For Nunavut, 2014 was the year of the fumble
All year long, Nunavut residents watched governments fail to meet promises, basic standards
If you’re a Nunavut resident who trusts that governments can do their jobs, 2014 would have been a disappointing year.
The fiascos included revelations of incompetence and harassment in the health department and long-suppressed deficiencies at the Baffin Correction Centre.
The federal government’s failure to meet the stated goals of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency were laid bare in a blistering report by the Auditor General of Canada.
Later in the year, the auditor general’s office found that Ottawa was failing to ensure that Nutrition North Canada subsidies are benefiting consumers.
At the municipal level, local councils across Nunavut struggled to meet even basic environmental standards for waste management, as illustrated by the dumpcano fiasco in Iqaluit.
Here is our summary of the territory’s top stories this year.
• Elections Nunavut announces they’ll hold a by-election Feb. 10 in Rankin Inlet South, where the two candidates, Lorne Kusugak and Alexander Sammurtok, wound up in an unbreakable 172-172 tie after the Oct. 28, 2013 territorial election.
• Five of six remaining directors on the board of the Qulliq Energy Corp., including board chair Simon Merkosak, quit their positions Jan. 6 to protest the recent ouster of ex-CEO Peter Mackey and a decision to postpone a proposed hydroelectric project near Iqaluit.
• The Transportation Safety Board reports Jan. 8 that a malfunctioning valve caused a Challenger jet from California to veer off the Iqaluit runway and end up in a snow bank in a 2011 mishap.
• The Pangnirtung tech firm Pinnguaq releases a new Inuktitut learning app for the iPad called Singuistics.
• Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq rises Jan. 29 in the House of Commons to deny that she breached ethics rules when she attended a fundraising event at the tony Westin Hotel in downtown Ottawa, on the eve of the 2014 Northern Lights trade show. A CTV news story alleged the fundraising event was attended by northern business leaders who lobby the federal government for money, including the CanNor agency for which the MP is responsible.
• At the Northern Lights 2014 trade show, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq announces the Arctic Economic Council will be created later in the year.
• The Transportation Safety Board finds, in a report issued Feb. 4, that poor monitoring of ship’s navigation led to the grounding of the fuel tanker Nanny, operated by Woodward Group, near Baker Lake on Oct. 25, 2012.
• A report issued by the Ottawa Coalition to End Human Trafficking finds that many Inuit women and girls in Ottawa are recruited by pimps to work in the sex industry and may be exposed to other forms of human trafficking.
• The Inuit Circumpolar Council announces they will name Okalik Eegeesiak as their candidate for the international chairmanship of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.
• Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says, in a report on the state of Inuit culture and society, that the results of the 2007-08 Qanuippitali Inuit health survey were mishandled and that the “results have generally been disseminated to an academic audience in isolated fragments rather than showing how the results fit into a larger picture of Inuit health.”
• In a by-election held Feb. 10, Alexander Sammurtok, with 268 votes, defeats Lorne Kusugak, who took 225 votes to win the Rankin Inlet South seat in the Nunavut legislature. The by-election was held after Sammurtok and Kusugak produced a 172-172 dead heat in the Oct. 28, 2013 territorial election.
• A firm called Quinan Construction Ltd., from Ontario, takes over a $32.3 million renovation project at the old Baffin Regional Hospital building in Iqaluit following the spectacular bankruptcy of Dowland Contracting Ltd., the operating partner in NCC-Dowland, a partnership between Dowland and the Inuit-owned NCC Investment Group.
• Internet services in Northern Canada are saved from imminent collapse: the federal government’s 2014-15 budget, delivered by the late Jim Flaherty, provides funding worth $305 million over five years to replace a suite of earlier subsidies, dating back to 2004, that were set to expire.
• Iqaluit Employment Insurance claimants get zapped with new rules that require them to work about 20 weeks before they’re eligible to apply for benefits. Prior to the change, Iqaluit EI claimants required only 12 weeks of work.
• On Feb. 24, Arviat votes to stay dry, while Chesterfield Inlet and Kugluktuk vote to keep local alcohol committees that monitor local purchasing.
