2015: a year of sweeping change for Nunavut
Economic upheaval, new leadership, painful self-examination
What a year it was.
In 2015, Nunavut residents watched the decade-old commodity boom nearly shrivel up and die and then turned their backs on a developer-friendly Conservative government in favour of the Liberals.
At the same time, the Government of Nunavut’s department of Health endured a year of painful self-examination, as a coroner’s inquest into suicide and a review of an infant’s death exposed widespread incompetence, denial and negligence.
• The GN imposes an island-wide interim ban on hunting caribou, following a population crash.
• The governments of Canada and Nunavut commit to a $7.2 million investment in joint spending over two years to explore the expansion of Nunavut’s fisheries industry.
• A losing candidate in the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s December elections, Madeleine Redfern, asks for a judicial review of the election results citing a lack of communication, fairness and transparency in how the Baffin Inuit organization conducted the election.
• Facing re-trial on three murder charges, Chris Bishop of Cambridge Bay cuts a deal with Crown prosecutors by pleading guilty to three counts of manslaughter and two counts of attempted murder.
• Just a month into his four-year term, Kitikmeot Inuit Association President Peter Akkikungnaq resigns his job, citing personal reasons. A by-election to replace Akkikungnaq is announced for March.
• Convicted pedophile and former Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger faces his Igloolik victims in court as victim impact statements are read into the record at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit. Some hurl scripture at him. “I ask forgiveness,” Dejaeger says.
• The federal government approves a second Nunavut gold mine after accepting the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s recommendations on the mine.
• A Facebook love-in for Nunavut breaks out in the South, centred around the Helping our Northern Neighbours group, which sends packages of food to poor people in Nunavut.
• Justice Robert Kilpatrick sentences the pedophile ex-priest, Eric Dejaeger, to 19 years in prison for 32 convictions on sex crimes committed against Inuit children in Igloolik between 1978 and 1982. Minus eight years of time served, that means Dejaeger must spend another 11 years in jail.
• Gwen Slade, a former Nunavut nurse, launches an online petition aimed at pressuring the GN into doing an external review on the 2012 death of Baby Makibi in Cape Dorset.
• Voters in the constituency of Uqqummiut — comprising Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq — elect Pauloosie Keyootak, 62, to serve as MLA, replacing Samuel Nuqingaq, who was booted out of legislative assembly on Oct. 24, 2014.
• Nunavut MLAs gather in Iqaluit Feb. 24 for the legislature’s first sitting of 2015, where they look at the GN’s 2015-16 operations and maintenance budget.
• Nunavut Health Minister Paul Okalik appoints Katherine Peterson, the well-respected Yellowknife lawyer, to do a review of circumstances surrounding the April 5, 2012 death of three-month old Makibi Akesuk Timilak in Cape Dorset.
• A six-person Inuit delegation attends a national roundtable Feb. 27 in Ottawa on missing and murdered indigenous women, organized by provincial premiers.
• Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson lays out the Nunavut government’s 2015-16 budget, which projects $1.72 billion in revenues and $1.673 billion of spending on programs and capital projects, with a $30 million contingency fund and a projected surplus of about $23 million.
• The Nunavut Impact Review Board gives Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. a project certificate for its proposed Meliadine gold mine, listing 127 terms and conditions. The company, however, has yet to announce a decision to start construction of a mine.
• The Nunavut Impact Review Board starts a 12-day public hearing in Baker Lake March 2 on Areva Canada’s proposed Kiggavik uranium mine. The Kivalliq Wildlife Board issues a statement saying that without a firm start-date and protection for caribou calving grounds, the project should not be approved. The NIRB then rejects a bid by the KWB to suspend the hearing.
• Quttiktuq MLA Isaac Shooyook stages a one-man walkout from the Nunavut legislature March 5 to protest the absence of Inuit traditional knowledge within the Nunavut government’s policies and practices.
• Ottawa announces the long-delayed High Arctic naval station at Nanisivik won’t be completed until 2018, though serious construction does get started in the summer of 2015.
• Nunavut’s territorial jails, especially the notorious Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit, threaten the safety and security of staff and inmates alike, the Auditor General of Canada, Michael Ferguson, says in a report issued March 10.
