Aariak defends Nunavut government’s record at NTI gathering
But Grise Fiord delegate says Nunavut should give health back to Ottawa
When Premier Eva Aariak spoke Oct. 24 to the annual general meeting of Nunavut Tungavik Inc., she asked delegates to look at what the Government of Nunavut has accomplished in a positive way.
“We have come a long way,” Aariak said.
Her message to the delegates: don’t lose sight of Nunavut’s achievements and “keep an eye on things we are doing right so it will be easier to find the solutions to the challenges we still face.”
Aariak listed what she said Nunavut has accomplished in education in the territory.
“Last year, one third of the educators in Nunavut’s schools were Inuit,” she said. “This included 75 language specialists, 19 principals and vice principals and 140 teachers.”
More children are starting Kindergarten with stronger Inuktitut language skills, she said.
“The Inuit language is the primary language of instruction in 60 per cent of our daycares and preschools, with another 37 per cent using it on a regular basis,” she said. “From this base, children in all but four communities are now able to receive the bulk of their schooling in the Inuit language from kindergarten to the end of Grade 3.”
Aariak talked about how her government plans work on “improving the life of Nunavummiut.”
Aariak said the Nunavut Housing Corporation will present a proposal this fall for a revised public housing rent scale and, by the end of October, there will be four people working full-time, “on making funding available to communities to support community markets and freezers, as well as buying country food to distribute among those most in need.”
Aariak also stated that Nunavut “must close the infrastructure gap we have with the rest of Canada.”
The top infrastructure priorities are new housing, energy, transportation and telecommunications, she said.
“Looking ahead, plans are moving ahead for the redevelopment of the Iqaluit International Airport with the participation of the private sector through a P3 project,” Aariak said.
And she also talked about the review of the Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti policy, which gives priority to Inuit companies when awarding contracts, noting that the Auditor General of Canada said the “GN’s procurement framework is fair and open.”
But those at meeting still criticized her government’s record on giving out contracts to Inuit business, hiring Inuit, building new infrastructure and providing essential services.
Larry Audlaluk of Grise Fiord said the GN should give back the delivery of health to the federal government because his High Arctic community is “tired of getting Tylenol” for serious ailments.
Audlaluk said families in Grise Fiord — Canada’s most northerly community — are “getting scared” about their health because they are so far away from medical care.
Planned specialist visits don’t take place, Audlaluk said, with the recent visit of an eye doctor being postponed three times because the doctor couldn’t make it in from Resolute Bay.
David Ningeongan of Rankin Inlet, the president of the Kivalliq Inuit Association, slammed the GN over the lack of progress in meeting infrastructure, citing the lack of docks in his region and a Manitoba-Nunavut connection that could lower the cost of food.
“It’s too expensive to live in Nunavut,” he said.
With respect to the lack of Inuit employment at the future Rankin Inlet corrections centre — mentioned by NTI vice-president Jack Anawak and other delegates — Aariak said “Inuit employment is important.”
Inuit will be hired if they are eligible for jobs there, she said, saying that some Inuit have already been hired and 29 applications from Inuit for some of the other 45 jobs at the centre have been submitted for criminal record checks.
As for NNI, she pointed to the review of the policy the GN is undertaking.
And she continued to defend her government’s record.
“We have made some important achievements,” she said.