• Nunavut MLAs announce they’ve decided on fixed election dates, a code of conduct for MLAs and territorial-wide local plebiscites on fee simple ownership of municipal lands for 2016.
• The federal government pledges $419 million over 10 years for infrastructure in Nunavut — about $41.9 million a year.
• Natural Resources Canada forecasts that in 2014, Nunavut will see a big drop in exploration expenditures, down to $165.5 million from a high of $535 million in 2011.
• Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson presents the Government of Nunavut’s capital budget for 2014-15, asking MLAs to approve spending of about $150 million. That includes spending of $30.1 million on the GN’s new Iqaluit airport project, which gets little debate.
• MLAs vote to suspend Uqqummiut MLA Samuel Nuqingaq for the Nunavut legislature’s entire winter sitting, which runs March 6 to March 22, and from all caucus and committee meetings, pending a review of this behaviour to be held later in the year.
• Nunavut’s chief coroner, Padma Suramala, announces she will conduct a public inquest into three randomly chosen suicide deaths from among the 45 people in Nunavut who died by suicide in 2013.
• The Nunavut Impact Review Board says yes to the Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. early revenue phase proposal, a scaled down plan that would see up to 4.1 million tonnes of iron ore shipped through Milne Inlet from Mary River.
• Pond Inlet’s new arena re-opens March 14 after being closed for a year due to electrical and structural problems.
• In the Nunavut government’s March 20 throne speech, the premier and cabinet commit themselves to an agenda that makes education their top priority.
• The GN, along with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Embrace Life Council and the RCMP, announce March 20 that Nunavut’s suicide prevention strategy will be extended for one more year.
• The Auditor General of Canada tables a report that shows Nunavut continues to fall short of its own child protection standards.
• Paul Okalik, the minister responsible for the QEC, scraps a rate rebalancing scheme that would have seen the power corporation move step-by-step towards uniform territory-wide rates in about 10 years.
• Premier Peter Taptuna and Education Minister Paul Quassa announce a $1 million dollar upgrade to curriculum and evaluation standards for all schools in Nunavut.
• A faulty compass reading and crew miscommunication led to the crash of First Air flight 6560 near Resolute Bay on Aug. 20, 2011, the Transportation Safety Board says in a report issued March 26 in Ottawa.
• Bruce Kayaitok of Kugaaruk gets a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, with no chance of parole for 15 years, for the savage murder of his common-law spouse, Belinda Tootiak, in June 2008.
• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases a report that finds human induced climate change is creating impacts everywhere on the planet. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri.
• The stinking, overcrowded Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit becomes a national embarrassment for the GN following the long-delayed release of a damning report by Howard Saper, Canada’s correctional investigator. The report, which the GN refused to release for more than a year, reveals the prison is awash in contraband drugs and violates international human rights standards.
• The Nunavut Inuit-owned Nunasi Corp. transfers its 50 per cent stake in Norterra Inc, to the Inuvialuit Development Corp., putting 100 per cent of the Canadian North airline into Inuvialuit hands.
• Kathy Okpik, the deputy minister of education, admits the GN failed in its implementation of the 2008 Education Act because “we did underestimate the enormity of the task.”
• A jury in Pond Inlet finds a 32-year-old woman not guilty of procuring a minor for prostitution and two other related charges.
• NTI. cancels the Nunavut Harvesters Support Program for 2014 to give themselves time to review the scheme and improve it.
• The Anglican Diocese of the Arctic agrees to pay $2.65 million to the receivers handling assets left behind by Dowland Contracting Ltd., an Inuvik-based construction firm that went belly-up in 2013. A Dowland subsidiary, NCC-Dowland, had built the new Anglican cathedral in Iqaluit but the church still owed $3.1 million for the work, an amount that was whittled down to $2.65 million after negotiations.
• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases a report that finds global emissions of greenhouse gases are rising to unprecedented levels and that average annual temperatures in the Arctic are likely to rise three to six degrees by 2100.
