KIA delegates talk of forming 'Bloc Kitikmeot' to take on 'Government of Baffinland'
What's next? The new territory of Kitikmeot?
CAMBRIDGE BAY – If the Government of Nunavut continues to ignore their region and doesn't take them seriously, Kitikmeot leaders say their region should consider becoming an independent territory.
"The government doesn't help us. We still get it done. