2015: The best and worst of times in Nunavut’s capital
Standoffs, political gatherings, movie shoots and a new mayor
Nunavut’s capital showed the world its best and worst sides in 2015, and the month of April was a perfect example.
In that month, Arctic leaders and power brokers met in Iqaluit for the meeting of the Arctic Council which included a handover of chairmanship from Canada’s Leona Aglukkaq — then Nunavut’s MP and minister responsible for the Arctic Council — to John Kerry, United States Secretary of State, who took the gavel home to the U.S. for a three-year term.
A week later, Iqaluit made national headlines again when a distraught man with a gun, holed up in his home, prompted a 42-hour standoff in the city’s Happy Valley neighbourhood. The standoff ended peacefully on April 30.
But that wasn’t the only news in Iqaluit this year. The city got a new mayor and council, hosted the outgoing, and the incoming, prime ministers and was the location for movie shoots and music concerts. We also mourned the loss of hunter and friend Sandy Oolayou during Toonik Tyme.
Here, then, is our roundup of Nunatsiaq News’ most memorable Iqaluit stories.
• Nine-pound, eight-ounce Monesie Mark Parr earns the title of Nunavut’s first baby born on Jan. 1, 2015 Iqaluit’s Qikiqtani General Hospital. The baby is born to Kimmirut’s Ruthie Mingeriak and adopted out to Tirak Parr and Jawlie Mingeriak, also of Kimmirut.
• Justin Trudeau, before he becomes Prime Minister, visits Iqaluit as the federal Liberal leader with seven-year-old son Xavier. He departs with a handmade parka made by Iqaluit seamstress Marlene Watson.
• Iqaluit sled dog owners learn the West 40 area where they have been routinely keeping their dogs in winter — a piece of land owned by the Government of Nunavut — will be parcelled out to contractors building the Iqaluit airport to accommodate a new asphalt plant.
• To fight petty crime, Tim MacLeod, general manager of Nunastar Properties Inc., which owns the Frobisher Inn and eight-storey high rise, turns to posting security videos on social media to track down perpetrators.
• Parents of children who attend École des Trois-Soleils begin a protracted battle with the school’s administrators and the Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut claiming a lack of accountability and transparency on school affairs. Some parents later launch a Charter challenge against the GN demanding French language rights.
• The Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce writes a letter to Iqaluit city council asking elected officials to postpone a proposed property tax hike until they produce a plan to reduce the city’s budget deficit, which they predict will climb to $10 million by the end of 2015.
• Nunavut’s capital suffers three commercial robberies in one month: Baffin Gas convenience store in the Plateau subdivision, the Apex Road Quickstop, and Arctic Ventures Marketplace.
• Video footage of a naked Eetooloo Ejetsiak sparring with RCMP officers in Iqaluit police holding cells, and shown in court Feb. 12, appears to show an officer hit Ejetsiak with a hand that is holding a taser gun. The Ottawa Police Service is still investigating excessive force allegations arising from the incident.
• Montreal-based director Kim Nguyen starts casting in Iqaluit for Two Lovers and a Bear, a feature film starring Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan.
• The Iqaluit Blizzard hockey team win gold at the annual Capital League Championship in Ottawa, beating out 31 other teams of 12-year-olds from Ontario and Quebec.
• Norwegian musician Terje Isungset performs “ice music” in Iqaluit for the second time using percussion instruments and horns cut and hewn from local ice. The show attracts about 600 appreciative fans.
• Baffin mayors gather in Iqaluit for their annual meeting, using their time together, and access to the Government of Nunavut’s elected leaders and top bureaucrats, to talk about issues related to infrastructure, energy and economic development.
• Iqaluit hosts a meeting of the Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board to gather consumer input on the much-criticized northern freight subsidy program. The board says they plan to institute point of sale subsidy transparency so consumers can see, on their receipts, how much money they saved on purchases.
• Iqaluit gets a new chief administrative officer. Muhamud Hassan, who served as senior administrator officer in Sanikiluaq from 2008 to 2012, planned to take the top city manager’s position in Iqaluit on April 7.
• Film crews descend on Nunavut’s capital to begin shooting a Two Lovers and a Bear. The film’s co-producer Ellen Hamilton of Iqaluit and unit manager Francis Choquette, get approval to turn street lights off in Apex in favour of special camera-friendly lighting.
• Toonik Tyme, Iqaluit’s annual spring festival opens on a tragic note this year; Sandy Oolayou, a well-known hunter who had gone out to hunt seals for a sealskinning contest was later presumed to have drowned after searchers found his snowmobile tracks leading into the icy waters near Ward Inlet April 7. Organizers and others donate money to Oolayou’s family and honour him at a closing feast.
• Nunavut Mining Symposium unfolds under the theme, “Unearth the Potential.”
• More than three quarters of Iqaluit voters say yes to a beer and wine store in the capital April 20 during a city-wide plebiscite. The results are non-binding and the GN says if opened, the store would begin as a pilot project.
• The Arctic Council holds a one-day meeting in Iqaluit April 24. Then-Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq passes the chairmanship off to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The Council’s eight member nations sign a deal to reduce black carbon emissions, the first time the council has directly dealt with climate change mitigation.
• Arctic College’s Ukkivik residence in Iqaluit suffers an arson fire April 27 and a 34-year-man faces charges. Damage from the fire is minimal but water damage, due to sprinklers running, is extensive. The “old res” is later deemed a write-off and never re-opens.
• An armed stand-off in Iqaluit prompts police to barricade and lock down the city’s Happy Valley neighbourhood for two nights in late April. The 42-hour standoff ends peacefully around 10 a.m. April 30. There are no reported injuries. Jamie Mikijuk, 26, later faces five firearms-related charges.
• In the wake of the 2014 dump fire, Iqaluit councillors institute a waste separation system at the remediated waste site with flammable waste going to a “burn box,” and waste metal corralled in another area for future crushing and baling. A request for proposals goes out to design a new $14-million waste management site.
• A second, but shorter, armed standoff unfolds from the city’s Creekside Village. A man surrenders to police about 12 hours after the standoff begins and the incident is resolved peacefully. A 22-year-old man is charged.
• An allegation of excessive force by RCMP members in Iqaluit holding cells is referred to the Ottawa Police Service for investigation. The case involves Bernard Naulalik, 24, who was arrested on three charges in July 2014. It’s the second such allegation in 2015.
• A suspicious package which arrives at the Nunavut Court of Justice May 7 results in an evacuation of the building. The “package” is safely removed and results in no injuries.
• Iqaluit city councillor Kenny Bell brings forth a motion to remove the opening prayer from Iqaluit city council meetings and replace it with a moment of silence in response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the legality of prayers at such meetings. Councillors vote the motion down, three to two.
• Iqaluit municipal enforcement officials report that hundreds of traffic tickets handed out in the city go unpaid because non-payment often results in no penalty.
• “I found myself in a position where I’d rather dig my eyes out with my bare fingers than come to this room,” says Iqaluit city councillor Kenny Bell at a city council meeting. The legendary remark, delivered June 9, marked the height of Bell’s public frustration with his council colleagues and city administrators and signalled the end of Bell’s municipal career. He did not run in the October election.
• Iqaluit photographer Frank Reardon’s 2012 sundog above Iqaluit photo is chosen by Canada Post for a new stamp.
• A young woman takes a drunken joy ride in an ambulance that EMTs had left unattended during a call to a home, and crashes it into a fence. Maryanne Lyta is charged in connection to the incident.
• A proposed City of Iqaluit code of conduct bylaw ironically prompts sparring at a council meeting June 23 as councillors hurl insults and accusations at one another. The bylaw eventually passes, later in the summer.
• The annual Alianait Arts Festival kicks off June 26 with a concert by Vancouver Island’s the Sweet Lowdown. The festival, which runs to July 1, features traditional and contemporary music from the North, southern Canada and beyond including East coast singer-songwriter David Myles and Greenland’s Nanook band.
• The Nunavut Brewing Company pitches a local brewery to Iqaluit city councillors. The city later gives the company a thumb’s up and the Nunavut Liquor Licensing Board then gives them a license to go ahead.
• The notorious Iqaluit murderer, Mark King Jeffrey, 34, killer of 13-year-old Jennifer Naglingniq in 2002, dies in prison. Corrections Canada does not give the cause of death.
• Radio-Canada’s Le Petite Séduction comes to Iqaluit to shoot an episode of their Québécois reality show. The episode features a local “seduction” of popular singer-songwriter Louis-Jean Cormier.
• In what would prove to be a challenging sealift season for Nunavummiut and Nunavimmiut this year, Iqaluit residents suffer weeks of delay for much-needed resupply as a result of thick pack ice in Frobisher Bay and beyond.
• While it’s nothing new for some Nunavut communities, a polar bear, wandering through a playground and then the centre of Iqaluit, has tongues wagging for hours and spawns a torrent of comments and cellphone photos on social media.
• Brian Twerdin and Elisapee Sheutiapik, owners of the beachfront Grind and Brew Café, decide to sell the business and sit down with Nunatsiaq News to share their favourite memories and thank loyal customers for their patronage.
• Russian pilot Sergey Ananov crash lands his helicopter on sea ice in Davis Strait, and miraculously survives, while attempting a record-breaking solo flight around the world in a light-weight chopper. He is rescued by crews aboard the Canadian Coast Guard’s Pierre Radisson icebreaker.
• The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq task group hosts a national Inuktut language summit in Iqaluit in an effort to push forward on a unified writing system for the Inuit language.
• Some Iqaluit residents are out of water, and patience, for five days as city crews shut down the utilidor system for emergency repairs. The city later blames the Nunavut Housing Authority for failing to properly cap a service line which lead to cracks and leaking.
• Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes a short pit-stop for the party faithful in Iqaluit Aug. 14. Other than a brief photo op at the Iqaluit airport, Harper’s visit is tightly orchestrated and by invitation-only.
