For Nunavut, 2017 was a year of strife
On education and other issues, consensus proved elusive
As 2017 drew to a close, many Nunavummiut likely used the holiday period to take a step back and rest their weary hearts and minds.
That’s because it was a year where, on many vital issues, consensus—a value much treasured by Nunavummiut—was sometimes hard to find.
First, there was a political battle over how to modernize the Education Act.
On one side stood the Government of Nunavut, whose officials wished to tie the expansion of Inuit language instruction to growth in its capacity to do so—meaning, for the most part, growth in the number of qualified Inuit language teachers.
On the other side stood Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and other naysayers, who said the government’s proposals represented a threat to the survival of the Inuit language.
In the end, regular MLAs refused to debate the issue and the GN’s proposed amendments died on the legislative assembly’s order paper. The conflict has yet to be resolved.
On the cultural front, a campaign by Natan Obed, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, aimed at pressuring the Edmonton Eskimos football team into dropping the word “Eskimos” from their name, continued to face resistance from an unexpected source: Inuit at the grassroots.
While many Inuit, especially in the eastern regions of Inuit Nunangat, are strong supporters of Obed’s campaign, many others, including former political leaders, said in multiple social media posts that the word “Eskimo” represents an important part of their identity.
A recent commentary by the Inuit writer Norma Dunning published by Nunatsiaq News attracted more than 100 online comments from people on both sides of the issue. Despite the merits of Obed’s position, consensus on the “Eskimo” issue remains elusive.
And earlier this year, the ex-mayor of Clyde River, Jerry Natanine, and the people of Clyde River celebrated a big win when the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark decision that quashed an offshore seismic testing project proposed for the ocean waters off eastern Baffin Island.
Representative Inuit organizations offered perfunctory praise, but distanced themselves from the day’s press events.
That’s possibly because they wished to avoid the humiliation of having to stand shoulder to shoulder with members of the hated Greenpeace, who helped finance and promote Clyde River’s campaign.
And Nunavummiut still remain divided about the costs and benefits of resource development. The most recent example is in Pond Inlet, where the Hamlet of Pond Inlet and the local hunters and trappers organization now say they oppose a proposal by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. to build a railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet.
But there’s one area of life about which all Nunavummiut agree, that the arts, especially music and performance, are turning Nunavut into a cultural powerhouse.
Groups like The Jerry Cans, the Trade-Offs and The Twin Flames issued new albums and expanded their reach to include audiences across Canada and abroad. And Tanya Tagaq, now an international star, brought her vocal art back to Nunavut for a triumphant performance in Iqaluit.
• The Nunavut artists and performers Tanya Tagaq Gillis and Mathew Nuqingaq are appointed to the Order of Canada, bringing to 30 the number of Nunavummiut named to the order.
• The Nunavut Impact Review Board approves the clean-up of the abandoned Jericho diamond mine without a formal assessment, despite a last-ditch effort by a B.C.-based company to take over the assets and possibly restart the mine.
• With the Jan. 2 launch of a refurbished Boeing 737-300 combi-jet on its Iqaluit-Ottawa route, Canadian North Inc. signals that despite the end of codeshare with First Air, they are in Nunavut’s Qikiqtani region to stay.
• According to researchers from the University of Waterloo, a potential hybrid energy system, drawing on local renewable sources and existing diesel generating plants, could mean millions of dollars in savings for Nunavut communities and greater self-reliance.
• “Moderate” earthquakes rock Nunavut on Jan. 8 and Jan. 9, though no injuries are reported.
• Scientists say 2016 was the warmest year since climate record-keeping began.
• Nunavummiut in remanded custody are spending more time awaiting trial than they were 10 years ago, according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
• Residents and community leaders in Rankin Inlet are left reeling in the wake of a weekend tragedy that killed three men and left one survivor after their Bombardier snow machine broke through the sea ice near Whale Cove.
• As people in Canada and around the world react with grief and shock to the news of a deadly attack on a Quebec City mosque, Iqaluit residents gather for a display of love and solidarity around the local mosque.
• More than half—or about 52 per cent—of all Inuit adults in Inuit Nunangat did not have enough money to buy food or reduced their meal sizes because of a lack of money in 2012, according to a Statistics Canada study.
• Canadian North becomes the official carrier of the Nunavut Employees Union thanks to a new deal between the union and the airline that gives members discounted fares on leisure travel.