• In a memo leaked to Canadian Press, Elizabeth Sanderson, then serving as Nunavut’s deputy minister of justice, tells Premier Peter Taptuna, Justice Minister Paul Okalik, top civil service boss David Akeagok and other officials that the BCC creates “serious constitutional and legal concerns” for the GN.
• A massive trial on Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s $1 billion lawsuit against Canada, scheduled to start March 9 in Iqaluit, comes to a screeching halt. NTI lawyer Dougald Brown tells the court all sides have reached an out-of-court settlement that will likely be ratified in April.
• Tanya Tagaq wins a Juno award for aboriginal album of the year.
• Nunavut Education Minister Paul Quassa confirms the GN wants to move from syllabics to Roman orthography for teaching the Inuit language in Nunavut schools.
• Sheila Watt-Cloutier launches her long-awaited book, The Right to Be Cold.
• GN officials say they’ll save $32 million from cheaper fuel prices in 2015. But as of November 2015, the GN had not reduced retail prices for gasoline and home heating oil.
• The GN’s new public service ethics officer, Jeffrey Schnoor of Winnipeg, starts work April 1.
• Romeo Saganash, the NDP MP who represents Nunavik, introduces a private members bill aimed at getting the federal government to adapt its laws to the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
• TMAC Resources Inc. announces their plan to revive the mothballed Doris North gold mine project in the western Kitikmeot region.
• Elee Geetah of Cape Dorset gets 15 years in jail for manslaughter in the 2010 killing of his brother.
• Stanley Anablak is elected president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association in a by-election held March 30. He succeeds Charlie Evalik.
• Pangnirtung’s power plant suffers severe damage in a fire April 2, leading to a state of emergency that doesn’t end until the GN contracts a Russian helicopter to fly new generators into the community.
• The Nunavut Planning Commission rejects the Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. Phase 2 expansion, on the grounds that it does not conform to the North Baffin Regional Land Use Plan. Bernard Valcourt, then the AAND minister, quashes the decision and sends the proposal directly to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
• Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, announces he won’t attend the Arctic Council ministerial meeting scheduled for Iqaluit later in the month.
• Scotiabank analyst Patricia Mohr warns participants at the Nunavut Mining Symposium that because of rock-bottom global commodity prices, the Nunavut mining industry is in for a tough ride for the next few years.
• Premier Peter Taptuna relieves Tom Sammurtok, the MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, from all cabinet responsibilities, after the MLA is charged with impaired driving and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Sammurtok later quits cabinet.
• A Federal Court of Canada hearing into the Hamlet of Clyde River’s appeal of a National Energy Board decision to allow a seismic testing survey in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait gets started April 20 in Toronto. Activists hold a rally in front of the court building.
• Joe Oliver, then the federal finance minister, raises Nunavut’s debt cap to $650 million from $400 million. But his 2015-16 budget rejects Nunavut’s request for $300 million to pay for social housing construction and $200 million to pay for power plant upgrades.
• Oliver also announces $5.7 million over five years to help Nunavut seal producers gain access to the European market.
• Nunavut Sivuniksavut marks its 30th anniversary with a big education conference in Gatineau.
• The GN announces May 1 that Pangnirtung’s 29-day state of emergency is over, following the installation of large generators that will provide power to the community until after a new power plant is constructed.
• NTI, the GN and the federal government sign a settlement agreement that resolves NTI’s 10-year-old billion-dollar lawsuit against Ottawa. The federal government will pay NTI $255.5 million, of which $175 million will go into a special fund to train Inuit for government jobs.
• Two Dutch travellers, Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo, are presumed to have drowned while on a trek near Bathurst Island, but rescuers manage to pick up a stranded dog that belongs to a wildlife officer in Resolute Bay.
• The Conservative majority in the House of Commons uses its votes to defeat a private member’s bill from NDP MLA Romeo Saganash that would have compelled the federal government to recognize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
• The Women in Action group, led by Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias, complete their Steps of Hope walk from Hall Beach to Igloolik to raise money for breast cancer research.
