Baffin Inuit org approves draft budget, gets ready for 2017
“Every Inuk should receive a scholarship, period, through NTI”
P.J. Akeeagok, the president of Qikiqtani Inuit Association, says there are “big things he wants to accomplish this year.”
To that end, the Baffin region’s Inuit association took its first step towards achieving some of those goals in Iqaluit Feb. 8 with the approval by its board of its draft budget for the upcoming 2017-18 fiscal year.
The QIA is asking for about $750,000 in additional funding from its main funder, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., for a total of about $10.25 million.
That’s dependent on QIA’s budget being approved by the Nunavut-wide Inuit organization this spring.
The increase is meant to address persistent shortfalls in some programs, said QIA treasurer Joe Attagutaluk, explaining that NTI funding has failed to match annual increases.
“We did discuss it and they did realize that, yes, we have shortcomings in our budget, because on an annual basis we have an increase of four per cent,” Attagutaluk told the board.
Nonetheless, the QIA said the proposed budget earmarks more than $3.7 million in program dollars set for rollout over the coming fiscal year.
New scholarship fund
Around $200,000 will be diverted into a new scholarship program for Qikiqtaaluk students, the specifics of which have yet to take shape.
“It’s a good initial start,” Akeeagok told Nunatsiaq News after the meeting.
“Every Inuk should receive a scholarship, period, through NTI, no matter what region you’re from. If you’re going to post-secondary… you should be supported financially.”
The number of students supported by the fund has not been determined. Currently, the QIA offers its Joe Amagoalik Scholarship, valued at $5,000 and awarded to one student annually.
Akeeagok said more information will be released once the funding allocation is approved by NTI.
Legacy fund benefits policy
A round of community consultations across the Qikiqtani region is planned for this spring, to ask Inuit what they want to do with potentially millions in revenue earned by a new trust that the QIA created from its Mary River Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement earnings.
The trust, or “Legacy Fund,” totals about $26 million so far and promises to generate about “one million in programming dollars a year” through a projected four per cent return on investment, according to Akeeagok.
“Inuit will have an opportunity to say where and how,” he said.
Mary River expansion negotiations
As Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. works on a green light from regulators for resubmission of its “Phase 2” Mary River expansion proposal, the QIA plans to consolidate its funds ahead of IIBA renegotiations.
About $300,000 from last year’s budget will remain unspent and be shuffled into the QIA’s Mary River IIBA accounts for 2017-2018.
“It’s expected to be more activity this year in the IIBA negotiations,” the QIA’s finance director, Scott Wells, told board members.
Akeeagok said he can’t comment on expected timeframes or positions which the QIA plans to take, but “a strong team” has been assembled for the file, he said.
“It’s a negotiation, so it’s going to have to be both sides at the table, so I’m looking forward to that this year,” he said.
Preparation for the ensuing negotiations by the QIA is happening as several North Baffin communities are rumoured to be circulating a petition for their own designated Inuit organization, which would contain within its jurisdiction the lucrative Mary River mine.
“Its something we take very seriously as an organization,” Akeeagok noted, but he declined comment on the petition until the QIA learns more about the possible community insurrection.
“Without the facts, the numbers of signatures, it would be premature for me to comment,” he said.
“Until we actually see the petition itself and the actual purposes.”
The QIA’s 2017-18 budget will be formally approved at its spring meeting, after being presented and approved by NTI’s board.