• A Swiss International Boeing 777 makes an emergency landing in Iqaluit on Feb. 1. Three days later, a giant Antonov 124 delivers a new engine for the stranded Boeing.
• Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed sign the Inuit Nunangat Declaration, an agreement launching a new Inuit–Crown policy working group.
• Nunavut’s population is growing faster than any other province or territory, new census data shows. The population grew by 12.7 per cent over the last five years, from 31,906 in 2011 to 35,944 in 2016.
• TMAC Resources Inc. completes its first gold pour with gold from its Doris North Mine in western Nunavut.
• Iqaluit’s Sheila Lumsden becomes the first Indigenous contestant on CTV’s MasterChef.
• Scientists report that Baffin Bay and Kane Basin polar bear populations are stable and possibly thriving, which is no surprise to Inuit hunters.
• A Canadian Armed Forces exercise involving patrols and Arctic survival skill training becomes a real search and rescue operation, when two teams of local ground searchers from Hall Beach find Lloyd Satuqsi stranded on the land in bitterly cold weather.
• The Nunavut RCMP charge a 13-year-old with arson in connection with the fire that destroyed Kugaaruk’s only school.
• The Auditor General of Canada reports that Nunavut nurses and other health care professionals are not getting the support they need from Nunavut’s Health Department, creating large gaps in capacity, training and safety.
• A shortage of snuff drives some people in Nunavut towards their local Facebook swap-and-sell pages to buy or sell the smokeless tobacco.
• The decline of Inuktut language use in Nunavut is spiralling into an ever-quickening free fall, says a Toronto-based academic.
• Military activity again comes to the High Arctic islands of Nunavut as more than 180 soldiers, including Canadian Rangers, participate in the 2017 version of NOREX, short for northern exercise.
• Inuit, Métis and First Nations people living off reserve aged 15 or older are more than twice as likely as other Canadians to have seriously contemplated suicide in their lifetime, according to a report released by Statistics Canada.
• “Inuit leaders in broadcasting” Jonah Kelly and Jose Kusugak are now among a select group of Canadians, including telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who have been honoured by the CRTC.
• A Nunavut judge calls for greater clarity in the territory’s adoption laws, warning the issue is “of upmost importance to our children.”
• Tungasuvvingat Inuit celebrates 30 years, as the urban Inuit population grows across Canada.
• Kenn Harper retires from the position of honorary consul in Iqaluit for the Kingdom of Denmark.
• A young man who two years ago coerced a group of Iqaluit youth into committing a chain of convenience store robberies says planning the crimes was “the stupidest decision in my life.”
• Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. says it has contained a “significant” fuel spill at its Meliadine gold project outside Rankin Inlet. The mining company says the spill started as a leak from a hose on one of the mine site’s 100,000-litre diesel storage tanks.
• A Nunavut teacher who posted an altered photo of an ISIS execution on a community Facebook page receives a statement of “termination without cause.”
• Nunavut’s Health Department announces that one non-medical prenatal escort per pregnant mom is eligible to have their travel covered by Health Canada’s Non-Insured Health Benefits program, available to Inuit and First Nations across the country.
• The Stanley Cup comes to eight Nunavut communities, along with 150 full sets of hockey gear courtesy of Scotiabank, Project North, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, First Air and the NHL.
• The film Iqaluit has its Nunavut premiere on National Canadian Film Day 150. For those in Astro Theatre, the experience was unique: it’s not every day you can watch a film in the same location where its scenes were shot, in the company of its actors, director and producers—and then offer your feedback.
• Dorset Fine Arts and Kinngait Studios announce that 10 pieces by the late Kananginak Pootoogook have been selected to be shown in the Venice Biennale’s central exhibit—the first Inuk artist to be featured in this prestigious show.
• Nunavut’s rate of economic growth in 2016 was the second highest in Canada, according to a May 1 Statistics Canada release.
• Twenty-seven solar panels on Clyde River’s community hall and their inverters are now converting sunlight into power.
• Name that beer: Nunavut’s first micro-brewery, Iqaluit’s Nunavut Brewing Co. Ltd., launches a competition to name the territory’s first locally brewed beer.
• Arctic cruise operators promote new guidelines for passengers and communities to help operators and visitors behave responsibly and ensure everyone benefits from cruise ship tourism.
• Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada is granted standing to take part in the National Inquiry into Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.
• Researchers sound the alarm on access to fresh water in Nunavut, saying Iqaluit alone could exhaust its fresh-water supply within the next five to 10 years.
• A fox captured in Igloolik tests positive for rabies.
• Canada Post launches a Nunavut stamp for Canada’s 150th, featuring the image of Leah Ejangiaq Kines of Arctic Bay, photographed by her husband Clare Kines, a frequent contributor of photos to Nunatsiaq News.
• Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson says the Government of Nunavut will likely start consulting Nunavut residents on the legalization of recreational cannabis, but he warns that, like other jurisdictions, it may be hard for Nunavut to meet Ottawa’s deadline of July 1, 2018.
• Nunavut MLAs complain about the growing number of elders who are sent to care homes in southern Canada, but Health Minister George Hickes says the GN faces big financial barriers that make it difficult to create care homes in Nunavut.
• Education Minister Paul Quassa announces that 25 Nunavummiut are accepted as students at a new law program set to start at Nunavut Arctic College in September 2018.
• As an experiment, Nunavut MLAs approve an early capital budget for 2018-19 to ensure that in an election year a capital budget can be passed, so that contractors can make sealift deadlines.
• Education Minister Paul Quassa rose in the legislature to defend his government’s proposed amendments to the Education Act, saying the roll-out of Inuktitut language instruction should happen only after the number of Inuktitut language teachers increases.
• The GN funds a mobile addictions treatment program on the land outside Cambridge Bay.
• The GN announces they’ll stop clawing back up to $350 a month worth of employment income earned by welfare recipients.
• Nunavut MLAs change the Motor Vehicle Act to prohibit driving while talking on a cell phone and to crack down harder on impaired drivers.
• Ruth Kaviok of Arviat becomes president of the National Inuit Youth Council, replacing Maatalik Okalik of Iqaluit.
• A tsunami, caused by a landslide, hammers Greenland’s northwest coast, killing four people, injuring many others and destroying 11 houses in the tiny village of Nuugaatsiaq.
• The Nunavut legislative assembly appoints Helen Klengenberg as Nunavut languages commissioner. She replaces Sandra Inutiq, who quit the job in June 2016.
• Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, visits Iqaluit June 29 with his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
• The GN releases a five-year action plan for suicide prevention that pledges $16 million over five years for various community programs and some more Inuit language counselling.
• Igloolik filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk becomes a member of Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
• In a binding ruling, an arbitration panel orders that Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. pay $7.2 million worth of outstanding royalties owed to the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
• Justice Paul Bychok slams the Nunavut correctional system for its treatment of Michael Cooper-Flaherty, who is convicted of multiple offences, including armed robbery, and who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance addiction and clinical depression.
• On July 7, police find a deceased 11-year-old Rankin Inlet boy, Ray Taparti Jr., and say in a news release that they’re treating his suspicious death as a homicide. By year’s end, police say they are still investigating the matter.
• Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson tells the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce that the Nunavut government, which buys fuel and sells the fuel to itself, would be agreeing “to tax itself” if it were to adopt the carbon pricing scheme proposed by the federal government.
• The Nunavut Impact Review Board finally says yes to Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.‘s Back River gold mine project after rejecting it in June 2016.
• The Hamlet of Clyde River and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization win a big victory at the Supreme Court of Canada, which quashed the National Energy Board’s approval of a five-year seismic testing project in the waters of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.
• Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, boycotts the annual meeting of provincial and territorial premiers, along with the leaders of the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis National Council. Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna says he’s disappointed by the boycott.
• The Ottawa Police Service announced that their major crimes division is now investigating the case of Mary Papatsie, 39, a woman originally from Nunavut who disappeared without a trace in April 2017. As of the year’s end, Papatsie’s disappearance was still a mystery.
• Parks Canada proposes that a National Historic Site near Gjoa Haven be expanded to include the final resting place of HMS Terror, whose wreck was discovered in 2016.
• Sections of the Inuit Language Protection Act that require private organizations and businesses to offer Inuit language services to the public are given legal force, nine years after the law was passed in 2008.
• The Conference Board of Canada estimates Nunavut’s economy will grow by 6.4 per cent in 2017.
