Talk begins on Nunavut’s assembly building



Everyone’s talking about the structure of Nunavut’s government.

But no one’s been talking about where the government and legislative assembly will be housed – at least until recently.

Concerned with this absence of any public discussion on Nunavut’s legislative assembly building, some Iqaluit and Baffin business groups have decide to get it going.

The Nunavut Chamber of Commerce, the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Iqaluit Trade and Promotion Office have commissioned a report to ask people what they’d like to see in their legislative assembly building.

The Halifax-based SGE Group Inc and the H. Burdett-Moulton architectural firms were also asked to look at development options for a multi-use Nunavut legislative assembly building.

Gela Pitsiulak, the president of the Chambers of Commerce, and Derek Rasmussen, the acting director of ITPO, presented the report to the Iqaluit Town Council at Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting.

The report showed that many people, such as Iqaluit elder Naki Ekho, want to be involved in the process and that residents across Nunavut should be included.

“It helps if we are consulted beforehand,” she said. “It is important when elders are asked what their dreams are, and to see it in reality; it makes our physical bodies fell better when our views are respected.”

Bridge past and future

The SGE Group found that people wanted a “high quality, culturally sensitive and fiscally responsible building that should be an international landmark that celebrates the past and bridges to the future.”

Iqaluit elder and town councillor Abe Okpik, who suggested the name of the new building be called “Qaggiq,” stressed that the building must have more than one use. It should also be a place people can feel comfortable inside, Okpik said.

“Qaggiq” means a big snow house used for community meetings.

As well as a seat of government, the SGE Group proposed several other functions for the building, including a drop-in centre, soup kitchen, law courts, day-care, visitors gallery, telecommunications centre and performing arts centre.

Some councillors, however, were skeptical and wanted to know who gave these organizations the mandate to commission the report.

Rasmussen told council the report was to get discussion going, not to dictate the style or use of the building.

“We came to ask council to start thinking what role council will take in this,” he said. “We wanted to ask if council would consider a discussion process on how the building is designed.”

$5 million from Ottawa?

The consultants suggested that community organizations and businesses could help plan and finance the building, along with the five million dollars the federal government has already committed to the project.

Time, as Councillor Kenn Harper suggested, though, is running out for consultation.

The Nunavut Construction Corporation, which is overseeing all Nunavut government infrastructure projects, has already begun the process. Last month NCC invited nine architects to submit work plans for a legislative assembly building in Iqaluit.

The firms invited to submit proposals by a February 28 deadline are: Alastair Cockburn Architect Ltd, David Wong Architect Ltd, Douglas J Cardinal with Livingstone Architect, Ferguson Simek Clark, Full Circle Architecture and the ARCOP Group, Livingston Architect/WSAG, Jodion Lamarre Pratte et Associes Architectes, Park Saunders Adam Viske Architects Ltd, and Pin/Matthews Architects.

“I’m concerned that nobody until tonight has expressed much concern about what these (government) buildings are going to look like,” Coun Harper said. “I think we’ve waited almost too long.

“We don’t want the cheapest, box-like structure they can find,” he added. “If these buildings are going to be here, it’s high time people and organizations in Iqaluit started thinking where they’re going to be and what they’re going to look like.”

Council passed a motion Tuesday to start a community consultation process which would include input from all regions of Nunavut, invite NCC to discuss their vision of the building, and appoint someone to explore financing options for a multi-use building.

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