.

Anyone who came into contact with Okpik discovered that he was utterly without malice or prejudice ­ which may turn out to be his greatest gift to others.  

"He said that if you could be color blind you'll have no problems with anybody," Inglangasuk. "He said there's no reason to blame the qallunaaq, because things happened the way they happened and we have to go on to work with what we have."

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Union leader Evoy dies suddenly

Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT -- Labor leader and social activist Jim Evoy died in Yellowknife this week of a massive heart attack. He was 52.

Evoy, president of the Northwest Territories Federation of Labour at the time of his death, earned a reputation among northeners for his fiesty and outspoken support of working peoples' rights.

With his flair for public speaking, coupled with a sense of theatrics, Evoy will be fondly remembered not only for his devotion to labor rights, but his commitment to human rights protection in the North. He died less than two days after staging a clothing drive in Yellowknife for MLAs who are seeking a $3,000-a-year wardrobe allowance.

"While we did not see eye to eye on a number of things, I did recognize and respect his opinion and his passion for the rights of northern workers," Premier Don Morin said in a press release. "He will be missed."

Before sitting on the Workers' Compensation Board, Evoy represented the Construction and General Workers Union and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Evoy later sat on a number of committees and commissions, including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the federal Standing Committee on Finance.

He is survived by his wife Sally Paul, and three young children.

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NTI wins fisheries court battle against Ottawa

NTI has successfully defended the Inuit right to be given special consideration in the allocation of turbot quotas in Davis Strait.

Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT ­ Nunavut Inuit emerged victorious this week in a court battle over Davis Strait turbot quotas that began May 6.

The ruling, announced July 14 in Vancouver by federal court justice Douglas Campbell, means that officials with Ottawa's Department of Fisheries and Oceans must genuinely listen to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board before deciding on turbot quotas for the Canadian side of the Davis Strait.

Justice Campbell found that a quota allocation announced April 7 by Fred Mifflin, who was then the minister of Fisheries and Oceans, was contrary to law.

Alan Braidek, NTI's legal counsel, said the court decision is major victory for NTI that could affect other disputes between Inuit and various government departments.

That's because, in his ruling, Justice Campbell provided a clear definition of the meaning of "consultation," a definition that Braidek says NTI will now try to use in disputes with other government departments.

"Consultation and consideration must mean more than simply hearing," Justice Campbell wrote in his ruling. "It must include listening as well."

Nunavut Tunngavik President Jose Kusugak said the decision is a "triumph of Inuit rights."

"I think listening is the key," Kusugak said. "When we took this matter to court it was to protect the interests of Inuit fishers and to uphold our land claims agreement. NTI will always be prepared to take action whenver and wherever the land claims agreement should prevail."

The dispute began April 7, when Mifflin had announced that the Canadian share of the Davis Strait turbot quota would increase by 1,100 tonnes.

But of that 1,100 tonnes, only 100 tonnes were allocated to the Nunavut region.

That would have meant that the Inuit proportion of the total quota would have fallen from 27 per cent in 1996 to 24 per cent in 1997.

As well, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board objected to Mifflin's allowable catch increase, saying it could threaten the health of Davis Strait fish stocks. The Board argued that Mifflin had ignored their advice.

So on May 6, NTI President Jose Kusugak instructed NTI lawyers to start court proceedings to have the decision overturned.

NTI objected to the minister's decision on three grounds:

On July 14, Justice Campbell ruled in NTI's favor, making the following key points:

Braidek said he expects that the new DFO minister will make another Davis Strait turbot quota decision in two to three weeks.

When he does that, he'll have the benefit of a new submission from the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board that's based on the recent court ruling.

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GNWT rearranges spending on language services

The GNWT will spend part of its $1.7 million language services budget for this year on a certification board for interpreter-translators.

Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT ­ Aboriginal language translators and interpreters who work for the GNWT in the future will likely have to be government certified.

But as layoff notices went out to GNWT interpreter-translators last week, Languages Commissioner Judi Tutcho wondered publicly how standards for certified language service providers would be set.

"It's going to be a huge task, and that's something the ECE needs to figure out ­ how to are you going to set this up?" said Tutcho.

Under the reorganization of the NWT Language Bureau, a portion of the $1.7 million in the GNWT's 1997-98 budget for translation and interpreting services will be distributed to aboriginal communities for language promotion and development.

