Nunavut legislature Day 7 and 8: gratitude, and a hospital board

MLA Paul Okalik offers to help start neighbourhood watch in his constituency


Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Paul Okalik said he's offering his office to help his constituents start a neighbourhood watch group, following a rash of tire-slashing in the area. (FILE PHOTO)

Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Paul Okalik said he’s offering his office to help his constituents start a neighbourhood watch group, following a rash of tire-slashing in the area. (FILE PHOTO)

Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak thanked searchers who found him, his son and his nephew after they got lost on the Hall Peninsula this past March. (FILE PHOTO)

Uqqummiut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak thanked searchers who found him, his son and his nephew after they got lost on the Hall Peninsula this past March. (FILE PHOTO)

Members of Nunavut’s legislature continued their brief spring session June 7, the second to last day of meetings before the assembly meets in October.

And they put in some extra time June 8, the last day of their spring session, extending question period and committee of the whole.

Rescued MLA thanks search teams

Two months after his rescue from a nine-day odyssey on the Hall Peninsula, Uqqummiut MLA Paulosie Keyootak rose June 7 to thank members of the search teams who found him, his son and nephew after they went missing on an overland journey to Pangnirtung.

“I wish to take this opportunity to express my immense appreciation to the people who volunteer to conduct searches. They undertook a lot of work to find us and on behalf of the group I was with, I extend our sincere gratitude,” Keyootak said.

Airborne spotters discovered Keyootak and his group March 31 at the far end of the Hall Peninsula, near Cyrus Field Bay.

The party had constructed a pair of igloos at their camp — a traditional construction skill that Keyootak said helped them survive.

“It is extremely important to retain our traditional survival skills, particularly when we are outside of our communities. The traditional skill of igloo building or Inuit survival skills have to be maintained as Inuit who will continue to inhabit the Arctic,” he said.

Keyootak warned against relying on the conveniences of modern technology, which can fail.

“Life today includes many conveniences and tools for usage, such as GPS units and other technology available such as computers, the internet and SPOT that allow Inuit to be on the land and we are aware of their convenience.”

Keyootak’s group did not take a SPOT tracking device with them on their journey.

And while the MLA took time in his statement to acknowledge the changing climate in the Arctic, he added, “the Arctic will continue to experience winter and freezing.”

“Traditional Inuit survival skills are essential for Inuit in our homeland,” Keyootak said.

“We have to preserve our ancient survival skills as we, the Inuit, live in the Arctic and it will remain a largely frozen environment.”

MLA takes a slash at vandalism

A recent string of tire slashing incidents in Nunavut’s capital has Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Paul Okalik donning the cape of vigilance and, in a gesture of good faith to his constituents, offering his office for meetings aimed at creating a neighborhood watch group.

“These are hard working people that own their own homes and contribute to our territory. It was unfortunate that their winter tires, [which] are very expensive, let alone that you can’t even get them here, were slashed,” Okalik told MLAs in a member statement.

Okalik went on to say he would do whatever possible to help those affected and “encourages them to keep a sharp eye for any questionable activity in the neighborhood and alert the authorities.”

The MLA asks residents who are interesting in the idea to call his office.

“We will work on establishing a meeting and making sure that all neighborhoods are safe and clear of unnecessary crime,” he said.

MLAs say yes to Qikiqtani hospital management board

Independent oversight into operations of the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit moved one step closer to reality after Health Minister Monica Ell-Kanayuk announced the development of an advisory board for the Nunavut’s only hospital.

“The advisory board will provide a voice for the community and encourage accountability and transparency for the Qikiqtani General Hospital,” Ell-Kanayuk said June 8.

Ell-Kanayuk’s announcement came via a formal return to a question posed by Iqaluit-Niaquunguu MLA Pat Angnakak on June 8.

Angnakak requested an update on a motion calling for a review of the merits of a board of management that MLAs passed in November 2015.

That report was due by the legislature’s fall sitting in 2015, but never materialized.

Ell-Kanayuk said the health department is currently drafting terms of reference and by-laws for the arms-length board.

Those by-laws will be submitted for cabinet approval “by winter 2017,” she said.

The Qikiqtani General Hospital has been operated solely by Nunavut’s Department of Health since 2000, when the Government of Nunavut dissolved the three regional health boards inherited from the Northwest Territories.

“Across Canada, the standard mechanism for hospital governance is the board of management,” Angnakak told MLAs in 2014 when she presented her motion for an advisory board.

Some of the advantages of a board, listed by Angnakak in 2014, include the ability to fundraise, improved fiscal responsibility and a reflective strategic plan for the needs of the hospital developed practitioners in the field.

Gwen Healey, a health researcher from Iqaluit argued for the advantages of such a board in a two-part series published online by Nunatsiaq News in December 2015.

MLA: New NNI policy may raise housing construction costs

Hudson Bay MLA Alan Rumbolt said June 8 that the GN’s recently-unveiled Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti policy changes may increase the cost of building social housing.

Rumbolt questioned George Hickes, the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp., on whether the policy — which gives preferential treatment to Inuit-owned business under Article 24 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement — would impact “such things as cost of construction… as well as the employment of Nunavut residents on construction projects.”

Hickes said he can’t speculate on any added costs, but stated “it is a misconception of the overall policy objective” that the NNI policy would increase costs of construction.

“It is hard to gauge a cost without doing a tender-by-tender comparison… if there is an actual difference,” he said.

The amended NNI policy is scheduled for full implementation by April 1, 2017.

Hickes also confirmed that tenders for all 83 units the NHC plans to build during the 2016-17 fiscal year have been closed and awarded.

“Everything is on schedule and on plan,” he said.

Those 83 units will be distributed among 11 Nunavut communities.

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