Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik January 03, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Nunavik: A look back at our top stories for 2017

The best of times and the worst of times in northern Quebec

SARAH ROGERS
Salluit teacher Maggie MacDonnell is selected among 20,000 applicants to win the 2017 Global Teacher Prize awarded by the Varkey Foundation last March in Dubai. (PHOTO COURTESY OF VARKEY FOUNDATION)
Salluit teacher Maggie MacDonnell is selected among 20,000 applicants to win the 2017 Global Teacher Prize awarded by the Varkey Foundation last March in Dubai. (PHOTO COURTESY OF VARKEY FOUNDATION)
Nunavik’s regional hunters, fishers and trappers organization, Nunavimmi Umajulirijiit Katujiqatigininga, vote in December in favour of certain restrictions on the caribou hunt to help boost the populations of dwindling herds, including the Leaf River herd, pictured here. (PHOTO BY FELIX ST-AUBIN/MAKIVIK)
Nunavik’s regional hunters, fishers and trappers organization, Nunavimmi Umajulirijiit Katujiqatigininga, vote in December in favour of certain restrictions on the caribou hunt to help boost the populations of dwindling herds, including the Leaf River herd, pictured here. (PHOTO BY FELIX ST-AUBIN/MAKIVIK)
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard makes his first visit to Nunavik as premier. Here he has tea with local elder Viola Napartuk in a canvas tent in Tursujuq provincial park. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GOV. OF QUEBEC)
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard makes his first visit to Nunavik as premier. Here he has tea with local elder Viola Napartuk in a canvas tent in Tursujuq provincial park. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GOV. OF QUEBEC)
Nunavik parents say they’re surprised and disappointed in May to find out Kativik School Board graduates have not been receiving secondary school diplomas since 2015. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Nunavik parents say they’re surprised and disappointed in May to find out Kativik School Board graduates have not been receiving secondary school diplomas since 2015. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

Quebec’s northern Inuit region of Nunavik is growing at more than twice the rate of any other region in the province.

Growth and change bring milestones and challenges, which is clear after a look back at Nunavik in the year 2017.

Former Salluit teacher Maggie MacDonnell is named recipient of the $1-million Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize for 2017, chosen from some 20,000 other applicants around the world.

The Nunavik co-op celebrates its 50th birthday and Makivik says its two airlines are doing so well, they plan to distribute $16.8 million to Nunavik through community projects and regional initiatives.

But it was also a year of tuberculosis outbreaks, overcrowded houses, violence and tragedy as troubled young people lashed out at others with guns and knives, with sometimes deadly results.

Here is a review of the top Nunavik stories from 2017.

January

• In response to the alarming drop in the population of the Leaf River caribou herd, the Quebec government agrees to close the sport hunt of the herd for an indefinite period. But despite the urgency expressed by Indigenous groups, Quebec won’t close the sports hunt until 2018.

• Makivik Corp. files a notice in the Nunavut Court of Justice, calling for a judicial review of the Government of Nunavut’s decision to set the Hudson Bay polar bear quota at 23 bears. Makivik calls the decision discriminatory and unfounded. There was no quota previously in place.

• After years of looking for a new home for Nunavik patients who travel south for treatment, regional health authorities officially open the doors of Ullivik, a 143-bed residence located close to the Montreal airport.

February
• Nunavik’s new Montreal-based college program, Nunavik Sivunitsavut, opens registration for its first cohort of students. Modelled after the successful Ottawa-based Nunavut Sivuniksavut, the Nunavik version is now slated to begin delivering classes in September 2017.

• Data from Statistics Canada’s 2016 census shows that the region of Nunavik now has a population of 13,188—up nine per cent from 2011. The increase is more than twice the growth seen throughout the rest of Quebec, where the population grew 3.3 per cent over the last five years to reach 8,164,361.

• Nunavik’s multimillion-dollar crime prevention fund, Ungaluk, opts to no longer finance the region’s popular select hockey program, run for over a decade by former NHLer Joé Juneau. Makivik and the Kativik Regional Government, which oversee the fund, decide to cut $900,000 from the annual budget of the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program.

• Makivik Corp. and the Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, or the FCNQ, announce a new joint venture firm, Tarquti Energy Corp., whose goal is to create renewable energy projects in Nunavik.

