Nunavut’s federal candidates: Jack Anawak

The candidate’s more important than the party, Anawak says


Nunavut NDP hopeful Jack Anawak with his campaign manager, Heather Coman. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)

Nunavut NDP hopeful Jack Anawak with his campaign manager, Heather Coman. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)

To help inform our readers, Nunatsiaq News posed seven questions to candidates from the three major political parties contesting the Nunavut seat in the Oct. 19 federal election — Canada’s biggest riding and the only one that spans three time zones. We will run them in alphabetical order.

Here’s the second of three candidate profiles: Jack Anawak of the New Democratic Party.

Anawak told Nunatsiaq News recently his jump to the NDP is “no big deal.” “I don’t think the majority of Nunavummiut are so concerned with what party, but what commitment, knowledge, and what feelings the candidates have for the territory.” Anawak also said the Liberal party’s decision to choose a non-Inuktitut speaker as a Nunavut candidate — Hunter Tootoo — is “disappointing.”

1. What makes you believe you’re qualified to serve as Nunavut’s MP?

I know Ottawa inside and out, but I also know Nunavut inside and out, having lived in Nunavut all my life and having grown up in a hunting and gathering society and moving on to today where technology has taken over.

I have knowledge of how government works, whether it’s at the territorial, municipal or federal level. Having been an MP for two terms, having been an interim commissioner where I dealt with Ottawa in putting the bureaucracy of Nunavut together, having been an ambassador for circumpolar affairs working for Canadian foreign affairs, having been a member of the opposition for my first term, and then a member of the government in my second term, I think I understand Ottawa pretty well.

2. How much would you spend on badly-needed infrastructure in Nunavut and what sort of projects do you support?

First of all there’s a severe shortage of housing. I was in Naujaat earlier this spring, where in one house I visited there were 18 people living in a four-bedroom house.

The NDP has already said they would look at affordable housing and housing for the homeless. Homelessness isn’t just people who have to go to a men’s shelter, it’s also people who can’t call a house a home because they’re just boarding at their relatives.

Being a hunter myself, most communities need a small craft harbour. I think that’s another area we’d have to look at in order to respond to the needs of our growing population. Other than in Pangnirtung, there’s no small craft harbours anywhere in Nunavut.

The other area we might take a good look at infrastructure is day care facilities, that’s a major problem. An NDP government would take a look at $15-a-day daycare.

3. Do you support oil and gas development in the Arctic?

Any development up here is welcome, because it can provide jobs. But if there’s going to be any development up here, the NDP have said quite clearly that we would work hand-in-hand with the impacted area, whether it’s the community or the territory. Consultation is the key. We’re not against development, but what we’re for is orderly development. Consultations, making people feel like they’re part of development is the key.

The [Conservative] government came along to say we’re going to have seismic testing in Davis Strait. Nobody went up to Clyde River to say, ‘oh, can you let us know what you think?’ That’s not the kind of development we want.

4. What would you and your party do to address the housing crisis in Nunavut?

What we need to do is push for more affordable housing for people who can afford to build houses, so that answers the needs of people who can’t afford to build their own. There needs to be more housing co-ops. Presently in Nunavut we only have one housing co-op.

What we have to start doing is thinking outside the box. Just because it’s been done this way for so long, doesn’t mean it’s the right way. Let’s look around the world where other countries have had a severe housing shortage, and how did they respond to it?

5. How would you and your party address poverty and job creation Nunavut?

Poverty is a real thing up here. There are people who can hardly afford to feed their family. A good example is a young mother or couple who may be unemployed or on income assistance and, because of problems with providing breast milk, have to buy formula but can’t afford it. And formula is the next best thing after breast milk.

There’s something wrong with the whole Nutrition North system. Why isn’t it responding to the very basic needs of a baby needing formula? The NDP just put forward a motion in June wanting to do a comprehensive review of the Nutrition North program.

The potential for job growth is in the developments occurring up here, whether it’s mining, oil and gas exploration or other forms of development.

But any major development that’s going to come up here should also look at how they can provide the person-power for those big developments. And to do that you need education and training, those two should be tied together. If there’s any kind of development approved, automatically, there should be education and training programs.

Also, we’re very dependent on fossil fuels up here. Is there an innovative way of having something outside of fossil fuels?

6. How would you and your party address overwhelming addiction and mental health problems in Nunavut?

When the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s] report came out, the NDP leader quite clearly said we would follow and put in place all of the recommendations, which would respond to a lot of the trauma up here. I have been an advocate for doing something about mental health in Nunavut for a long time now, over 30 years. I’ve lost three brothers over those 40 years, and a number of other relatives, to suicide, and have seen them suffer under the trauma of alcohol and drug abuse.

I think the first thing we need is more mental health facilities in Nunavut, utilizing our own people. For too long we’ve been under the government, having to use social workers who did not have any clear understanding of Inuit culture. Let’s have treatment facilities up here that are geared towards people who are from up here.

7. What are the most important issues facing northern youth and how do you plan to address them?

Education. A lot of our young people are suffering from a lack of education and education facilities. At the same time, a lot of our young people are suffering from some form of trauma, including a lack of housing. So mental health to me is one of the major areas where we can do more work for the young population, but educationally, we have to keep our young people in education.

At some point we’re going to have to address the non-existence of a university up here…

Candidate responses have been edited to fit the available space. Tomorrow we feature Liberal hopeful Hunter Tootoo.

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