Twenty aboriginal language interpreter-translators on the government payroll are expected to be affected by the phasing out of the NWT Language Bureau over the next few months.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment is transferring responsibility for translator-interpreter services to government departments, boards and agencies.

Each department may choose

That means each department must use its own budget for translation and interpreting services. It will be up to them to decide whether to hire staff interpreter-translators or private freelancers.

Tutcho, whose job involves monitoring compliance with the NWT's Official Languages Act, expressed concern last week that the privatization of interpreting and translating services could contribute to the general decline of many aboriginal languages.

She vowed to closely scrutinize the quality of work performed in the various government departments and agencies over the coming months.

"As long as there is consistency in the level of services, and the quality, that's what my main concern is," Tutcho said.

A committee of representatives from each of the nine aboriginal language groups in the Northwest Territories is supposed to convene in September to begin establishing a set of standards to which a future certification board would adhere.

Although she lauds the objective of establishing territorial-wide standards for interpreter-translators, Tutcho foresees difficulty reaching agreement.

"When you deal with a very wide range, for example the dialect differences in the east, how do you come to a consensus then?"

Language development and promotion

The native languages standards committee will also discuss how to divide up funding for language development and promotion.

Lesley Allan, assistant deputy minister with the culture and careers branch of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, said that a small languages unit within ECE's culture and heritage division will eventually be responsible for interpreter-translator certification and funding allocations.

Allan said the languages unit would maintain a registry of certified interpreter-translators, who will be held to rigorous standards, similar to other professional groups.

"What you would do is attend college, probably go out and work in the field, then apply for certification," said Allan. "It's like being a teacher. You go to university or teacher's college and you pass, but you're on probation. And you get your certificate once you've done work in the field.

"What this does is provide a follow-up on your training."

Some laid off people may be re-hired

Some of the employees affected by the dismantling of the language bureau may actually find themselves hired to work in other branches of the territorial government, Allan added.

"It's not necessarily all going to the private sector, although that is an option," she said. "Under user-say, user-pay, it'll be up to the different departments to determine."

Former language bureau employees, meanwhile, are being encouraged to seek further training. The government has offered them career planning workshops and small business management courses.

"There are number of staff who are ready and willing to set up their own businesses," Allan said.

The language bureau has always relied heavily on a bank of freelance translator-interpreters, in addition to staff. That list will be updated once the new certification process is established.

"It's to ensure that everybody that's on this list has a certain level of fluency, and that they can do interpretation and translation," said Allan. "We have national standards for French. We would have a certification board that is similar to our national standards for French. It's the same kind of thing."

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Makivik pitches First Air to Nunavut

Airline sends emissaries to Baffin leaders' summit to solicit support and investment

Nunatsiaq News

PANGNIRTUNG ­ Makivik Corporation has sweetened an offer to share its airline empire with Nunavut beneficiaries, but most Baffin Inuit leaders are still cool to the idea.

Makivik Corp. first offered Nunavut beneficiaries the chance to buy into First Air when it purchased the company in 1991. But beneficiaries rejected the proposal, claiming the asking price for shares was too high.

"That offer is being opened again for Baffin and the rest of Nunavut," Qikiqtani Inuit Association president Lazarus Arreak said this week.

Arreak, who sits on First Air's board of directors, told delegates at a semi-annual Baffin leaders' meeting in Pangnirtung last weekend, that Makivik Corp. has structured a new proposal.

"The numbers changed after the purchase of NWT Air and Ptarmigan Airways," Arreak said, though he couldn't elaborate on the specifics of the new offer.

Investment needed

In an open letter to the leaders' summit, Makivik Corp. treasurer Peter Adams made it clear that the birthright development corporation of the Nunavik Inuit will seek some sort of partnership with regional Inuit associations in Nunavut.

"It is in all our interests to be dedicated to this cause," Adams wrote.

Areeak said that a formal offer will be extended to the development arms of all three regional Inuit associations in Nunavut - Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, Sakku Corporation and Kitikmeot Corporation. Arreak said Nunasi Corporation could become involved, but only at the request of the regional bodies.

The offer comes at a time when the regional organizations have more access to financing than ever before.

First Air has grown rapidly under Makivik's ownership, swallowing up two smaller regional airlines ­ Ptarmigan Airways and NWT Air ­ to become Canada's third largest commerical air carrier. But it's rumored to be in dire need of cash to refurbish its aging fleet.

