Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 15, 2014 - 12:47 pm

One Nunavut MLA’s wish list

Local services don't reflect size of Baker Lake, MLA Simeon Mikkungwak says

SARAH ROGERS
Passengers walk towards Baker Lake’s airport terminal after disembarking their First Air flight. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Passengers walk towards Baker Lake’s airport terminal after disembarking their First Air flight. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Baker Lake’s Martha Tuliraq elders centre offers 24-hour hospice and respite care to local elders. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Baker Lake’s Martha Tuliraq elders centre offers 24-hour hospice and respite care to local elders. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
From left, Economic Development and Transport minister George Kuksuk, Community and Government Services Minister Tom Sammurtok, Education minister Paul Quassa, and Health Minister Monica Ell listen to community concerns at the Mark Kalluak hall in Arviat June 26 as part of a tour through the Kivalliq last month. (PHOTO BY ERIC ANOEE)
From left, Economic Development and Transport minister George Kuksuk, Community and Government Services Minister Tom Sammurtok, Education minister Paul Quassa, and Health Minister Monica Ell listen to community concerns at the Mark Kalluak hall in Arviat June 26 as part of a tour through the Kivalliq last month. (PHOTO BY ERIC ANOEE)

In a territory that struggles to keep up with health programs, education and infrastructure for its population, a chance to have its decision-makers’ ears for a day is highly valuable.

So when rookie MLA Simeon Mikkungwak received four ministers at his home community and constituency of Baker Lake, he wanted to make it count.

During a day-long visit last month, Mikkungwak toured with Economic Development and Transport Minister George Kuksuk, Education Minister Paul Quassa, Community and Government Services Minister Tom Sammurtok and Health Minister Monica Ell through the Kivalliq hamlet of about 1,900 people – Nunavut’s only inland community.

As in all of the territory’s communities, the tour starts at the point of arrival — the airport, infrastructure Mikkungwak says needs a do-over.

“There’s the age of the terminal building alone,” he said, referring to the crowded green and yellow coloured building.

“We’d like to see a runway expansion and also have the instrument package update and bring in a GPS system (to direct aircraft),” Mikkungwak said. “The GPS approach system is recognized globally, and it really makes a difference in a white-out storm.”

With a population of almost 2,000 residents, Baker Lake is one of Nunavut’s larger communities, but Mikkungwak, a former community mental health addictions counsellor, says the services available in town don’t reflect that.

As part of the ministers’ tour, Mikkungwak took Health Minister Monica Ell through the local health centre.

“For the size of our community we should have a new health centre, with up-to-date equipment,” said Mikkungwak. “It’s overcrowded.”

One of the MLA’s pressing concerns is for the state of Baker Lake’s Martha Taliruq elders centre, run by the community’s hospice society.

It’s an eight-bed facility, with limited respite care available, in an aging building along the community’s main strip.

It’s distinct from the long-term care facilities in Iqaluit and Gjoa Haven and group homes in both Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet, which vary in the levels and durations of care they provide.

The roughly 20-year-old building is not the oldest in Baker Lake, but it’s aging. It first opened as a children’s group home, but re-launched as an elders centre about two years after that.

The centre is not always full; on a June afternoon, a handful of Baker Lake’s most elderly residents watch television, mull over a puzzle or look out the window.

But Mikkungwak said the services offered to elders are few and the staff who work for them are underpaid.

“Having lived here so long, [I know our community has] one of the highest numbers of elders in the territory,” Mikkungwak said. “The Martha Tuliraq centre can only house so many.”

The staff at Martha Taliruq are not professional health care providers, although they have First Aid training. But they oversee the operation of the centre, from meals to housekeeping and daily programming.

“According to local staff, they haven’t seen a pay increase in the last five years,” he said, “while most other organizations see a pay increase every year.”

Besides Baker Lake, Arviat and Iqaluit are also home to similar elders centres.

But Baker Lake’s was the only of the three to see a cut in its Government of Nunavut funding this year, from $981,000 to $948,000.

Mikkungwak has already raised the issue in the legislative assembly, asking to have those contribution amounts reviewed.

He hopes the ministers’ visit will help the see the realities and needs of his community, although Mikkungwak pledges to keep at it in his new job representing the community at the territorial level.

“I’m very comfortable now in this role right now,” Mikkungwak said. “I’ve received a lot of support from the community and organizations.”

