MLA, hunters, complain about wildlife officer shortage
"Nothing is in the works to increase the number of conservation officers”
A shortage of conservation officers in some Nunavut communities has sparked questions in the Nunavut legislature and during the recent meeting of the Kitikmeot Regional Wildlife Board in Cambridge Bay.
At the legislative assembly Oct. 29, Tununiq MLA Joe Enook pressed environment minister James Arreak about the need for an additional conservation officer in Pond Inlet.
Enook wanted to know how officers are allocated around the territory.
Enook said the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization in Pond Inlet had requested an additional conservation officer last spring — a request Arreak said he never received.
Enook, baffled by Arreak’s response, then questioned Arreak about correspondence he had sent Enook during the last sitting of the legislature.
These communications said environment department officials would review “staff in association with the budget planning process.”
But to that, Arreak said not much has changed since last spring.
“The set number of conservation officers in the communities haven’t changed,” Arreak said.
“At this time, nothing is in the works to increase the number of conservation officers in the communities, or even if we can get additional conservation officers.”
Arreak said his staff assesses each conservation officer’s workload to determine if a community gets one or two officers.
Enook, not satisfied with Arreak’s answer, asked what formula is used to allocate conservation officers.
Arreak responded by saying he didn’t have the information at hand, but said there is a need for a management position in North Baffin that his department is trying to fill.
“Does the department have any written guidelines that are used to determine whether or not a community requires another conservation officer?” Enook replied.
“If the workload is sufficient enough for one conservation officer, then we have one conservation officer, but it depends on the workload and various other factors,” Arreak said, adding that one conservation officer is enough for Pond Inlet.
Enook shook his head in response.
But in the Kitikmeot region, many are upset that five of eight conservation officer positions for the region remain vacant.
And many complained about the empty positions at last month’s meeting of the Kitikmeot Wildlife Management Board in Cambridge Bay.
In Gjoa Haven, the absence of a conservation officer means the local hunters and trappers organization has been obliged to take over a lot of the work that a conservation officer would do — but without the budget, said James Qitsualik, the board’s secretary-treasurer.
with files from David Murphy and Jane George