"This action was taken to continue the goal of self-reliance," Adams explained in his letter. He went on to say that the two smaller airlines would have been sold to outside interests or closed altogether, if Makivik and First Air had not stepped in.

Grateful, but still grumbling

Arreak told leaders that buying into the corporation would give Nunavut Inuit more say in the airline's business policy.

"If we're not part owners, then our concerns will not be felt as much," he said. "Unless we become shareholders in the airline, we will not have as much impact."

Broughton Island mayor Lootie Toomasie supported the idea and suggested that Nunavut land claim organizations consider the offer seriously.

But most other Baffin region mayors said they weren't interested in the offer. Instead, they wanted to know why the meal service on flights to Hall Beach are cold and why it costs $4.42 to transport one kilogram of freight from Ottawa to Igloolik.

And, although grateful, they wouldn't be wooed by the long list of First Air's good works rhymed off by Arctic communities service manager Gilbert Normandeau. Normandeau said First Air spent more than $550,000 in sponsorships in the Baffin region last year.

Even schedule changes, such as the addition of non-stop direct flights to Pond Inlet and Clyde River three times a week, didn't appear to sway delgates.

Baffin Central MLA Tommy Enuaraq, who represents Clyde River, Pangnirtung and Broughton Island, criticized First Air for continual rate increases.

Complaints common in communities

Enuaraq noted that recent scheduling changes on inter-community travel have forced him to overnight in Iqaluit when travelling from Clyde River to Pangnirtung.

"I even ran out of my travel fund by March and I had to wait to April 1 to travel to my constituency," he said. "I generally have been giving $32,000 per year to First Air and that's just essentially for the three central communities."

They're not new complaints. In fact, Normandeau said when he travelled to seven Baffin communities last year to meet with residents, high fares and flights restrictions were the most frequent criticisms.

Adams wrote the complaints come not only from the Northwest Territories, but from Nunavik as well.

"There are no other airlines to express dissatisfaction with since we're the only ones making an effort to serve the region."

Adams suggested these complaints may have been a reason why other carriers left the region.

And prices may jump even higher. Normandeau warned leaders of the consequences of government privatization of fuel distribution in the North.

"First Air believes the inevitable results of this will be higher fuel prices in the region," Normandeau said.

More price hikes on the way

"Fuel represents a significant cost to First Air and any increases have to be passed on to our customers in the form of higher ticket fares and cargo rates."

Commercialization of the air navigation system may also mean First Air clients will fork out more money for service. The system was operated by Transport Canada, but is now being delivered by a company called NavCanada.

Normandeau said a tax added to a passenger ticket partially funded the air-navigation system, with Transport Canada picking up the shortfall. But that tax will soon be eliminated, and airline will to have to pay for the service according to the weight of its aircraft and distance it travels.

"Because of the size of the region, the small number of passengers and the large volume of freight, the effect of this change will be quite significant."

He urged the leaders to lobby against this change to protect residents from higher costs.

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Broughton mayor miffed by DEW Line clean-up delay

Nunatsiaq News

PANGNIRTUNG ­ Broughton Island residents living near an abandoned U.S. military installation are disappointed that clean-up at the site can't begin sooner than planned.

Broughton Island Mayor Lootie Toomasie told Baffin MLAs and other regional leaders at a meeting in Pangnirtung last weekend that it could take years before work starts on the distant early warning (DEW Line) site near his community.

The Fox Five site isn't scheduled to be cleaned up until the year 2000, but Toomasie recently asked the Department of National Defence to move the start date forward. The request was denied, he said.

"Although we strongly expressed we wanted this site to be a priority," Toomasie said at the meeting, "it went in one ear and out the other."

When contacted in Ottawa, Rob Martel, DND's project manager for DEW Line clean-up, said those concerns weren't expressed when he visited Broughton Island twice last year to explain the clean-up schedule.

"Had this concern been brought up last year, we would have been able to rearrange the priorities without a problem," Martel said.

Toomasie wrote to DND late this spring asking that the clean-up at Cape Dyer, located south of Broughton Island, be delayed in favor of an early start for the Fox Five site. Martel said that's impossible.

Two years away

Martel said DND needs at least two years to carry out a detailed scientific inventory of the types and levels of contamination at each site. He said there isn't enough time this year to assess the Fox Five site in time for clean-up to start next summer.

