Nunavut language authority underspends, stalls on mandate
Another GN body falls victim to chronic staff shortages, MLAs hear
The folly of internal favoritism might explain why it’s taken Nunavut’s language authority so long to standardize and document Inuktut terminology, MLAs learned Nov. 25.
Representatives of the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit language authority, appearing before the Standing Committee on Oversight of Government Operations and Public Accounts at the Nunavut legislature in Iqaluit, admitted they should make more efforts to look outside the capacity-starved organization when it comes to hiring new staff.
“In the future we plan to do job advertisements,” said the newly-appointed Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit chair, Mary Thompson.
The statement came after a series of questions from Tununiq MLA Joe Enook who asked Thompson to clarify why the language authority did not advertise publicly for its vacant executive director position, as well as others, when it was already short-staffed.
This November, the board appointed Jeela Palluq-Cloutier as executive director on a three-year contract.
Palluq-Cloutier, a former language specialist and teacher who worked for Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit, had left the organization to work on other projects — most notably at Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, where she helped with community consultations on a unified writing system for Inuktitut.
But during her absence, the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit — already struggling with capacity challenges — chose to fill Palluq-Cloutier’s position with a term employee under the assumption Palluq-Cloutier would return to her former job after her commitments with ITK were ended.
Because Palluq-Cloutier is returning to the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit in a different job, the organization must now seek or renegotiate a new contract.
“Before you assign someone who’s working somewhere already… did you advertise for this position to the people of Nunavut to see if there are any people in Nunavut interested in the executive director’s position?” Enook said.
“As a board member, we want to have people working there and progressing,” Thompson said
Thompson was then asked how many Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit positions were appointed through its board of directors without no public advertisement.
“Let me say this first: It’s not just your group that does this,” Enook said. “However, we’re only dealing with the IUT right now.
“In the documentation [Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit’s 2014-2015 annual report], what does it mean when it states that staff get appointed by the board. Do they get appointed before they advertise the position?” Enook said.
“Is there no chance for us to be part of your group unless you’re looking for me in particular?”
Thompson replied by saying the language authority has done that in the past.
“That has happened, to tell you the truth. There have been appointments. And as I stated earlier, we are just getting independent now as IUT. We’ve been working on that as the board,” Thompson said.
“We want to make sure that we have indeterminate, permanent members and not just casual workers… In the future we plan to do job advertisements, to do hiring.”
Enook reminded Thompson that her organization is publicly funded.
“If there is a job position, then all of the people of Nunavut should have an opportunity to try and get it,” Enook said.
“The jobs in your office are for Inuit, there should be people in Nunavut that are available if you advertise for these positions.”
According to its 2014-2015 annual report, the language authority spent almost twice as much on casual, short-term wages than expected: $158,241, compared with a budgeted amount of $88,000.
The same was true in 2013-2014 when, according to that year’s annual report, the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit overspent on casual wages by 32 per cent.
In 2012-2013, the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit spent $190,169 on casual wages when it budgeted for none.
But casual wages and computer equipment are the only areas in which the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit ever overspends.
From 2013 to 2015, the language authority has consistently under-spent the budget it gets from the Government of Nunavut.
In 2015, the organization’s available budget was $2,176,000 — but it spent only $1,567,633, about three-quarters of the total.
This lack of expenditures, as well as the slow rate of progress toward its current mandate of defining Inuktitut terminology, prompted the closer examination of the organization by the standing committee.
In its 2012-2013 annual report, the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit projected the completion of a terminology database by early 2014. That deadline has lapsed.
And while some agencies have contacted the language authority for terminology assistance, the organization has yet to contact anyone themselves.
“Can you indicate how your agency promotes its role and services to departments, public agencies and other organizations in Nunavut?” asked Rankin Inlet-South MLA Alex Sammurtok.
“Currently we are using word-of-mouth. The government departments know we are available, but we know we have to do more promotional work to the people of Nunavut,” said Palluq-Cloutier.
The Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit does not currently have a website.
The response seems to confirm earlier statements made by Nunavut languages commissioner Sandra Inutiq during her appearance before the standing committee Nov. 24.
In that hearing, the commissioner reported capacity shortcomings in her own office as well as a general lack of understanding by Nunavummiut about the role of the language authority.
Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak, who chaired the committee hearing, said she expects to report recommendations from both hearings to the legislative assembly during the upcoming winter sitting.