Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit July 10, 2018 - 1:30 pm

City of Iqaluit resolves a burning issue over traditional fires

“We have been here thousands of years making tea as Inuit women”

COURTNEY EDGAR
Pitsulala Lyta, right, has been making traditional heather fires on the land behind the women's shelter in Apex for years with other Inuit women to make tea. She said when the shelter staff and fire department told her this summer that they were not allowed to make fires without a permit, she reached out to Mayor Madeleine Redfern, who clarified that Lyta could make her traditional fires without a permit. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)
Pitsulala Lyta, right, has been making traditional heather fires on the land behind the women's shelter in Apex for years with other Inuit women to make tea. She said when the shelter staff and fire department told her this summer that they were not allowed to make fires without a permit, she reached out to Mayor Madeleine Redfern, who clarified that Lyta could make her traditional fires without a permit. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)

Two weeks ago, when Pitsulala Lyta was forbidden to make the traditional heather fires for tea she has regularly made on the land outside Iqaluit with a group of other Inuit women, she stood her ground.

The fire department and shelter director where Lyta stays had repeatedly told her she needed a permit for these fires, Lyta said, so she reached out to Mayor Madeleine Redfern, who advocated on her behalf.

“They were intimidating me, riding around watching me,” Lyta said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

“They insisted we not make a fire, even after I said we’d been here thousands of years making tea as Inuit women.”

Redfern emailed the fire department to clarify the issue, and when Lyta told her last Friday that still her shelter director was discouraging her from making fires, Redfern went to the shelter directly with the burn permit requirements in hand.

Later, on July 3, the city issued a public service announcement about what kinds of fires require a fire permit and which kinds do not.

In short, Lyta was right.

“The city would like to remind residents that a burn permit is not required to cook food or heat beverages using a traditional or ‘heather’ fire, a barbecue or Coleman stove. However, permits are required for camp fires. Also, a reminder that camp fires must be 30 meters or 100 feet from a building, and only untreated wood can be used,” the PSA said.

Permits must be obtained for burning combustible materials within the city boundaries.

A traditional or heather fire is one that is small in size and would use heather or other tundra materials as the source of fire.

“The inclusion of traditional or heather fire in the exemption is to expressly recognize and respect that Inuit culture includes rights associated with hunting and harvesting,” said Andrea Spitzer, communications manager for the City of Iqaluit.

“However, a bonfire, which is a large fire, usually (using) a significant amount of wood, would indeed require a burn permit—even though the fire may reduce significantly in size over time, where it may then be used to cook food, such as hot dogs. A burn permit is required for the initial fire.”

A burn permit helps ensure that the fire department is aware of these larger fires, and doesn’t unnecessarily send firefighters out to them.

To obtain a permit—which is free—residents must go to the fire station and fill out an application. This form should then be signed by a member of the fire department.

Redfern said that the point of the public service announcement on burn permits was to ensure that everyone is on the same page about how small, traditional fires do not require a permit.

Now Lyta and her circle of women can make their tea fires without fear of discouragement.

“Long story short, we won,” Lyta said.

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(22) Comments:

#1. Posted by bob on July 10, 2018

This is just a small example of what’s always playing out in Nunavut- people in authority going by the letter of the law with no clue of how those things are to be applied/interpreted in the North. Just mindless authoritarians that will not listen to reason or reality.  Good thing we do have someone in a position of authority to set them straight. Thank you Madeline.

This is absurd. Who are these people trying to impose something so minor and stupid on a long standing traditional activity? Permit for a fire to make tea???? In the long battle for self-determination and de-colonization in Canada it is so hard to read this. We’ve come so far in some areas but the ignorance that this story highlights is just so discouraging. Way to stand up for yourself Lyta!!

#2. Posted by Drama Queen on July 10, 2018

“In the long battle for self-determination and de-colonization in Canada it is so hard to read this”

Don’t you think you’re being a wee bit histrionic, bob?
Seems like it.

#3. Posted by Sade on July 10, 2018

Good to see that common sense rules the day.

# 1 you are right - too many newcomers bring all their rules with them, despite the fact they are made for cities with thousands or millions of people in them.

Loosen up friends, I am safety-minded too, but know when you are interfering with the North and Northerners.

#4. Posted by Bobby on July 10, 2018

This is just an example of small town news.

#5. Posted by Yes Madam Premier on July 10, 2018

Perhaps the Commissioner of Nunavut should apply an IQ lens and review all GN statutes rather than just signing blindly.  Only statutes that are consistent with Inuit Societal Values would be signed into law.  Any others would simply be rejected as “inappropriate”.