Sites at Cape Dyer, Hall Beach and Pelly Bay will be assessed this year with clean-up set to begin at Cape Dyer next year. Sites at Hall Beach and Pelly Bay are scheduled to be cleaned up in 1999. Martel said DND scientists will be ready next summer to evaluate the Fox Five site and three other Nunavut sites.

"I could cancel Cape Dyer, but I couldn't do Broughton Island," Martel said. "There have been no preparations from the scientific point of view. The scientific team is not geared up to do that. We couldn't move Broughton Island ahead if we wanted to."

Martel said the Cape Dyer site, though not located near a community, is higher on the list of priorities because in initial assessments, scientists detected high levels of contamination.

The American air force established 42 DEW Line sites across the Canadian North following the end of the Second World War. Half of these were shut down in the mid-1960s and transferred to the Department of Indian affairs and Northern Development. The other sites remained operational until recently, and are the responsibility of National Defence.

$2 million for scientific work

Currently, 15 DEW Line sites are scheduled for clean-up by DND. DIAND is also in the process of cleaning up its sites.

Martel said National Defence has budgeted about $2 million for scientific analyses of all the northern DEW Line sites; another $180 million has been earmarked for the actual clean-up.

Work at Cape Hooper, a site located between Clyde River and Pond Inlet, began last year and is expected to be completed this year. But a breakdown in talks between Nunavut Tunngavik Inc and DND is beginning to hamper other clean-up efforts. Clean-up at Cambridge Bay, set to begin this year, has been cancelled.

Talks were stalled early this spring when NTI and DND couldn't reach an agreement on how deal with potential contaminants.

"Our conern is that some of the contaminated materials will be left buried on the site," James Eetoolook, NTI vice-president said. "We're looking for a good clean-up that's acceptable for the people of Nunavut. We want to make such there's no hazardous material leaching from the landfill sites."

Eetoolook said DND won't spend the money needed to conduct a proper clean-up. He added NTI wants to see a commitment from DND to monitor the sites for longer than nine years after clean-up.

NTI and DND are expected to sit down in September to again try to hammer out a deal.

"We're optimistic we'll have some kind of agreement by early spring of next year," he said.

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Communities must set job plan priorities

The GNWT is urging hamlets and community groups to put together viable make-work projects in order to tap into millions of dollars worth of economic development funds

Nunatsiaq News

PANGNIRTUNG ­ Baffin mayors sat baffled last weekend as a government bureaucrat spouted phrases such as "community economic development," and "visions for a social, economic and environmental game plan."

It's terminology these leaders will have to get used to if they expect to help their communities become self sustaining in the future.

Graeme Dargo, a senior advisor with the GNWT's department of resources, wildlife and economic development, briefed Baffin regional leaders on the government's latest job creation initiative - the Northern Employment Strategy.

The territorial government will spend $32 million over the next two years to stimulate economic growth in northern communities, with an estimated $6 million flowing into the Baffin region this year. The goal is to create the 1,911 jobs needed to reach an 80 per cent employment level.

But in order to tap into those millions, communities will have to do much of their own economic planning. They'll have to determine their priorities and outline a strategy by the end of this summer, to meet their goals.

That means organizing a number of groups at a time when most people are either on vacation or out on the land.

Dargo admitted the program was rushed to have it in place for this summer.

"The strategy was developed extremely quickly," Dargo said. "We could have probably done a much better job in communicating both at the aboriginal level and at the community level, but there was urgency to move on with this."

Dargo is responsible for promoting community economic development (CED) in the North. CED, he says, focuses on the social and environmental development of a community, as well as the economic.

"It's a much more holistic approach to development," he told leaders.

The population of Nunavut is the youngest in the country with more than 40 per cent of its residents under the age of 15, compared to the national average of 21 per cent. Unemployment is a chronic problem and is expected to worsen exponentially.

In Hall Beach, for example, the official unemployment rate is 35 per cent. Igloolik and Arctic Bay both report 30 per cent unemployment.

Dargo said municipal leaders need to learn how to combine the new employment strategy with community development.

"You need some real leaders at the community level to grab hold of this thing and start driving it from the community up, not top down," Dargo said. "A key to the success of community economic development is people from the community coming together and taking an active role in designing their own future."

The territorial government will provide information and technical support for communities to develop plans, but the communities must come up with viable projects if they want access to funding.

But at least one Baffin leader doesn't believe government job creation will solve the unemployment woes of the region.