• Makivik Corp. and the Inuvialuit Development Corp. start talks aimed on merging First Air and Canadian North into a single airline.
• Agnico Eagle pledges $5 million to help pay for a future university in Nunavut. The move produces lots of chatter, but no concrete plans.
• The Government of Nunavut unveils a food security strategy and action plan.
• Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias, Kim Crockatt of Cambridge Bay, Wynter Kuliktana of Kugluktuk, Jesse Mike of Iqaluit and Susan Ball of Arviat, along with guides Simon Kowmuk and Timothy Akerolik and camp cook Bernadette Dean, complete the 2014 Women in Action Steps of Hope walk between Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet to raise money for cancer research.
• Court documents reveal that Uqqummiut MLA Samuel Nuqingaq faces two criminal charges arising from an incident alleged to have occurred Feb. 24 in Qikiqtarjuaq.
• With the support of Canada and the United Kingdom, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species launches a review of the trade in polar bear parts from the five polar bear range states: Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway and Russia.
• The Nunavut Marine Council — made up of the NIRB, the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Wildlife Board and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board — says seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait should not occur until after the federal government completes a strategic environmental assessment for the area. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development minister Bernard Valcourt rejects the idea.
• The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency gets bad reviews from the Auditor General of Canada, Michael Ferguson, who finds that the agency filled only 15 of 32 positions at its Iqaluit “headquarters,” leases too much office space, and does not adequately track handout payments to clients.
• Repulse Bay votes to change its name to Naujaat.
• A dispute between NTI and the GN over an abstract number called “basic needs level” — for the dwindling Southampton Island caribou herd — threatens to degenerate into a grudge match between lawyers.
• The Anglican Diocese of the Arctic gets a $1.9 million bank loan, guaranteed by the NCC Investment Group, to pay off its debt to the Dowland group’s receivers. To pay that bank loan, the church starts a fundraising campaign among parishioners called “Freedom 2015.”
• MLAs vote May 22 to suspend Uqqummiut MLA Sam Nuqingaq until July 16. Meanwhile, Nuqingaq enters a 60-day residential treatment program for substance abuse.
• About a year after its workers vanished from an Iqaluit hospital building renovation site, NCC Dowland Construction Ltd. springs back to life. The firm wins part of an $84.9 million construction management contract for the Canadian High Arctic Research Station facility in Cambridge Bay.
• Eric Dejaeger’s lengthy trial on dozens of sex charges involving Inuit children from Igloolik winds down as lawyers present final arguments to Justice Robert Kilpatrick.
• The GN releases a survey that shows caribou have almost disappeared from the northern part of Baffin Island.
• Nunavut teachers win a nice pay hike from the GN in a new collective agreement that gives them a three per cent wage hike dating to July 2013, a two per cent hike in July 2015, and one per cent in each of two following years.
• The Nunavut family services department promises to re-open a children’s group home in Cambridge Bay, which closed in 2013. Meanwhile, a group home in Iqaluit continues to operate after the GN kicks out a batch of younger children and sends them to the South.
• Elee Geetah, 23, of Cape Dorset, is found guilty of manslaughter in the 2010 shooting death of Jamesie Simigak.
• June Okalik Klengenberg of Kugluktuk celebrates her 100th birthday on June 15.
• Steven Akittirq, 24, is charged with first degree murder in relation to the death of a young woman whose body was found June 9 just outside of Igloolik.
• Larry Audlaluk of Grise Fiord gets bumped up from his QIA vice president’s job when he is named as interim president of the QIA. He will serve starting July 25, when Okalik Eegeesiak is expected to be rubber-stamped into her new job as international chair of the ICC.
• Pat Angnakak, the MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, complains in the legislative assembly about a GN claw-back policy that prevents social assistance recipients from receiving the National Child Benefit Supplement.
• The NPC threatens legal action after AAND Minister Bernard Valcourt refuses to fund a final public hearing on the NPC’s completed draft land use plan for Nunavut. The NPC releases the draft plan June 20.
