Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut September 20, 2013 - 3:01 pm

Jack Anawak seeks Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu seat in Nunavut election

Anawak resigns as vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Jack Anawak wants to become the first MLA for the new Iqaluit riding of Niaqunnguu. (FILE PHOTO)
Jack Anawak wants to become the first MLA for the new Iqaluit riding of Niaqunnguu. (FILE PHOTO)

Jack Anawak, a former MLA for Rankin Inlet North and Liberal member of Parliament for the old federal riding of Nunatsiaq, has thrown his hat into the ring for the Oct. 28 territorial election. 

Anawak, 62, announced Sept. 20 in a news release that he has resigned his position as vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. to run for MLA in the Iqaluit riding of Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu.

“As a part-time vice-president [of NTI] I have not been able to be as active and engaged with Nunavummiut as I had hoped,” Anawak said in the press release.

“As a member of the legislative assembly, I will be able to commit myself to serving Nunavummiut in a broader role with a renewed passion.”

Anawak listed his campaign platform on the press release, citing five priorities he wants to focus on.

Those include:

• refocusing the K-12 education system;

• investing resources in communities and institutions to combat suicide;

• building facilities and expanding the capacity to provide mental health and addictions treatment;

• restoring integrity to the Integrity Act; and,

• finding new solutions to the housing crisis.

Anawak said Nunavut’s young population is changing the mindset of Nunavummiut by demanding action on issues and he hopes to see that continue.

“We have not always been comfortable engaging in the type of political dialogue we see in the rest of Canada, but as our young territory matures so too does our obligation to give voters a chance to see for themselves what sets candidates apart,” Anawak said.

“I hope to see and engage in candidate debates so that voters can make an informed decision when they go to the ballot box.”

Anawak has been a strong advocate for suicide prevention in the territory since gaining a position on NTI’s board.

“We’ve had 32 suicides in Nunavut so far this year. Iqaluit alone has seen the loss of 80 people to suicide since April 1 1999,” Anawak said in the release.

“Over 300 Nunavummiut have taken their own lives since the creation of Nunavut, and yet we seem to have stalled in implementing the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy. This is unacceptable.”

In 1993, Anawak swept into office as MP in a landslide, taking 6,672 votes, compared with only 1,970 for Leena Evic-Twerdin of the Tories and 924 for Mike Illnik of the NDP.

In 1997, Anawak quit his job in the House of Commons after Ron Irwin, then the Northern Affairs minister, gave him a prestigious appointment: interim commissioner of Nunavut.

Irwin chose Anawak from a lengthy list of blue-chip applicants that included names such as Dennis Patterson, Joe Kunuk, and Ken MacRury.

As interim commissioner, Anawak’s job was to prepare for the creation of the new territory on April 1, 1999 by hiring Nunavut’s first senior employees, prepare an Inuit employment plan, negotiate Nunavut’s first budget, and finish Nunavut’s first plan for decentralizing territorial government jobs.

Anawak quit the Office of the Interim Commissioner at the end of 1998 to run for the new Rankin Inlet North seat in Nunavut’s first territorial election on Feb. 15, 1999, making no secret of his desire to serve as Nunavut’s first premier.

Though he won election to the legislative assembly, MLAs rejected his bid for the premier’s job, opting for Paul Okalik.

Then Anawak was voted out of cabinet because of his position on the controversial transfer of 13 petroleum products division jobs from Rankin Inlet to Baker Lake in 2003.

Anawak also served as Canada’s Arctic ambassador from 2003 to 2006.

Anawak did not run in the 2004 territorial election, but attempted to run in the 2008 election for the old Akulliq riding, which consisted of Kugaaruk and Repulse Bay.

However the Nunavut chief electoral officer denied his request to be a candidate after discovering Anawak had not a resident of the territory long enough to qualify as a candidate.

Anawak is one of a handful of Nunavummiut who have already announced their candidacies in advance of Sept. 23 when candidates may start filing declaration forms.

During the last session of the legislative assembly, nine MLA’s announced they would seek re-election. 

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