Office space shortage creates chaos in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut MLA says
“Well we’ve got a year left, and I can’t see it going anywhere”
The Government of Nunavut’s Family Services department cannot fill a new position for a family resource worker in Sanikiluaq because the Belcher Island community is out of office space, Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt said Oct. 27.
That’s related to an issue that Rumbolt has raised in the territorial legislature for the past eight years.
The usually soft-spoken politician vented obvious frustration when he raised the same issue during question period at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in Iqaluit Oct. 27.
“Can the [family services] minister provide an update on what steps are being taken to fill the family resource worker position in Sanikiluaq?” Rumbolt asked family services minister Johnny Mike.
“It’s being worked on. Four other communities are in the same situation,” Mike replied.
“That’s the same update I got in June, ‘it’s being worked on,’” Rumbolt shot back.
“Can the minister confirm whether or not he’s consulted with the minister for [community and government services] about the lack of office space?”
Mike replied by saying he has spoken to a minister about the lack of staff housing.
“I ask the minister if he’s talked to [the minister of] CGS on the issue of office space, not the housing minister about staff housing, but I’m sure they’re equally related and important,” Rumbolt said.
Mike apologized for the confusion and said he will look into the issue and get back to Rumbolt.
After question period, Rumbolt told Nunatsiaq News the situation is “extremely frustrating.”
“I’ve been after them now since 2009 to look at the office space situation, and here we are today—we’re not any further ahead. It’s not even in the government plans yet.”
And the shortage of office space isn’t only affecting unfilled government positions, but current staff as well, the MLA said.
The health centre is “so overcrowded,” and social workers and mental health workers are sharing the same space.
The municipal office is overflowing with territorial workers, including the probation officer and income support worker.
And the GN building is so full, at least one worker is using a storage closet for an office, he said.
How confident is Rumbolt that this long-standing problem will be addressed within the current government’s lifespan?
“Well we’ve got a year left, and I can’t see it going anywhere. The GN did a study and recognized the need for more office space, but they haven’t put anything in the plans about what they’re going to do about it.”
Rumbolt said his hope is that Sankiluaq is next in line to receive a new health centre, and the old health centre could be converted to office space.
“But even that route, we’re talking three years down the road, so that’s not a quick fix for the community.”
The unfilled family resources worker job in Sanikiluaq is one of seven such positions created within the GN’s suicide prevention strategy in response to the recommendations of a coroner’s jury on suicide held in 2015.