March
• Makivik Corp. launches a business arm, Nuvviti Development Corp., which it says will help separate its business affairs from its political work and oversee its subsidiary companies and joint ventures. Makivik is the last of the four Inuit land claims groups in Canada to launch a business arm.

• Salluit teacher Maggie MacDonnell is named recipient of the $1-million Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize for 2017, chosen from some 20,000 other applicants around the world. MacDonnell pledges to use her winnings to fund a kayak program for Nunavimmiut youth.

April

• A 12-year-old Nunavik girl dies after being struck in the head by a hockey puck at the hockey arena in Salluit. The puck was accidentally shot over the boards during a regional midget tournament.

• Puvirnituq dogsled musher Aisa Surusilak and his partner Aiplie Qumaluk win the 2017 edition of Ivakkak. The race, which wrapped up in Ivujivik April 15, ran a lengthy 19 days due to blizzards and an illness that infected a number of dogs.

• Nunavik health officials warn the region to be vigilant after staff deal with a new outbreak of tuberculosis. Six cases have been detected in Kuujjuaq, and 10 others throughout the region, since the beginning of the year.

May

• The KRG and Makivik negotiate a one-year extension to the region’s cost-of-living subsidy in order to buy more time to negotiate a long-term agreement with Quebec. The province paid out $33 million in cost-of-living subsidies to Nunavik between 2014 and 2017, money the region used to offset the cost of airfare, household appliances, gasoline, food and harvesting equipment for Inuit.

• Nunavik parents say they’re surprised and disappointed to find out graduates have not been receiving secondary school diplomas since 2015. Instead, Nunavik students who complete their Secondary 5 studies have been receiving an Attestation of Equivalence of Secondary Studies, or AESS, issued by Quebec. That’s because Nunavik’s Secondary 4-level math and science curricula do not meet Quebec’s Department of Education requirements—and hasn’t for some time.

• Nunavimmiut celebrate the 50th anniversary of the region’s co-operative movement. The Fédération des co-operatives du Nouveau-Québec, or Ilagiisaq, was first incorporated a half-century ago, on May 20,1967, as the co-operative movement took hold in many parts of the eastern Arctic.

June

• The KRG-run Tamaani Internet abandons plans to bring a fibre optic network to Nunavik by 2021 and instead eyes a combination of fibre optic, microwave towers and surplus satellite capacity to bring high-speed internet to the region. The regional government has applied to the federal Connect to Innovate and provincial Quebec Branché programs for money to put the project into motion.

• The region is in shock and mourning after a 19-year-old from Akulivik goes on an early morning rampage in the Hudson coast community, stabbing five people, three of whom die of their injuries. Police shoot and kill Illutak Anautak before the armed young man enters another home.

• Kativik Regional Police Force officers shoot and injure a 24-year-old man in Inukjuak after he’s alleged to have thrown rocks at community members and threatened police with a knife.

July

• After years of negotiations, the Quebec government finally signs off on a new rent scale for social housing tenants in Nunavik. Under the new scale, annual rent increases in the region drop from eight per cent to six per cent, retroactive to July 2016.

• An Inukjuak woman in her 50s dies after consuming beluga meat infected with the bacteria that causes botulism. Her daughter, who also consumed the meat, is treated in a Montreal hospital and released.

• Quebec’s provincial police, the Sûreté du Québec, investigate the suspected homicide of 14-year-old Bethany Nastapoka July 22 in Inukjuak. When no arrests are made in the days following Nastapoka’s death, the girl’s parents plead for anyone with information to come forward.

August

• Nunavik finally has its own region within Quebec’s powerful construction industry board, the Commission de la construction du Québec. That means Nunavimmiut construction workers will now have priority hiring on construction projects; they’ll also receive social benefits, access to pension and insurance plans and receive vocational training and labour management.

• Nunavik’s major regional health survey gets underway in Kuujjuaraapik. Qanuilirpitaa, a follow up to the 2004 Qanuippitaa? study, will visit each of Nunavik’s 14 communities on the Canadian Coast Guard’s red-and-white research icebreaker, the Amundsen.

• Nunavik Sivunitsavut, the Kativik School Board’s new college-level program, opens its doors to its first class of 18 students in Avataq Cultural Institute’s Montreal offices.