• The NIRB concludes its lengthy environmental assessment of Areva Canada’s Kiggavik uranium mine by recommending that it “should not proceed at this time,” because of the absence of a definite start date. The decision, which the federal government eventually accepts, does not rule out a revival of the proposal in the future.
• Nunavut’s favourite NHL star, Jordin Tootoo, 32, keeps his storied career going by signing a one-year deal with the New Jersey Devils.
• First Air, Canadian North and Calm Air sign an agreement to sell seats on each other’s planes under an arrangement called codesharing. The system soon leads to an avalanche of complaints from customers at all levels, including individual consumers, businesses, municipalities and the Nunavut government.
• Arctic Co-ops Ltd. announces they returned $7.4 million in dividends to Nunavut co-op members in 2014, based on $140 million in sales.
• The International Maritime Organization agrees to strict new environmental rules for ships operating in the Arctic and Antarctic seas.
• Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, then the environment minister, announces the greenhouse gas emissions targets that Canada will take to the COP21 climate change conference: a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below the country’s 2005 levels by 2030.
• A Learjet that was supposed to be based in Cambridge Bay, promised under a medevac contract between Aqsaqniq Airways Ltd. and the GN, is up for sale. But that’s no problem for the GN — they adjust the contract.
• The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s closing week begins with a reconciliation march between Gatineau and Ottawa attended by about 10,000 people.
• Michael Jeffrey takes over as commanding officer of Nunavut’s “V” division of the RCMP.
• A consortium of companies operating under the name MKI cancels their much-protested summer 2015 plans for seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.
• On June 2, Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, declares that what took place at Canada’s Aboriginal residential schools amounted to “nothing short of cultural genocide.” The TRC’s summary report, launched amidst a week of activities in Ottawa, contains 94 recommendations.
• The Nunavut Legislative Assembly reconvenes June 2 with a throne speech in which the GN promises to do a feasibility study on creating a university for Nunavut.
• The Nunavut Planning Commission drops its lawsuit against the federal government, saying they prefer a negotiated solution to their funding dispute.
• A justice of the peace fines Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Tom Sammurtok $1,500 and suspends his driver’s licence for one year after he pleads guilty to impaired driving. The MLA was found to have two-and-a-half times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.
• The Auditor General of Canada finds that Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson owes $22,985 in questionable expense payments. Patterson pays $9,223 of that amount, but disputes a finding that he should repay the remainder, a $13,762 legal bill for a constitutional opinion that Patterson sought.
• Maatalii Okalik, 25, is elected president of the National Inuit Youth Council.
• In a better-late-than-never gesture, NTI announces their support for the creation of a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
• Peter Tumilty, a senior official at the territorial Department of Finance, is named “short-term president” of the Qulliq Energy Corp., following the departure of Alain Barriault, who served only nine months in the job. Tumilty is the third short-timer in a row to serve as boss of QEC.
• A bill to create a new 11,008 square-kilometre national park around Nunavut’s Bathurst Island gets all-party support and breezes through the House of Commons.
• The family of Baby Makibi demands a coroner’s inquest into their child’s death.
• SSI Micro teams up with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association on an Inuit-language FM radio service for Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay.
• Nunavut’s Tiktaalik fossils, left behind by the ancient fish that crawled on land, come home to Canada where they will be stored for the Nunavut government at the Canadian Museum of Nature.
• Paul Bychok, a respected lawyer who recently retired as a Crown prosecutor in Nunavut, is appointed to serve as a judge of the Nunavut Court of Justice.
• The federal government announces they’ll contribute $30 million towards the building of a $40 million small-craft harbour at Pond Inlet. The Government of Nunavut will kick in $10 million.
• The Transportation Safety Board, in a report, finds that Perimeter Aviation flight 993 in Sanikiluaq, which killed a six-month-old infant when it missed the runway Dec. 22, 2012, came in “too high, too steep and too fast.” The TSB recommends the mandatory use of restraint systems for infants and toddlers flying on aircraft.
• Premier Peter Taptuna appoints the well-known RCMP member, Yvonne Niego, as assistant deputy minister of justice.
• Areva Canada asks AAND minister Bernard Valcourt to reject the NIRB ecommendation that Areva Canada’s Kiggavik uranium project not go ahead. Ottawa eventually says no to Areva.
