Xstrata mining dividends cut welfare rolls in Nunavik communities
“They are not eligible for social assistance if they receive funds”
KUUJJUAQ —The number of people in Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq who receive income support — what’s called “last resort financial assistance” — dropped dramatically last month due to the distribution of more than $13 million in revenue sharing from the Xstrata nickel mine in Nunavik.
Figures released in Kuujjuaq Sept. 10 at the Kativik Regional Government’s regional council meeting show that in July there were 11 welfare recipients (including five with “severe limitations”) in Kangiqsujuaq, and 21 in Salluit (including four with “severe limitations”).
But for August, the numbers of welfare recipients had dropped to none in Kangiqsujuaq and one in Salluit.
That’s because when welfare recipients receive additional money they aren’t eligible to receive social assistance.
“We have to be careful with this because they are not eligible for social assistance if they receive funds,” Margaret Gauvin, the director of the KRG’s sustainable employment department, told regional councillors.
The amount of profit-sharing for Nunavimmiut spelled out by the Raglan agreement has given the region $100 million dollars since starting operations in 1997.
Of annual profit-sharing cheques, 30 per cent goes to Kangiqsujuaq and 45 per cent to Salluit, the two Nunavik communities located closest to the mine, with 25 per cent for Makivik Corp.
Salluit has used some of the money to pay for its new $10-million swimming pool.
Kangiqsujuaq has its share of the money to help hunters pay for gas and to help pay for community projects.
In both communities, beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement also receive a cheque this summer as an individual dividend.
Beneficiaries throughout Nunavik receive smaller profit-sharing cheques.
In 2008 and 2009, some said their large share of Raglan profit-sharing money — which was then distributed almost entirely to individuals — was a good thing because it helped to buy equipment for traditional activities or to pay off debts like rent arrears.
But the bonanza also encouraged many to head off on shopping sprees to Montreal. In Salluit, many took the summer off, causing labour shortages in the community.
There was more drug trafficking and bootlegging, and the number of injuries and medevacs also rose.
Some Nunavimmiut were also targeted and robbed in Montreal when they went to spend their money there.
Since then, the profit-sharing in Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq has been directed mainly towards projects which benefit everyone in the two communities.