Inuit org candidate campaigns for stronger leadership, action, accountability

Jesse Mike: “There’s definitely an urgency for things to change"


NTI vice-president candidate Jesse Mike in one of her campaign advertisements.

NTI vice-president candidate Jesse Mike in one of her campaign advertisements.

Nunavut’s Inuit birthright organization needs to deliver stronger leadership and more action on issues facing the territory, says Jesse Mike.

That’s why the Iqaluit woman is running to serve as its vice president Dec. 8, when she’ll try to unseat Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s long-time vice president James Eetoolook.

“There’s definitely an urgency for things to change,” Mike said. “Within our Inuit organizations, but also to hold our government accountable to our people.

“NTI hasn’t been aggressive enough in the way they should be.”

Mike knows the organization well — she worked there as a policy analyst for its department of social and cultural development for seven years.

More recently, she worked for the office of Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias. And over the years, she’s sat on a number of boards, including Embrace Life, the National Inuit Youth Council and Nunavut Sivuniksavut.

But asked about her priorities and goals if elected as vice-president, Mike pointed first to NTI’s Nunavut Harvester Support Program, which was cancelled earlier this year while it undergoes a review.

“I have plans to make sure it’s up and running again, but in a more effective, equitable way,” she said, noting the need for communal freezers in each of Nunavut’s communities.

“And we have to support those hunters so they can be out there getting food to fill those freezers.”

If elected vice president, Mike said she’s interested in looking at how NTI can push to improve an education system she believes is failing Nunavummiut.

And as part of education, Mike points to access to early childhood education — and not just for the children of working parents.

Early childhood programs — especially culturally relevant ones — can have a positive impact on any child, if that programming is made accessible to the average family in Nunavut communities, she said.

If elected, Mike said she would also move to re-table NTI’s uranium policy, which essentially supports uranium exploration in the territory under certain conditions.

For her part, Mike says she is “fully against” uranium exploration, while her position on oil and gas development is “not very supportive.”

“Either way, it’s not something we should rush into,” she said. “We need to look at our options. I think we can be more creative in our economic development.”

But ultimately, Mike said her candidacy is motivated by creating a strong future for her two-year-old daughter.

“I want her to be healthy, educated and proud to be Inuk,” she said. “I want her to be able to say life is better now than before she was born.”

This will be Mike’s second run for a position on NTI’s executive; she and 10 other candidates ran, and lost, to current NTI president Cathy Towtongie in the 2010 election.

This election should offer a better race, she said, pointing to fellow candidates James Eetoolook and Douglas Aggark.

“The three of us are very different — different qualities, different histories,” she said. “It’s a lot more exciting.”

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