• A Statistics Canada report finds the majority of domestic relationships in Nunavut—50.3 per cent—are common-law unions.
• The Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the federal government sign a deal to create expanded boundaries for the Tallurutiup Imanga marine protected area in and around Lancaster Sound.
• The prominent Nunavut leader Jack Anawak, 66, has his first court appearance on charges of impaired driving laid in June.
• A Cape Dorset business owner, Jamesie Alariaq, is sentenced to 18 months in jail for destroying property belonging to another Cape Dorset business owner, ex-MLA Fred Schell.
• The Canadian Armed Forces holds a mock sealift disaster exercise near Rankin Inlet, part of Operation Nanook 2017.
• More than 40 tundra fires sweep across northwest Greenland.
• Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, the federal minister responsible for Parks Canada, and P.J. Akeeagok, the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, celebrate the opening of Qausuittuq National Park, which covers Bathurst Island, at an event in Resolute Bay.
• About 140 unionized workers at the Qulliq Energy Corp. vote yes to a new wage-benefit deal that gives them wage increases of 2 per cent, 1 per cent, 1 per cent and 2 per cent in each year of a new four-year contract.
• The wreck of Roald Amundsen’s Maud departs Cambridge Bay on its way to Norway.
• The Competition Bureau drops an investigation into First Air and Canadian North that had been sparked by allegations of anti-competitive behaviour.
• The ambitious Grays Bay road and port project, proposed by the Government of Nunavut and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, enters environmental screening by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
• Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces that the federal government department known as Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada will be dissolved and replaced by two new entities to be handled by two cabinet ministers.
• The automated banking machine at Rankin Inlet’s airport is removed following a string of break-and-enters.
• Nunavut’s first walk-in beer and wine store opens in Iqaluit Sept. 6.
• Author, historian and journalist Gwynne Dyer says that the world’s average global temperature is only one degree Celsius away from a potential climate catastrophe to which few regions would be more vulnerable than the Arctic.
• Inuit youth leader Maatalii Okalik is named to a national Indigenous panel to join with First Nation youth, Métis youth to fulfill a Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action.
• Qikiqtaaluk Corp., the business arm of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, sponsors the formation of a new not-for-profit fisheries organization called the Qikiqtani Fisheries Alliance, which comprises four hunters and trappers associations: Sanikiluaq, Cape Dorset, Hall Beach and Igloolik.
• Nunavut’s Kivalliq region fundraises for Hurricane Irma victims, who include Cheryl Forbes, a former principal, now retired, at Leo Ussak Elementary School in Rankin Inlet, and her husband Leonard Forbes, a veteran North West Co. employee.
• Fourteen Nunavut MLAs defeat the Nunavut government’s contentious Bill 37, which would have amended the Education Act and the Inuktitut Language Protection Act.
• Former senior administrative officer of Baker Lake Dennis Zettler is sentenced to spend the next two years under house arrest at his home in Ontario, after being convicted of skimming an estimated $150,000 in lottery revenues from hamlet coffers since 2009.
• Elections Nunavut issues writs for territory’s fifth general election.
• Inmates destroy large sections of the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit on Sept. 29.
• The operator of Nunavut’s Qiniq network, SSi Micro Ltd., is now selling a device that will give you a mobile wifi hotspot for your laptop that you can use in any community on their network, the company says. It’s a small stick called the Wingle that plugs into the USB port on your laptop.
• A western Nunavut school official pleads for hamlet help on student attendance: Half of eligible children aren’t attending school in Gjoa Haven.
• A young mother, Elee Ainalik, is sentenced to nine months of jail time for setting fire to her family’s public housing unit in 2015. The court hears that Ainalik’s life has been marked by abuse and neglect, starting from the time she was an infant.
• Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna joins with the Inuit Circumpolar Council to demand that the governments of Canada and Denmark tell Russia to keep its toxic space junk out of Inuit marine waters.
• On World Mental Health Day, Nunavut’s Health Department encourages Nunavummiut “to take care of ourselves and one another.”
• Five teenagers paint a troubling picture of the problems affecting them when they give their youth delegate report to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association’s annual meeting in Cambridge Bay, saying that many youth are addicted to drugs and alcohol, addictions that they inherited from their parents.
• It takes nearly an hour for the first polling results from the 2017 Nunavut election to roll in after polls closed throughout the territory, but by the end of the evening of Oct. 30, eight incumbents were defeated and six women, a record number, become members of the fifth Nunavut Legislative Assembly.
