Nunavik voters head to the polls
Today they decide whether to accept or reject the Nunavik Regional Government’s final agreement
(revised at 4:00 p.m.)
KUUJJUAQ – A group of three smiling young men were among the first voters to cast their ballots in Nunavik’s regional referendum on April 27.
Kris Tukkiapik-Papak, 18 and two friends arrived at Kuujjuaq’s Katittavik town hall as the polling station there opened Wednesday morning, eager to have a say in the future of region.
Today, 7,881 Nunavimmiut are voting on whether to accept or reject the Nunavik Regional Government’s final agreement.
Tukkiapik and his friends answered the referendum question: “Do you approve the final agreement of the creation of the Nunavik Regional Government?”
Tukkiapik didn’t say how he voted, although he said the choice was always clear to him.
“We talked about it a lot at home,” he said. “I had no problem making my decision.”
Tukkiapik’s friend was more open about his ballot – he said he voted against the agreement – but he didn’t say why.
If this early wave of young voters is any indication, the future of Nunavik politics looks promising.
But only time and ballot-counting will tell the future of Nunavik’s governance.
That’s because the referendum’s final turnout is hard to predict.
Polls remain open at municipal offices across the region and at Makivik Corp.’s Montreal office until 8:00 p.m. tonight.
A steady stream of mostly Inuit voters trickled into Kuujjuaq’s polling station this morning, many of them elders or employees taking a moment from their work day to cast a ballot, but traffic slowed into the afternoon.
All Nunavik residents 18 and over, who have lived in the region for at least a year, can vote in the referendum.
The Kativik Regional Government is allowing its staff to leave at 4:00 p.m. today to give employees enough time to go to the polls.
At Kuujjuaq’s municipal office, mayor Paul Parsons said he expected to see a good turnout in today’s referendum.
But Parsons said he hopes voters won’t confuse the referendum with another upcoming vote – that is, the May 2 federal election.
For the NRG to be ratified, the number of ballots cast in favour of the agreement must add up to 25 per cent plus one of all eligible voters.
Heading into today’s referendum, there were 7,881 eligible names on the voters’ list. Based on that number, 1,971, must vote “yes” and that number must exceed the number of “no” votes in order for the NRG to pass.
About a dozen new voters registered in Kuujjuaq today, meaning that the total list of eligible voters may likely swell to more than 8,000 across the region.
With more than 1,500 names already on the community’s voter list, it’s the longest seen there for any vote to date, said Ian Robertson, Kuujjuaq’s municipal secretary treasurer.
Robertson said it was a crunch to compile local voter lists in the week leading up to the referendum because usually communities have 30 days before an election to compile those lists.
In Kuujjuaq, the name of a non-beneficiary who hadn’t lived in the region since 1993 showed up on the list, as did several deceased individuals.
But that’s been sorted out now, Robertson said.
The NRG would see existing regional bodies like the Kativik Regional Government, the Kativik School Board, and the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, wrapped into a single organization under a new elected body called the Nunavik Assembly.
The assembly would be made up of 20 members; a representative from each of the region’s 14 communities who would be elected locally, four executive council members and a leader, elected regionally, and one member from the Naskapi nation.