• Premier Peter Taptuna appoints veteran MLA and cabinet minister Ed Picco as his principal secretary, the top political job in the premier’s office.
• The National Energy Board approves a proposal by a group of companies operating under the name Multi-Klient Invest to do seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait for five years, starting in 2015.
• Vincent Rigby is named as Canada’s top non-elected official for the country’s Arctic Council chairmanship, replacing Patrick Borbey.
• A 2013 wildlife monitoring report of Agnico Eagle Ltd.’s Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake is released, showing that five caribou were killed in a single incident involving a grader on the mine’s all-weather road; the GN calls for more information on the company’s wildlife monitoring program.
• The Alianait Arts Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary with a weekend-long concert in Iqaluit, live streamed online, featuring performances from Igloolik’s Artcirq, Greenland’s Akukittut and Fred Penner.
• The RCMP calls off the recovery mission for a missing Pangnirtung man, Eric Joamie, believed to have drowned while hunting, after a two-week search.
• Police in P.E.I. charge South Baffin MLA David Joanasie with impaired driving after a late-night incident in Charlottetown.
• NTI asks the Ontario government to hold a public inquiry into injuries allegedly sustained by a blind, disabled Nunavummiut child in 2010 while attending the W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind in Brantford, Ont.
• The Hamlet of Arviat issues a warning to residents to beware the higher-than-normal number of polar bears wandering through the town, prompting local MLA, Joe Savikataaq, to call for an increase in the total allowable harvests of polar bear in the area.
• The ICC annual assembly, which takes place in Inuvik, ends with a declaration to improve knowledge-sharing between Inuit organizations and the rest of the world.
• Opposition to NEB-approved seismic testing proposed near the coast of Clyde River gains momentum throughout July, including a public spat between Greenpeace Canada and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, culminating in a federal court of appeal challenge of the NEB’s approval process of the project.
• An Ontario Court judge rules that a homeless Inuk man living in Ottawa does not have to pay $900 in mandatory victim surcharges, imposed by the Conservative government in 2013 as part of its “tough on crime” bill, deeming the charges unconstitutional.
• Swedish scientists discover methane gas, a major contributor to climate change, bubbling up from the Arctic Ocean seabed along the Siberian coast, causing even more concern in a region that is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth.
• An Ontario superior court rules that documents relating to testimony of abuse at residential schools, given during the Independent Assessment Process, be destroyed in 15 years, allowing survivors to archive the records, if they wish to, while upholding the confidentiality promised to those who testified.
• Two Arviat fishers, Jobe Nibgoarsi and Eric Qiyuaryuk, are found dead by a third fisherman about 50 kilometres north of their community along the Hudson Bay shoreline.
• A pregnant Nunavut mother feels stranded in Quebec after unexpectedly giving birth in Montreal because the territory’s health department refuses to medevac her and her two children back to Iqaluit. The mother returns to Iqaluit, using funds raised by coworkers, only to sell her possessions to return to Quebec, where she feels her newborn daughter will receive the medical attention she needs.
• The 20th annual Eastern Arctic Elders’ Gathering takes place in Cape Dorset Aug. 18 to Aug. 21, attracting more than 100 elders from across Nunavut and Nunavik.
• The NPC files a lawsuit against the Government of Canada alleging broken promises and political interference stemming from Ottawa’s refusal to pay for a public hearing required to complete the NPC’s final land use draft for Nunavut.
• Industry Canada commits to spending $50-million over five years to subsidize satellite internet for 12,000 households in Nunavut and Nunavik, quelling fears that service would collapse after the current subsidies expire in 2016.
• A new StatsCan study says the state of Inuit health declined between 2001 and 2012, with fewer Inuit reporting excellent or good health in that interval.
• First Air announces that as of Oct. 1, it will cut regular service to Naujaat, formerly called Repulse Bay, because the route is not economically viable, but that chartered flights will continue to service the community.
• The inaugural meeting of the Arctic Economic Council, chaired by Leona Aglukkaq, takes place in Iqaluit with national and business representatives from around the circumpolar world. The AEC, linked to, but independent of, the Arctic Council, will allow business-to-business and business-to-government networking, Aglukkaq said.