September

• The Kativik School Board says its Secondary 4 math and science curricula are now accredited through Quebec’s education ministry. That means 2017-18 graduates will receive secondary diplomas. At the same time, the school board launches its new name: Nunavimmi Ilisarniliriniq.

• The Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau decides to cancel evictions in 2017. Although the housing body loses hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent each year, its board of directors opts to take a year off from evictions to consider new ways to make tenants pay up.

• The KRG moves to finalize the creation of Nunavik’s fifth park, Iliuliq, located at Cape Wolstenhome along the Hudson Strait. The 775 square kilometres of park space is meant to protect the landscape of Quebec’s northernmost tip, including its rare plant species, walrus habitat and one of the world’s largest colonies of thick-billed murre, which nest along the region’s cliffs.

October

• Police arrest a 17-year-old in Inukjuak teen and charge him with the first-degree murder of 14-year-old Bethany Nastapoka, who was found dead near her home on July 22.

• Nunavik’s leaders weigh in on Quebec’s new legislation for the legalization of small amounts of marijuana. Police and elected leaders say they fear better access to marijuana could put Inuit youth at risk, and plan to launch an awareness and prevention campaign aimed at teens.

• Makivik says a number of its subsidiary companies, including Air Inuit and First Air, posted solid returns in 2017, prompting the Inuit birthright to distribute $16.8 million to Nunavik this year through community projects and regional initiatives—though it didn’t name which ones.

• Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard makes his first visit to Nunavik as premier, while news of the arrest of one of his Liberal legislators makes headlines across the province. First Couillard travels to Kuujjuaq to meet with regional organizations and then on to Umiujaq to inaugurate Tursujuq park.

• The SQ investigates the suspicious Oct. 25 death of a man in Puvirnituq. A 16-year-old boy is arrested the following week in connection with the death. At the same time, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, Quebec’s office of independent investigations, is looking into the police shooting of a young woman in Puvirnituq who is alleged to have threatened officers with a rifle.

November

• With its curricula now accredited, Nunavik’s school board says the province has agreed to reinstate diplomas for high school students who graduated in the region over the last three years and didn’t receive one.

• Makivik announces that it will completely revamp the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program, with plans to launch a new “made in Nunavik” version of the program in 2018.
• A Nunavik mother wants answers after her 11-year-old daughter Alacie is found dead on the land outside of Umiujaq. Jeannie Sappa says her daughter died of hypothermia after she passed out from drinking, and the woman wants to know who supplied the girl with alcohol.

• The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services forms a committee to help revamp the region’s youth protection services, with the goal of better adapting those services to Inuit communities. The Quebec government passed a new version of its youth protection act last year, which allows the province to enter into agreements with Indigenous communities to design and manage their own youth protection programs.

• Nunavik’s regional hunters, fishers and trappers organization, Nunavimmi Umajulirijiit Katujiqatigininga or RNUK, votes in favour of certain restrictions on the caribou hunt to help boost the populations of dwindling herds. Harvesters agree to a ban on hunting pregnant caribou between March and May and agree that hunters should use rifles with a greater calibre than .22 to kill any caribou.

December

• The KRG says Quebec’s Ministry of Public Security has agreed to build new police stations in Nunavik’s 14 communities and expand court facilities in Puvirnituq, which faces severe crowding in its holding cells. The issue was flagged in a 2016 report by Quebec’s ombudman’s office, which followed the region’s circuit court.

• The KRG’s Tamaani Internet will launch 3G cellular and mobile data service to all 14 communities in Nunavik in 2018 in partnership with a yet-to-be named wireless provider.
• Nunavik health authorities say they will revise the region’s medical escort program, after the region’s Montreal-based patient residence tracked hundreds of escort event reports, from intoxication to violence and missed departures. The health board said it is looking at hiring Montreal-based patient navigators to accompany Nunavimmiut patients to appointments instead.

• Some community members in Kuujjuaq question the Kativik Regional Government’s hiring of Érick Labrie, who has a recent criminal record. The KRG hired him as a human resource advisor, which includes helping to recruit new police officers.

• Public health officials confront a new outbreak of active tuberculosis in Puvirnituq, where eight new cases were diagnosed after September.

• Quebec’s Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes sends seven people to Umiujaq to investigate the shooting death of a 22-year-old man who is alleged to have been threatening local police officers with knives.

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