• Nunavut’s chief coroner Padma Suramala announces an inquest into the sudden death of an infant who was in the care of the GN family services. Four-month-old Amelia Annie Keyoota was pronounced dead at the Qikiqtani General Hospital July 29.
• ITK’s National Inuit Youth Council holds a youth summit in Iqaluit giving newly elected president, Maatalii Okalik a chance to gather input on youth issues and set a course of action for the first year of her tenure.
• Shooting starts on the movie Iqaluit, starring Natar Ungalaaq and Christine Tootoo. The director is the Quebec screenwriter Benoit Pilon, best-known in Nunavut for The Necessities of Life.
• Iqaluit firefighters Jacob Murphy, Victoria Hann, Mark Dainton and Ryan Gilbert win gold in the mixed relay competition at the national firefighting skills competition held in St. John’s, Newfoundland over the August long weekend.
• Caribou Cabs, one of Iqaluit’s biggest taxi companies, announces it will start installing video cameras in its fleet of 40 vehicles in order to bolster safety for drivers and passengers.
• Iqaluit’s new airport terminal, still under construction, suffers a roof fire Sept. 5. Firefighters estimate the damages in the range of $1 million. The fire is deemed accidental.
• The Nunavut Liquor Licensing Board fines the Kickin’ Caribou pub $12,000 for three liquor license offences and orders it to close on three consecutive Fridays in September for overserving alcohol and for allowing intoxicated people to remain in the premises. The owners later appeal the sentence in court.
• The City of Iqaluit passes a new bylaw under which local residents can be fined if they are driving on roads during a blizzard. The move is meant to promote safety and allow emergency crews to clean up roadways unobstructed.
• At the close of municipal election nominations in Iqaluit, three are listed as hopefuls for mayor: Madeleine Redfern, Noah Papatsie and then-reigning mayor Mary Wilman. Redfern would later win the Oct. 19 election and become the capital’s new mayor.
• Iqaluit councillor Noah Papatsie and Mayor Mary Wilman come under fire after it becomes public that Papatsie was sent home from a conference on the taxpayers’ dime and that the whole incident was only discussed in camera. Papatsie later apologizes, saying he unwisely mixed pain medication and alcohol on a flight to Ottawa.
• Canada’s selfie king, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, visits Iqaluit Oct. 10, promoting the Liberal agenda in the North and supporting the Liberal candidate for Nunavut, Hunter Tootoo, a longtime resident of Iqaluit, who wins the Nunavut riding for the Liberals Oct. 19.
• Scores of Iqalungmiut flock to the soup kitchen Oct. 17 to attend the Qayuktuvik Society’s discussion on hunger and poverty in the territorial capital. “Eat Think Vote” prompts many to disclose publicly how difficult it is to survive, and feed a family, in the North.
• Madeleine Redfern wins the Iqaluit mayor’s chair Oct. 19, with nearly 60 per cent of ballots cast. Joining her are returning councillors Romeyn Stevenson, Joanasie Akumalik, Terry Dobbin and Simon Nattaq, and some new faces too: Megan Pizzo-Lyall, Kuthula Matshazi, Jason Rochon and Gideonie Joamie.
• Because of a wonky zoning bylaw which prevents the construction of multi-plex units, and a lack of developed land, the Nunavut Housing Corporation says it can’t build any new social housing units next year in Iqaluit.
• At their first meeting, Iqaluit’s new mayor and council re-appoint Coun. Romeyn Stevenson as deputy mayor, appoint Joanasie Akumalik as the alternate deputy mayor and choose the make-up and chairs of various council committees.
• Iqaluit extends its mud-and-potholes fall season into November with a spate of unseasonably warm, above zero temperatures and rain.
• Iqaluit resident Simon Winsor, 15, earns a black belt in taekwondo and is thought to be the first ever Inuit man of any age to earn a black belt in the Chan Hun International Taekwon-Do Federation.
• In an attempt to face their looming deficit head-on, city councillors give first and second reading to a flurry of bylaws designed to clean up the city’s finances.
• The Iqaluit-based Qaggiavuut Society is shortlisted for the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize for it’s Qaggiq project, a two-year research and training initiative that targets performers from around the Canadian Arctic. Winners will be announced Jan. 27 in Ottawa.
• Iqaluit-based CBC producer Salome Awa says an apology from British design house KTZ is not enough and she seeks compensation for the company using the design of her great-great-grandfather Qingailisaq’s coat to sell $900 sweaters. KTZ eventually pulls the sweater from its product line.
• Ottawa Police Service investigators clear two Nunavut RCMP officers of a 2014 excessive force complaint, leaving the victim, Bernard Naulalik, disappointed and outraged. The results prompt some legal experts to call for civilian oversight of police conduct in Nunavut.
• The Inuit Broadcasting Corp. opens its long-awaited new $8.6 million facility on the Federal Road in Iqaluit.
• Iqaluit councillors vote to defer rezoning the historic Hudson’s Bay Company buildings site in Apex from open space to commercial use — a use that was given to the site in 1998 but accidentally taken away when the zoning bylaw was updated in 2003.