Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 06, 2012 - 1:57 pm

Nunavut MLA slams lack of government help for search and rescue

Communities left to foot the bill: Akulliq MLA John Ningark


"When hunters are lost on the land, we don’t get assistance," says Akulliq MLA John Ningark. (FILE PHOTO)

The federal and territorial governments don’t provide enough support or money for search and rescue efforts in Nunavut, Akulliq MLA John Ningark said June 5 in the Nunavut legislature.

“Yes, I truly support the Nunavut government in pushing for devolution because we need empowerment in the communities. But, when hunters are lost on the land, we don’t get assistance, they don’t want to help,” he said

Ningark mentioned 22 –year old Bernard Pujuardjok, who was reported missing Dec. 5, 2011 after leaving by snowmobile to Taloyoak.

Ningark said he wanted to thank the people of Taloyoak for their help, as well as search and rescue teams from Kugaaruk, Gjoa Haven and Repulse Bay.

“Conversely, I don’t have much to thank our Nunavut government for in this instance, and this applies equally to the federal government,” he said.

It’s one thing to go out on the land in the spring, but another in the winter when days are short and there are blizzards: “hunters get lost, then searches have to be made. When people get lost in Nunavut, they often don’t return home.”

It’s a problem when communities must raise money for themselves to do searches, he said.

In the case of Pujuardjok, the search to date has been unsuccessful, and requests for assistance from the two levels of government to conduct more searches haven’t been responded to yet, Ningark said.

“It was only through the good graces of the local peoples of these communities that we were able to fund the searches stemming from their area,” he added.

Search and rescue operations continue as part of the problem facing “Inuit [who] have been exploited for quite a number of generations in the name of sovereignty,” Ningark said.

The federal government isn’t listening, he said. “When we request assistance, helicopters are no longer available, although they are still servicing the southern latitudes; the Canadian Coast Guard no longer has ships available at those times.”

Premier Eva Aariak said her government feels for the family of Pujuardjok and others who got lost in the Baffin region.

And she promised she will continue to bring up search and rescue problems with her counterparts.

“I have brought up how important and serious this is when it comes to search and rescue north of 60. I have raised this a number of times that it would be a lot easier to have a center closer to the communities,” she said.

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