• As a result of its final report on the 2011 First Air flight that crashed outside Resolute Bay and killed 12 people, the Transportation Safety Board calls on Transport Canada to reduce the number of unstable aircraft approaches that continue on to landing attempts.
• Sakku Investments Corp., the business arm of the Kivalliq Inuit Association, walks away from its partnership with First Air, entering a joint venture with Winnipeg-based Exchange Income Corp.’s subsidiaries Calm Air and Keewatin Air instead.
• One of two ships believed to be part of the infamously ill-fated Franklin expedition of 1845-1846 is found in Victoria Straight, between King William Island and Victoria Island, after the largest-ever searching expedition which included numerous private and government agencies. The expedition was directed, in part, by information preserved by Inuit oral tradition.
• The Nunavut Court of Justice finds disgraced and defrocked Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger guilty of 24 charges, mostly relating to the sexual molestation of children in Igloolik between 1976 and 1982. Dejaeger will likely be sentenced in January, 2015.
• Pitseolak Peter, 52, of Iqaluit — responsible for the savage beating of his common-law wife which resulted in her death — is sentenced to 15 years in prison for manslaughter, minus 30 months for time already served.
• The office of Canada’s Auditor General slams Nunavut’s Family Services department — again — for not doing enough to protect the territory’s most vulnerable citizens, prompting the GN to release an action plan addressing basic record-keeping and child care standards.
• Baffinland Iron Mine Corp.’s Mary River iron project transports its first load of iron ore to the site of their Milne Inlet port.
• Fisheries and Oceans Canada increases Baffin’s annual bowhead whale quota from one to two animals for the 2015 hunting season, bringing Nunavut’s quota to four whales. The announcement comes at the end of the open-water hunting season, which included a rare fresh-water beluga haul in Baker Lake.
• Throat-singer Tanya Tagaq, raised in Cambridge Bay, wins the 2014 Polaris Music Prize — and the accompanying $30,000 — for her album “Animism.”
• John Amagoalik, the “Father of Nunavut,” receives the Order of Nunavut — the territory’s highest honour — during an investiture ceremony at the legislative assembly in Iqaluit.
• The celebration of sexual and gender diversity returns to Nunavut’s capital as a “Pride Party” is held with a capacity crowd at the Francophone Centre, featuring performances by Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory, throat singers and Zsa Zsa LaWhore, Iqaluit’s self-declared (drag) Queen of the North.
• For the second year in a row, an 11-year old boy commits suicide in a small Nunavut community, shocking and saddening Nunavummiut and renewing calls for more action from the territorial and federal government to combat the highest suicide rate of any jurisdiction in Canada.
• The Nunavut devolution process reignites as negotiators are named by the Canadian and Nunavut governments as well as NTI. AAND minister Bernard Valcourt says an agreement-in-principle could be achieved within one year.
• A federal audit on Arctic marine safety slams Canada’s lack of adequate support for safe marine navigation, lagging behind most other circumpolar nations, and calling the safety gaps “inconsistent with [Canada’s] priority as current chair of the Arctic Council.”
• The NIRB recommends the federal government approve Agnico Eagle Ltd.’s Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet, subject to 127 terms and conditions, but NIRB also warns that regulatory monitoring capacity in Nunavut is weak.
• Canada strikes a deal with the European Union ensuring seal products harvested by indigenous people in Canada can be sold within the EU.
• The QIA reports an $18.7-million surplus for its 2013-2014 fiscal year, thanks largely to IIBA cash from Baffinland’s Mary River project. But a survey conducted by the mining company in communities surrounding the project found that, despite a high interest in employment at the mine, many Inuit face obstacles to employment.
• Nunavut’s Jordin Tootoo, the only Inuk to play in the National Hockey League, signs a new deal with the New Jersey Devils after spending most of last season with the Detroit Red Wings’ minor league affiliate team, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
• Students at Baker Lake’s Jonah Amitnaaq high school return to their classrooms after a fuel leak shut the school down for almost a month.
