GN should suspend Sanikiluaq’s DEA


When Sanikiluaq parents sent their children back to Nuiyak School late last August, many were surprised to discover that their local school administration, run by the Sanikiluaq District Education Authority, was flat broke.

Since then, no one has explained how much money was lost and why.

But parents do know their DEA was unable to buy numerous supplies essential to the running of their school, such as pencils, glue, and writing paper. They know their DEA had no money to hire subsititute teachers and other workers.

What’s worse, at a time when Nunavut is bracing for a second and perhaps more serious outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu virus, they now know their DEA had no money to buy basic cleaning supplies, such as soap, paper towels and disinfectants.

The Government of Nunavut responded by giving the organization another $38,000 to buy the supplies they were supposed to buy earlier this year. This action at least gives workers the tools they need to keep the school running and to protect students and staff against a swine flu outbreak.

But the GN must do much more. The Sanikiluaq DEA has already demonstrated that it can’t manage money. Giving them another $38,000 does not inspire confidence.

Under the new Education Act, the territorial cabinet may, after an investigation, suspend all or any powers of a DEA and appoint an interim trustee to run its affairs. And after “consultation” with the DEA Coalition, cabinet may dismiss all members of a DEA.

The GN has ordered an investigation, but whether a competent person will do this work is anyone’s guess and it’s unlikely that an internal GN investigation will be enough. Given some of the serious allegations that Sanikiluaq residents are making, the GN should either bring in the RCMP or hire a third-party forensic accountant.

And given that the DEA in Sanikiluaq ran bingos earlier this year, the GN’s justice department should examine the bingo licences they granted the organization and investigate what was done with any money those bingos may have raised.

Because of Sanikiluaq’s isolation, fact-gathering in this matter will likely be slow and difficult. It doesn’t help that the Qikiqtani schools are managed from a remote office in Pond Inlet.

The new Education Act gives much power and influence to district education authorities. To maintain public confidence in its ability to keep an eye on these opaque public bodies, the GN’s minimum response to this fiasco must include the immediate suspension of the Sanikiluaq DEA and the appointment of a trustee to run its affairs.

That suspension should stay in place until the GN is able to gather all the relevant facts and decide whether those facts justify more actions, including dismissal of the DEA’s members. And if they find evidence to support the laying of criminal charges, then let those charges be laid. JB

Background reading:
Nunavut Education Act, 2008 (PDF, 232k)

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