• The Qikiqtani Inuit Association announces that NTI’s board has decided to put $5 million towards a new Nunavut heritage centre, that, if built, would house archeological artifacts now held outside Nunavut. That matches the amount that QIA pledged in October to contribute towards a heritage centre, which is estimated to cost between $70 million and $90 million.
• Hold on tight: Nunavut sea can is converted into a “climbing cave.”
• Nunavut’s Arctic UAV is no longer just operating drones and training people to fly the remote-controlled machines. It’s now also selling the gadgets, having obtained distribution rights to sell a high-powered unmanned helicopter to Canada, Greenland and Alaska.
• Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada says that it welcomes the interim report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which highlights the urgent need for supports to protect Inuit women and girls from violence.
• Canada’s most remote research station survives the chopping block again and now has another a year-and-a-half—and $1.6 million—to study climate change in the Canadian High Arctic.
• MLAs-elect make their choice: it’s Paul Aarulaaq Quassa for Nunavut premier. David Akeeagok, Pat Angnakak, Jeannie Ehaloak, David Joanasie, Lorne Kusugak, Joe Savikataaq and Elisapee Sheutiapik are chosen to sit in cabinet.
• Nunavut lawyer Joseph Murdoch-Flowers resigns from the national MMIWG inquiry.
• The federal justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, announces that the federal Liberal government now supports a private member’s bill to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
• Nunavut’s latest outbreak of the highly contagious whooping cough virus, or pertussis, is over, marking the end of the territory’s second outbreak of the illness this year.
• Ten countries strike a tentative pact to forbid commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean for at least the next 16 years, while scientists try to understand the size and health of the region’s fish stocks.
• Premier Paul Quassa announces a big shake-up within Nunavut’s civil service: Veteran civil servant Chris D’Arcy departs from the Government of Nunavut’s most powerful non-elected position and is replaced with Kathy Okpik, the former deputy minister of education.
• Former Sanikiluaq teacher Johnny Meeko is found guilty of 27 sex crimes, alleged to have occurred between 1978 and 2007, but stands acquitted of more serious accusations including rape and forcible confinement.
• Gary Walbourne, the National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman, finds that many Canadian Rangers don’t receive the health care benefits they’re entitled to.
• A national committee of wildlife scientists declares that Nunavut’s Dolphin and Union caribou herd should be listed as an endangered species.
• The federal government says yes to the Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s controversial Back River gold mine proposal, which receives a project certificate later in the month from the Nunavut Impact Review Board and then sells $66.1 million worth of shares to Zhaojin International Mining Co. of China, which now owns about 10 per cent of the company.
• The Dec. 11 municipal election in Kugluktuk is shut down after Helen Klengenberg, the Nunavut languages commissioner, files an injunction application in court seeking to have the election halted on the grounds that election materials were not produced in Inuinnaqtun. Elsewhere in Nunavut, 13 mayors are elected.
• Premier Paul Quassa reaches outside the Government of Nunavut to fill two of three vacant senior GN management jobs. A former mayor of Rankin Inlet, Puujjut Kusugak, is appointed deputy minister of education and Udloriak Hanson is appointed deputy minister of economic development and transportation. Sheila Kolola, who had been working as director of the Sivumuaqatigiit employee training division at the EIA department, is named president of Nunavut Arctic College, replacing Joe Kunuk, who now serves as Quassa’s principal secretary.
• Delilah Saunders of Nunatsiavut, who feared she would be denied a liver transplant, is discharged from hospital in Toronto after her health improves, but is later admitted to hospital in St. John’s for acute pancreatitis. She was released from the St. John’s hospital at the end of December.
• Three-quarters of Nunavut residents who respond to a GN survey say they support the legalization of cannabis.
• Nunatsiaq News reports that the latest edition of the Canadian Press Stylebook, along with an Indigenous style guide developed for CP by Journalists for Human Rights, is replete with errors about Inuit.
• Thousands of donors from across Canada and abroad contribute to a campaign in Igloolik led by Feeding Nunavut that provides Christmas stockings for 800 children up to the age 12 years, along with about 400 food hampers for low-income families.
Introduction written by Jim Bell; month-by-month summary written by Nunatsiaq News staff