Jack Anawak named interim commissioner

The former MP will manage a $10 million budget over the next two years to set up Nunavut’s first public government.



­Ron Irwin let Nunavut’s worst-kept secret out of the bag this week ­ Jack Anawak is interim commissioner.

Anawak resigned as MP in the House of Commons Tuesday afternoon.

Later that day, the three signatories to the Nunavut Political Accord, the government of Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the GNWT, sent out a joint news release declaring Anawak had won the coveted job.

“It’s exciting,” Anawak said from Ottawa Wednesday. “It’s truly a great honor and it’s a humbling experience.”

Anawak echoed the American Declaration of Independence in describing his new job.

“We want to see a government of the people, for the people,” Anawak said.

“This opportunity gives me a chance to put in place a dream of having a government that is responsive, is caring, and that people feel comfortable with.”

Unveils game plan

Anawak said he’ll try to make sure Nunavut’s government is “user-friendly” and that he wants to involve the people in planning for their government.

After working in Ottawa for nine years, Anawak says it will be easier for him to deal with whomever becomes the next minister of Indian affairs and northern development.

He plans to meet with some key players in Nunavut in the next few days, and begin plans to set up his Iqaluit office.

Jose Kusugak, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., says he hopes now the job of building Nunavut’s government can get under way.

Kusugak says since Anawak is already familiar with the Nunavut land claims agreement, he expects him to have a good understanding of NTI’s concerns.

NWT Premier Don Morin issued a news release Wednesday praising Anawak.

“I congratulate Jack on his appointment to this challenging position, and I am looking forward to working with him in his new role, as he has a strong track record with the people of Nunavut, and has proven to be a skilled, knowledgeable and caring leader,” Morin said from Hong Kong, where he is trying to persuade Chinese immigrants to spend money in the NWT.

Fellow Liberal Ed Picco, who nominated Anawak on behalf of the Nunavut caucus, said he’s glad the appointment has finally been made.

“We’re very ecstatic now that Jack has finally been appointed interim commissioner,” Picco said. “I feel that we’ve missed a window of opportunity of about three months. There’s a lot of work to be made up now.”

Letters of instruction

The Nunavut Act grants Anawak far-reaching powers, including the power to hire Nunavut’s public service, negotiate with unions and sign agreements on behalf of the government of Nunavut.

But he must also abide by the letters of instruction given to him by Ron Irwin.

“I don’t think the people of Nunavut have to worry about Jack Anawak building his own little Nunavut of employees and so on,” Kusugak said this week.

He said Anawak’s letters of instruction from Irwin advise him to follow GNWT procedures for hiring staff for his office.

Anawak says he’s seen a copy of those letters, but hasn’t been given them formally yet.

In its response to the Nunavut Implementation Commission’s Footprints 2 report, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. recommended that those instructions be made public.

A DIAND official said its possible those letters of instruction will be made public as early as next week.

Where to now?

The work of the Nunavut Implementation Commission will be useful as “a guide” but Anawak says he’ll be talking to the three signatories of the Nunavut Political Accord to get direction on how to proceed ­ and the people of Nunavut.

“We have to do more consultation with the people, and much more at the ground level than has ever happened before,” Anawak said.

He says he’ll also stay out of the gender parity plebiscite campaign now under way. He has spoken out publicly against the plan in the past.

“I believe in the truly democratic process. Whatever the people decide should be the case.”

Questions of patronage

Anawak has an answer for people who accuse the Liberal government of patronage in appointing a high-profile Liberal to the post.

“They are questioning the wisdom of Nunavut Tunngavik, the government of Canada, and the government of the Northwest Territories collectively. That’s who appointed me.”

Anawak says his critics in the Reform Party in the south don’t understand that many people in the North aren’t partisan.

“They don’t just put down people because they happen to be in the wrong party,” he said.

As for his successor as Nunatsiaq MP?

“May the best woman win,” Anawak said with a hearty laugh.

He says he doesn’t have any favored candidates in mind.

John Amagoalik, the chief commissioner of the NIC was traveling and couldn’t be reached for comment about Anawak’s appointment.

News Anawak had been appointed didn’t surprise many northerners. Nunatsiaq News reported in January that he was about to be named to the post.

Anawak’s job ends March 31, 1999, the day before the Nunavut territory officially comes to life.

With files from Dwane Wilkin in Iqaluit

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