High Arctic MLA Levi Barnabas said too many people would simply rather collect social assistance than earn a living.

"The social assistance program has broken down the resolve of people to work," he said. "It's obviously an attitude problem."

Excluding housing subsidies, the GNWT spent $12 million on social assistance in the Baffin region in 1995-96.

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Letter to the Editor

Council should be praised

I was somewhat surprised and amused at the whining tone of your July 11 editorial on the Town Council's decision to proceed with the development of the four corners for municipal, Nunavut and federal offices.

The concept of locating the centres of government within the heart of the community is a far more enlightening and vibrant approach than what has been so too common ­ locating the buildings away from the people and isolated from the heart of the community.

I remember the hue and cry from the past of never again creating a "castle and keep" type of complex like Astro Hill. The council and its administration should be congratulated and commended for keeping the process on track and for bringing the parties together to mutually achieve a significant infusion into a much needed downtown core.

Leadership and vision are not found on nay-saying editiorial pages, but in the actions of those who strive to make a forward and positive contribution to the community. Perhaps someday the local paper will mature enough to warrant representing the newest Canadian capital.

John Raycroft
Thunder Bay, Ont.

Editor's note: John Raycroft is the Town of Iqaluit's former SAO. He was replaced by Sara Brown about a year ago.

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A business opportunity for Inuit

When you give a person a job, you give them a great gift.

But when you give a person a chance to own a business, you give them much, much more.

That's what the GNWT appears to have done in its recent decision to lay off 20 interpreter-translators as of July 18.

At the same time, the $1.7 million that used to be spent on interpretation and translation work at the NWT Language Bureau will be divided up among various government departments and aboriginal language groups.

Those departments will then decide how best to use that money. Some may decide their best choice is to use their share to hire back some of the laid-off interpreter-translators, while many others may decide to give the work to freelancers and private translation firms.

The GNWT hasn't given us enough information upon which to judge how well they've effected these changes. But if they carry them out the right way, they will likely turn out to have been the right changes.

Profitiable business opportunities don't come up very often in Nunavut's small communities. That's one of the reasons our economy is so weak.

This move, however, promises to create new business opportunities where none had existed before. What's more, these are opportunities many Inuit can easily capitalize on.

For the territorial government's part, it's now more likely that the GNWT's interpreting and translating work will be done more efficiently and reliably than in the past. People who work for themselves are more likely to meet deadlines and show up on time for assignments. And that means government managers will rarely have to worry about absenteeism.

As for what this means for public services in aboriginal languages, the move won't likely have much effect on them one way or another.

That's because the NWT Language Bureau never was a "public" service in the true meaning of that term. The GNWT's interpreter-translators were hired to provide an internal service for other GNWT departments, and their services were not normally available to ordinary people.

Yes, the public has benefitted from their work indirectly, such as when a GNWT interpreter works at a public gathering, or when translator produces a document that provides valuable information to people. But that work, and the public benefits that arise from it, can be done just as easily, and in most cases, more efficiently, by freelancers and private contractors.

Having said all that, it's also worth pointing out the nagging unanswered questions that the GNWT has strewn about in the wake of this move.

Many of them have to do with a proposed certification process for interpereter-translators that the GNWT intends to unveil this fall.

The first question is whether the GNWT ought to be involved in such a process in the first place.

Many of the best Inuktitut interpreter-translators in Canada don't even live in the Northwest Territories, and because of modern telecommunications are able to do their work from Ottawa and Montreal.

Why should a body created by the Yellowknife-based GNWT have any jurisdiction over people in Nunavut and over people who don't even live in the NWT? And what about Nunavik residents who may be capable of doing Inuktitut work for Nunavut or the NWT?

Clearly, this is a job that can only be done by an Inuit organization, or by the interpreter-translators themselves.

The second question is how much guidance will be given to individual department managers on what should be translated and what shouldn't, and who will provide that guidance. However, that's a question whose answer lies in the resolution of another and entirely separate issue ­ the GNWT's failure to fully interpret the meaning of its Official Languages Act.

The third question is the effect that this change will have on the Footprints model for the design of Nunavut's government, which the GNWT and everyone else involved with the creation of Nunavut is supposed to follow.

Despite those questions, the GNWT has made a modest step in the right direction. And those who would condemn the dismantling of the Language Bureau should consider its benefits. JB

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These materials are Copyright (C) 1997 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 July 18, 1997
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