• Thanks to $35 million in funding from the federal government, internet services in Nunavut offered by SSI Micro will be preserved and improved.
• Unionized workers at the QEC reject their employer’s last wage offer and go on strike.
• Construction starts on the $130-million naval refueling station at Nanisivik, five years past its original start date.
• On the eve of a federal election call, Leona Aglukkaq, then the MP for Nunavut, announces Ottawa will put $63.7 million into deep-sea port and small-craft harbor in Iqaluit, while the GN will contribute $22.1 million.
• Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Aug. 2 launches the start of campaigning for a federal election to be held Oct. 19. At 78 days, it’s the second-longest election campaign in Canada’s history.
• Two young people, a 14-year-old girl and a young man of 20, die in a murder-suicide in Kugluktuk.
• One of Nunavut’s most tenacious land claim negotiators, Bobby Kadlun, dies at his home in Kugluktuk.
• The NDP reject Clyde River mayor Jerry Natanine as a federal election candidate, but later accept the former Liberal MP, Jack Anawak. Hunter Tootoo, a former New Democrat, will run for the Liberals, while teacher Spencer Rocchi runs for the Greens.
• The QEC and the Nunavut Employees Union reach a wage-benefit deal that ends a four-week strike.
• The Federal Court of Appeal rejects a bid by Clyde River groups to overturn a decision by the National Energy Board that permits a five-year seismic testing program in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. The Clyde River lawyer, Nader Hasan, later seeks leave from the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal the decision.
• Three candidates emerge to seek the presidency of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: incumbent Terry Audla, Natan Obed, and Jerry Komaksiutiksak.
• A young father and three children die after a devastating tent fire near Pond Inlet. Only the mother, Nina Kautuq, and one child survive.
• The GN lifts its interim ban on caribou hunting on Baffin Island, setting a quota of 250 male caribou that is to stay in force until July 2016.
• A fire, set by young vandals, destroys Peter Pitseolak High School in Cape Dorset, the largest building in the community and a centre for social and culture life in the hamlet. About 170 students are displaced and the GN scrambles to find makeshift classroom space. Three youth, aged 13 to 16, face multiple charges.
• Nunavut’s airline codeshare fiasco turns serious, as medical patients end up bumped from flights and crucial medications arrive late in communities.
• Justice Neil Sharkey sentences Colin Makpah of Rankin Inlet to 41 months in jail after Makpah is convicted of manslaughter in the 2010 death of Donald James (DJ) Gamble.
• Leona Aglukkaq, the incumbent Conservative member for Nunavut, announces $16.9 million over five years for protection and preservation of the Erebus wreck and an interpretive centre in Gjoa Haven that’s part of a National Historic Site.
• A CITES committee rules that trade in polar bear parts is not detrimental to the survival of the species.
• A two-week discretionary inquest into suicide in Nunavut gets underway in Iqaluit.
• Justice Andrew Mahar convicts a mentally-ill Igloolik youth of manslaughter in the 2012 death of Tracy Uttak in Igloolik.
• Natan Obed is elected president of ITK Sept. 17, at the organization’s general meeting in Cambridge Bay.
• All nine crew members aboard the Atlantic Charger, a $2.3 million, 68.5-foot hi-tech trawler from Newfoundland, are rescued from a life-raft after their brand new vessel founders and sinks into the stormy waters of Davis Strait.
• Father Robert Lechat, Bill Lyall and Tagak Curley are named to the Order of Nunavut.
• A coroner’s inquest jury recommends suicide be declared a public emergency in Nunavut and makes more than 30 other non-binding recommendations.
• The cash-strapped Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. cuts wages at the Mary River iron mine by 10 per cent.
• Thirty-two Nunavut Inuit who shared part of a $15.5 million compensation award for sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of the notorious ex-teacher, Ed Horne, launch a lawsuit against the lawyers who won that settlement for them.
• A study finds that $904 million hydro line between Manitoba and Nunavut is viable.
• The GN and the City of Iqaluit complain to the Competition Bureau about the notorious airline codeshare deals that have enraged customers all over Nunavut.
