Nunavut strips contract from Inuit firm in Coral Harbour
Ten full-time, 30 to 40 part-time jobs could be lost
Louie Bruce of Coral Harbour is a worried man.
He learned last month that his 100-per-cent Inuit-owned company, Sudliq Developments Ltd., lost the Government of Nunavut’s Coral Harbour fuel distribution contract to Katudgevik Co-op Ltd., part of the Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. network.
Bruce’s company held that contract for 25 years. A journeyman mechanic now in his 50s, Bruce started Sudliq Developments in 1986 to create Inuit jobs in his community.
But now he’s worried that his 10 full-time and 35 to 40 part-time employees may be thrown out of work.
“I trusted our Nunavut government,” he said in an interview Oct. 14.
Bruce said that because Sudliq is “100 per cent Inuit,” he expected that Nunavut and its NNI policy would support his business.
Bruce now says he feels let down by Nunavut and by the land claims agreement because “we thought that it would help businesses” that are run by Inuit and provide local jobs.
On Sept. 25, Bruce filed an appeal with the Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti appeals board against the GN’s decision to grant the fuel contract to the ACL outlet in Coral Harbour.
The NNI policy is the GN’s instrument for complying with Article 24 of the Nunavut land claims agreement, which says governments must do things to help Inuit-owned businesses get government contracts.
But the 15-page document, obtained by Nunatsiaq News, filed by a lawyer as part of Sudliq’s appeal, cites eight errors in how the NNI policy was applied.
For example, the RFP requested information on previous legal actions initiated by Sudliq, the appeal document says.
Sudliq had filed an action in 2010 that named the Hamlet of Coral Harbour as a respondent and also served the GN as an interested party.
Sudliq appeal said the GB’s request for information on these legal actions was “intimidating and creates an aura of oppression against Proponents who have or may choose in the future to exercise their democratic rights to seek a court remedy for an infringement of their rights.”
Sudliq also said the “request for this information taints and politicizes the RFP process” and that “any use of this information to determine the outcome of this RFP is an abuse.”
As well, the appeal document says the RFP failed to request “important information” which would have favoured Sudliq.
This includes Sudliq’s “strong record of Inuit employment, management, financing, bookkeeping, tradesmen and crew leaders down to casual employees.”
“If the appropriate information had been solicited, Sudliq would have been able to demonstrate its use of Inuit employment at every level of the corporation, leading to an appropriate and effective RFP evaluation delivering on the goals of the NNI,” the company’s appeal said.
The GN has told Bruce that Sudliq’s fuel contract will end Nov. 1 — despite the continuing appeal.
And Bruce said he still doesn’t understand why his company did not win the contract.
“I thought they were quite satisfied with the service,” he said.
During that time, Bruce said “our company has never received complaints.”
The revenue from the fuel contract help keeps Sudliq going in the winter, when it relies on smaller contracts for snow removal and other work to pay the bills, he said.
Bruce built a green and white insulated garage, the only privately built garage in town, to keep the trucks used for the fuel contract warm in the winter, he said.
He’s still paying off the cost of building that garage, he said.
For the fuel contract, he also employs four trained workers who hold aviation refueling certificates.
The company supports 10 full-time workers all year round.
In the summer, Sudliq hires up to 40 local part-time workers for jobs related to hauling, road upgrading and other heavy equipment work.
Bruce’s sister, Manitok Thompson, a former Nunavut cabinet minister, is fuming over the situation.
“We’re just stunned,” Thompson said.
Sudliq is an “ideal Inuit business,” built by an Inuk businessperson and offering jobs to Inuit,” she said in a recent telephone interview from Canmore, Alberta, where she now lives.
Thompson, who served as minister of public works and services in the first Nunavut government and before that as minister of municipal and community affairs in the Northwest Territories government, was an architect and supporter of Nunavut’s NNI policy.
“I was happy with it [the NNI]. I thought it would promote more Inuit business.”
Now she calls the NNI policy “an insult,” because it appears to allow businesses with links to larger enterprises located outside the territory run roughshod over locally run businesses.
Thompson said the Nunavut government should call for a review of the NNI process.