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(13) Comments:

#1. Posted by We're Just Trash - RahRah $400 M Iqaluit Airport on July 15, 2014

Three cheers for MLA Simeon Mikkungwak. Then after the cheering does everything sink back to ignore?

The article grabs at your heart wondering what were the MLA’s, Ministers of last year thinking when they approved the Iqaluit airport. Eggo?

If you ponder it too long, it makes you wonder if Nunavut ignores the rest of Nunavut way more then NWT did.

Another brain ponder is why didn’t any current MLA’s question why the expensive Iqaluit airport? Or stop it?  Especially when it could have been done hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions cheaper when Baker Lake like numerous other Hamlets have their own airport community needs.

Sadly, Inuit Orgs seem to be lost in the same ignore fog.  You don’t hear a word from NTI, KIA, ITK about elder care or the elder care workers in Baker Lake. Seems Inuit Orgs now a days join in the ignore, as if it’s a burden to care, fight for people. Easier to ignore people like trash and keeping on trashing not protecting the environment.

#2. Posted by Evie Thordarson on July 15, 2014

Although I agree somewhat with poster # 1 I still think that Simeon was smart in hosting these MLA’s to come and tour Baker Lake. I have been to Baker Lake on business and I have to say it reminded by of Rankin Inlet when I first moved North. They are in dire need of infrastructure updating. Especially the airport. The Department of Health to cut the funding to a much needed elder center that just boggles my mind. Seems to me by reading the story that this center is a integral part of the community and if anything they should first of all get more funding for training of the staff, more funding for programs that will help the elders to keep them busy. Actually I thought that was what Inuit organizations could help with after all these were the leaders of the past and should be honored. And what happened to CLEY funding that is what their funding was suppose to help, the elders.

#3. Posted by soviet97 on July 15, 2014

Dont like it? Move to Rankin, Cambridge Bay or Iqaluit. We need 5 dollars to bring all communities in Nunavut up to par, but the Federal Government gives us “only” $1.50 a year. Of that $1.50 only about $0.30 ends up going into capital projects on an annual basis.

#4. Posted by bereasonable on July 15, 2014

Pretty easy for a MLA to sit back and say “I want I want” The real job at hand is making SOME projects for all Hamlets’s move forward. This is no easy job for Nunavut considering the budget problems it already has. Be reasonable and be real, not just say what the masses want to hear.

#5. Posted by Ronald Hansen on July 15, 2014

Thanks to the Maud I have also found a very nice and informative news paper— you have a lot of interesting stories—you should advertise more as I think a lot of the Canadian people would enjoy your news web

#6. Posted by NBK on July 16, 2014

Excellent work Simeon in highlighting the needs of your community.  I do agree that infrastructure improvements are needed for any community especially an airport; the gateway for all Nunavut communities.

I have been to your beautiful community and seen first hand the state of your airport but it does not compare to the aged trailer that is the Taloyoak airport.

Consider drafting a business case for Baker Lake’s top 5 infrastructure priorities; once developed share with your constituents obtain their support and take it the legislative assembly’s winter session.

#7. Posted by jimi on July 16, 2014

Interesting that you can comment on any stories except for the fMLA for south Baffin. charged with dd. I guess N News plays favourites.

#8. Posted by how much is enough on July 16, 2014

Nunavut already gets $50,000 per person from the Feds, plus plus plus.

How much is Nunavut really going to cost?

Why is it so inefficient?

Maybe Baker Lake is one of the TINY towns being considered for shut down

#9. Posted by Stanley Alooq on July 16, 2014

ajungi Simeon, atiilukkanniq.

#10. Posted by GOOD JOB on July 17, 2014

Simeon rocks!!!

The 2 dog MLAs aside, this government is off to a great start ... should hold by-elections for the 2

Good job for stepping up Simeon, Pat and others - go for it all the way: bring good changes faster, Nunavut needs it

#11. Posted by M.A. on July 17, 2014

WAY TO SIMEON!!!! atiiluu! Quvianakuni!

#12. Posted by #8 on July 17, 2014

#8 Yea, and Canada’s richest province (tar sands) Alberta got from the Feds (and it’s a province not a territory) got $5.2 Billion dollars.

#13. Posted by Nothing on July 18, 2014

#12 the problem is all the money dumped into Nunavut is really money dumped into a black hole.

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