• In a stunning upset, Liberal Hunter Tootoo takes 47 per cent of the vote to grab Nunavut from incumbent Aglukkaq. The Justin Trudeau Liberals take 184 seats to win a majority government.
• Eric Dejaeger receives four five-year concurrent jail sentences for sex crimes committed against three children in Alberta in the mid-1970s.
• Premier Taptuna declares that Nunavut isn’t interested in starting talks on the Quebec-Nunavut boundary.
• Ross Wyvern Peyton, 86, the builder of Peyton Lodge in Pangnirtung, dies Oct. 19.
• Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo becomes minister responsible for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard.
• Urban Inuit from across Canada meet in Ottawa and emerge with a commitment to create a national urban Inuit strategy by next March.
• Meeka Kilabuk, 64, the well-known activist and business woman, dies Nov. 7 in Ottawa.
• Netsilik MLA Jeannie Ugyuk quits her seat after MLAs vote her out of cabinet following their mid-term leadership review.
• Nunavut MLAs elect Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes and Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq to cabinet.
• Ottawa looks at options for disposing of the abandoned Jericho Diamond Mine, including “possible private sector solutions.”
• A Pond Inlet man is charged with kidnapping and weapons offences after a social worker is assaulted and a child abducted.
• Premier Taptuna appoints Karen Kabloona as associate deputy minister for quality of life, responsible for co-ordinating a government-wide approach to suicide prevention, and Health Minister Okalik becomes chair of a cabinet committee devoted to suicide prevention.
• Terry Fenge, a respected researcher and Nunavut Land Claims Aagreement negotiator, dies in Ottawa of a heart attack.
• Controversy erupts over the final report of the Nunavut legislature’s special committee on reviewing the Education Act, which emphasizes academic excellence over culture and language.
• Quebec filmmaker Dominic Gagnon pulls Tanya Tagaq’s music from the soundtrack of his video mash-up “On the North” after she complains on Twitter.
• Lawyer Katherine Peterson says in a report released Nov. 30 that the GN failed the parents of Baby Makibi at many levels and recommends a coroner’s inquest into his death in 2012.
• A controversy erupts when ITK President Natan Obed demands that the Edmonton Eskimos change their name, saying the word “Eskimo” is derogatory.
• Inuit leaders head to Paris for the COP21 global climate change conference, saying they want a binding agreement that limits global warming to no more than 1.5 C by 2100.
• Premier Taptuna announces a by-election in the Netsilik riding to be held Feb. 8.
• Dwayne Sateana of Rankin Inlet pleads guilty to manslaughter in connection with the November 2014 death of his 25-year-old girlfriend.
• True to his promise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
• The Transportation Safety Board releases a report into the September 2013 crash of a helicopter in M’Clure Strait saying a “lack of visual cues” and problems with flotation devices likely contributed to the deaths of the three people on board. The chopper was being used by researchers from the CCGS Amundsen.
• The GN begins consultations on a new Property Forfeiture Act which would allow the government to appropriate money and property earned through criminal activity such as bootlegging and drug dealing.
• To the delight of many delegates from Nunavut, including Premier Taptuna, representatives from 196 nations finalize the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change impacts at COP21 in Paris. Inuit groups say it’s a good start but “there is more work to do.”
• The trial of Peter Angutimarik, an Igloolik man charged with the murder of his roommate Esa Angutiqjuaq in 2009, finally gets underway at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit after nearly seven years of legal delays.
• The GN doubles the total allowable harvest of caribou on Southampton Island in North Hudson Bay to 1,600 from 800 after recent surveys show the population, which had been in decline, are recovering.
• Prime Minister Trudeau says his government will “completely implement the actions called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” after the multi-volume final report, and its 94 calls to action, are released Dec. 15.
• A new crop of mayors and councillors are elected during territory-wide hamlet elections Dec. 14.
• Canada’s three territorial governments cry foul over a federal re-calculation of the territorial formula financing agreement which would see northerners receive less money than expected in 2015-16 federal transfers. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he will work with the territories on “possible options to address this situation going forward.”
• Just in time for Christmas, the GN announces it will reduce the price of petroleum products across Nunavut in 2016, cutting the price of gasoline by 10 cents per litre.