For that matter, perhaps the Department of Culture and Heritage should review proposed Statutes, Regulations and Policies when they are at a draft stage.  They could apply an IQ lens and recommend alternative approaches, consistent with Inuit Societal Values.

Perhaps the DM of each department should work with their IQ Coordinator for something other than planning a day on the land.  Imagine if they worked together to apply Inuit Societal Values when formulating solutions to the problems they face.

I think that’s what was intended when the government was being planned. Somehow, we got lost along the way.  Time to circle back and pick up the track.

#6. Posted by Dam popo on July 10, 2018

This has nothing to do with tradition, this is about security within a modern city limit. And in this case, there is no security issue what so ever. A small fire like that in the toundra presents a very unlikely threat with very little consequences. The fire department and the shelter director should get a blame. I hope hey learn from this and be more careful not to be stupid.

#7. Posted by Encouraging on July 10, 2018

I find it encouraging that people are starting to understand, speak up and take action to preserve Inuit culture. I like the city’s policy too. The first time I had char soup cooked over heather I was amazed at the flavor.

#8. Posted by Pitsulala Lyta on July 11, 2018

On Nunavut Day, of all days, the Director came and immediately went on to tell us we are not allowed to have a fire near the shelter. We included elder and another woman who cannot walk on the land in our lil get together for Nunavut Day, even moved the rocks farther (reluctantly in case) to celebrate . She came and left after telling us we cannot have the fire and that we would be in “trouble” with the marshall (intimidation). Enough is enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#9. Posted by Amanda on July 11, 2018

the Director of Qimmmavik was telling me that even out on the land, that is not even in the City , that we would need a fire Permit.

#10. Posted by LC on July 11, 2018

This has gone too far, we have lost traditional values because of the emotional abuse that have been causing troubles with the law. Senior staffs has been abusing all that time. The director calls it “IQ thingy” which is disrespectful to GN mandates. There is no mandates in this institutions and I am sure other institutions. and I am sure there are false statements. Enough is enough of abuse!!!

#11. Posted by Pudlo on July 11, 2018

What a joke. an extremely small tempest in a teapot. Poor Lyta at the shelter, poor bylaw running around on a slow day, poor shelter director. Only in Nunavut such trivial garbage becomes something to discuss.

#12. Posted by Dump Cano on July 11, 2018

Sure fire is a big hazard. 

How about resourcing beach shacks against fire.  That is something to professionally obsess over.

#13. Posted by David on July 11, 2018

Two sides to every story and I think both sides are wound a little too tight.

I get preserving culture, but lets be blunt, every single culture and race of people on this planet have been sitting at a fire, since fire was invented, every single one.

Some people need to look at the big picture and do a little better job picking their battles.

#14. Posted by Peter on July 11, 2018

#13 well said! When this has been going on for a very long time, these new people and their new laws which is taking it to a level that is not necessary here, a little bit too much chest thumping and not using common sense.

Glad it worked out, for this one anyway!

#15. Posted by Pitsulala Lyta on July 11, 2018

This is not trivial at all, this is all about preserving our rights. Keep speaking out!

#16. Posted by Uncle Bob on July 12, 2018

Stick it to them Madeleine,
“They were intimidating me, riding around watching me,” Lyta said.

You should consider a stalking charge as well!

#17. Posted by Paul Murphy on July 12, 2018

Now that the Mayor and her staff have clarified how tea can be made, do you think a bit of their time can be spent on our dump and the fires there? Pfft - Hamlet!!

#18. Posted by Real Expert on July 12, 2018

#16 Yes, either that or treatment for paranoid-delusion disorder.

Take your pick

#19. Posted by Encouraging on July 15, 2018

Mmmmmmm I can smell it now! Thank you for the discussion!

#20. Posted by Lynching on July 17, 2018

There is alot of Lynching going on Nunatsiaq News lately against Inuit, now your going to call me racist when you openly comment racism on different issues facing Nunavummiut #Canada151 #Nunavut4000, get it

#21. Posted by Prove it on July 18, 2018

#20 I call bullshit on your comment. Evidence please.

#22. Posted by Lynching on July 18, 2018

Are you blinded #21 because of you superior thinking over Inuit, I mean look at the comments made, as an Inuk person, it is very disturbing that you want more evidence when all these things are in plain sight, clear, I mean if you have an ulterior motive against Inuit, please stop this, it’s not cool

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