NEWS: Nunavut June 04, 2014 - 12:30 pm

Kugluktuk preps residents for Nunavut’s expected development boom

“We need to look at financial literacy, and what kind of training we can offer”


Resource development projects are more likely than ever to arrive in Nunavut quickly and on a large scale.

The territory’s westernmost community of Kugluktuk has been largely exempt from these kinds of impacts recently, but local leaders want to make sure the quiet hamlet of 1,500 is ready when the boom hits.

Kugluktuk is one of seven communities which the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor, has chosen for a “community readiness” initiative.

The pilot project is geared toward ensuring that resource development benefits “the well-being and socio-economic outcomes for northerners,” the agency states on its website.

Weaknesses such as skilled labour shortages, low literacy and numeracy, as well as a lack of housing and safety and security issues, can make it difficult for people in communities to benefit from these kinds of projects.

Such weaknesses can lead to more destructive impacts than constructive ones for northern communities, CanNor said.

The solution, CanNor hopes, lies in mapping out a plan within communities on how to deal with the negative and positive aspects of major economic development — which could involve mining, oil and gas or tourism.

The Hamlet of Kugluktuk received $200,000 from CanNor last year to create such a road map for the community, says Sean Wallace, manager of community development for the hamlet.

Rather than hire consultants and outsiders to complete a Kugluktuk readiness plan, the community has adopted the project as its own.

“At the end of the day, we want this to be a reflection of what the community wants,” said Wallace.

The plan will grow out of a research study, conducted by members of the community with help from academics specializing in the North, Wallace said.

To make that possible, the hamlet has pulled seven local residents together into a community readiness committee, which will direct the project.

Starting last November, when it first met, the committee’s main task has been to identify how it can prepare residents for new jobs on development projects.

“I’ve always been concerned about the well-being of the community,” said April Pigalak, project coordinator for the community readiness initiative.

For starters, she said, Kugluktuk has a fast-growing population.

Almost half its residents are under the age of 25 — but there are few guarantees that residents will even be ready to take on new jobs at mining operations in the region.

“A lot of people who need these jobs, and who need the training and education for these, might not have even had a job before,” she said.

“We even need training for basic work ethics.”

Resource jobs are expected to be hundreds of kilometres away, on sites that will require employees to leave the hamlet for more than a week at a time, she added – which is hard on families.

Moreover, “there’s challenges related to a person’s increased income, and how they’re using their money,” Pigalak said. “We need to look at financial literacy, and what kind of training we can offer.”

And jobs are clearly needed, given the high cost of food and hunting gear in the region.

Experience elsewhere in Canada and abroad shows that sudden booms in development can also bring increases in crime, and alcohol and drug abuse.

With the long list of challenges in mind, Pigalak said her main task since March, under the direction of the readiness committee, has been to compile a list of services within and outside the community that can offer solutions to each of those challenges.

“I’m building a database where we can point out to people that this is here, and if you need support for it, then you can go and see this person,” she said.

So far, the readiness committee has drawn on information and expertise from residents as well as school officials, RCMP officers, health workers and mine employees.

A community-wide household survey, set to take place in August and September, will be the next step, Pigalak said.

The committee will use results of the survey and other research to draft a community readiness report by March 2015, which will specify what the community must do to participate in resource development projects.

Once the report is done, the hamlet will have to come up with an “evaluation and monitoring plan,” to ensure Kugluktuk voices are heard during consultations on development projects, Wallace said.

The community development manager figures the plan will be most useful in consultations on mining development projects, given that so many sampling and exploration projects are within 400 kilometres of Kugluktuk.

The community readiness project is a source of pride for the hamlet, said Wallace, “and I know if the community buys into this, it’s going to be a useful tool for them.”