Candidates in Netsilik campaign for housing, Inuit culture
“We need to get people excited and interested in Nunavut politics”
Campaigning in Nunavut isn’t always as easy as knocking on your neighbours’ doors.
Netsilik candidate Joe Tulurialik flew from his hometown of Taloyoak to Kugaaruk earlier this week, hoping to meet with potential future constituents in the riding, which encompasses the two communities.
Bad weather re-routed the flight to Yellowknife, however, where he was waiting for a rescheduled flight Oct. 25 while he spoke to Nunatsiaq News by phone.
The 39-year-old Taloyoak resident and interpreter is running in his first territorial election.
“I’m not afraid to speak out for what the two communities want,” Tulurialik said. “We need to get people excited and interested in Nunavut politics.”
From what Tulurialik has heard from community members so far, people in Taloyoak want to see their own culture and input inform the territory’s politics. They also want access to more public housing.
“We need more housing, period,” he said, pointing to a six-year long wait list for units in Taloyoak. “Funding is always limited, but we have to work with the federal government on this.”
Tulurialik said community members value education, but many struggle to finish high school—let alone pursue post-secondary studies outside the community or the territory.
He thinks the territory’s curriculum isn’t adapted to the needs of Inuit; Tulurialik wants to see the Education Department take on a more made-in-Nunavut approach.
Inuit who practise their traditional culture could use a boost too, he said, especially hunters who are helping to feed family and community members.
Tulurialik said he plans to advocate for a commercial plant in either of Netsilik’s two communities to process fresh meat and fish, as well as more hunter support initiatives.
From neighbouring Kugaaruk, Emiliano Qirngnuq has had a short exposure to territorial politics.
He served as MLA for Netsilik following a February 2016 byelection, where he won the seat vacated by former MLA Jeannie Ugyuk. The riding encompasses the communities of Kugaaruk and Taloyoak in western Nunavut.
But now, Qirngnuq said he’d like to stay on as MLA and believes he has the support to do it.
“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “But that year and a half was very short, and that got me interesting in continuing. I’d like to help out my constituents.”
Qirngnuq, 67, has worked with a number of local organizations over the years. He sat on the board of directors of the Koomiu co-op when it was first established in the 1980s.
He served as a hamlet councillor for four years in the 1990s and was an active member of the community’s hunters and trappers organization.
In his short time as MLA in 2016 and 2017, Qirngnuq said he was able to question the government on its suicide prevention strategy and also draw support for a new air terminal in Taloyoak, expected to be complete next month.
If re-elected, Qirngnuq said he will push for better funding for public housing and upgraded airport infrastructure.
“Most communities in Nunavut need more housing and we should be able to provide it,” he said.
Qirngnuq said he’s seen more and more Nunavummiut who are homeless. “In such a harsh climate, I’d like to see everyone housed,” Qirngnuq said.
Because of where they’re located, Kugaaruk and Taloyoak are among the most expensive communities in Nunavut to live in, he said.
He believes that larger airport facilities would help communities bring in more fresh food.
“New runways would allow larger aircraft to bring in more products to the stories, which would cut the freight rate,” he said.
Finally, Qirngnuq said he wants to advocate for Inuit culture and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit to play a stronger role in Government of Nunavut services and policy. He said he believes Nunavut’s elders can help the government integrate more traditional knowledge when drafting legislation.
Election day in Nunavut is Oct. 30.
Nunavummiut who are 18 years old, Canadian citizens and residents of Nunavut are eligible to vote. To be a Nunavut resident, you must have been living in the territory for a year leading up to election day. If you work or study outside of the territory, Nunavut must still be considered your primary residence.
Voters should bring identification that shows their address with them to the polls on election day. That can include a driver’s licence, vehicle registration or a Government of Nunavut general identification card.
On Oct. 30, polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. eastern time, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. central time and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. mountain time.