First Air payments likely to be big issue

Aatami faces three challengers for Makivik leadership


KUUJJUAQ-The race is on to lead Makivik Corp., with four candidates having filed election papers for the Nunavik-wide vote on March 27 – Pita Aatami, Lucy Carrier, Johnny Oovaut and Charlie Watt.

The incumbent Aatami, who is running in his fourth election to lead the birthright organization for Nunavik Inuit, wants to lead Makivik Corp. for another three years.

Aatami, 49, received a strong mandate during the last Makivik election in April, 2006 when he received 83 per cent of the 2,808 votes cast by Inuit beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

About 50 per cent of the region's 5,625 eligible voters voted in that election.

Aatami was first elected as Makivik president in October, 1998, receiving 34 per cent of the vote from a field of eight candidates.

In 2007, Reader's Digest called Aatami a "hero of the year," and described him as a "tireless fighter for his people."

And last November, Aatami was elected Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America of the University of Calgary for his support to northern research and education.

Charlie Watt, 64, wants to return to the organization he founded and led for many years after a stint as the chief negotiator of the JBNQA.

Watt, founding president of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association and Makivik, was voted out as president in 1994.

Watt was appointed to the Senate in 1984. He was made an officer of the Order of Quebec in 1994 and received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1997.

Watt is a member of the Senate committee on energy, the environment and natural resources and the Senate committee on fisheries and oceans.

Most recently, Watt has taken a public stand against the bonuses that First Air board members received last year.

These bonuses totaled $1.5 million, including several payments to Makivik executives: $600,000 to Aatami, also First Air's chair, $250,000 to George Berthe, Makivik's corporate secretary, and an undisclosed amount to Michael Gordon, a Makivik vice-president.

Lucy Carrier of Kangirsuk is a repeat candidate. Carrier, who ran in 1997 and 1998, is former mayor and councilor of Kangirsuk as well as a former landholding president.

Johnny Oovaut, 46, has served as the mayor of Quaqtaq for the past nine years. Oovaut, previously the chief of Nunavik's community police (the forerunner to the Kativik Regional Police), is now on the executive of the Kativik Regional Government.

The Makivik March 27 election caps off the organization's annual general meeting, which will be held in Inukjuak.

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