• Makivik Corp. and Norterra Inc., owners of First Air and Canadian North airlines, respectively, announce the end of talks aimed at merging the two airlines. They give no reason for scuttling the deal.
• MLAs unanimously vote to expel Uqqummiut MLA Samuel Nuqingaq from the legislative assembly citing behavioral and alcohol-abuse issues. The expulsion automatically triggers a by-election, to be held in February 2015.
• The Nunavut Housing Corp. announces it has tendered 213 housing units under its 2015-16 capital plan.
• Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. files an application with the NIRB for significant changes to its project certificate including nearly tripling its shipments of iron ore from the Milne Inlet port, doubling the number of months in its shipping season, and more than tripling the number of haul trucks on the Milne Inlet tote road.
• Nunavut’s finance minister Keith Peterson announces in the legislative assembly that the one-time non-taxable home heating fuel rebate, worth $500, will be offered again for the 2014-2015 winter.
• Community consultations in Iqaluit are held to brainstorm approaches to the worrying decline of Baffin Island caribou.
• Health minister Monica Ell announces an independent investigation into allegations her department put community health at risk by promoting a Cape Dorset nurse about whom coworkers and patients had repeatedly complained. Ell’s announcement comes after a CBC investigation alleges the nurse may have misdiagnosed a three-month old infant who died in April 2012 in Cape Dorset.
• After prolonged dump fires in Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet and the deteriorating state of waste disposal in Nunavut, mayors attending the annual Nunavut Association of Municipalities meeting ask Ottawa for $250-million and 10 years to meet Canadian environmental standards in garbage disposal.
• A Nunavut judge orders federal bureaucrats to hand over hundreds of documents to lawyers from NTI for the Inuit organization’s pending lawsuit against the Canadian government which alleges numerous breaches of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
• The Canadian Ice Service announces a three-year pilot project beginning this winter aimed at providing current and local ice conditions for northern communities.
• Canada’s Auditor General releases a review of the much-criticized Nutrition North Canada air freight subsidy program with recommendations for improvement including calls for greater transparency from retailers and stricter auditing.
• Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna shuffles his cabinet naming Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Paul Okalik minister of the territory’s much-maligned health department. Former health minister Monica Ell remains as deputy premier.
• Fresh on the heels of the Auditor General’s review of Nutrition North Canada, an APTN Investigates story shows video footage of Rankin Inlet residents foraging in the local dump for food — some of which, presumably, was subsidized through NNC.
• Following a five-day inquest, a coroner’s jury examining the death of Solomon Uyarasuk, an Igloolik artist found dead in a local RCMP cell in 2012, recommends that the investigation into his death be reopened, categorizing the death as “undetermined.”
• Nunavut RCMP launch an investigation into the “suspicious” death of 25-year-old Joey Ammaq of Igloolik — a popular young musician, Artcirq performer and father of two — just days after the the conclusion of an inquest into the death of Ammaq’s friend, Solomon Uyarasuk.
• The GN submits its recommendations to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board on how best to deal with the precipitous drop in Baffin Island caribou. Later in the month, the GN imposes an interim caribou hunting ban with no set end date, promising fines and-or charges for those who hunt caribou illegally.
• Lawyers representing both those proposing seismic testing off the Baffin coast, and those opposed to it, file a joint motion with the federal appeal court in hopes of speeding up proceedings, noting the testing could begin as early as July 2015.
• The third annual Arctic Inspiration Prize, worth $1-million and awarded to teams involved with education, health, environmental or social-cultural projects, is awarded to the Northwest Territories’ FOXY—Fostering Open Expression among Youth. The group says it plans to expand its youth-based sexual education campaign to all three territories with the winnings.
• Elections are held throughout Nunavut for NTI’s vice-president, various senior positions in regional Inuit organizations, and hamlet mayors and councilors. In a recount, Pauloosie Akeeagok is declared the new president of the QIA — beating out Mikidjuk Akavak by only two votes — while James Eetoolook wins easily in his bid for re-election as vice president of NTI.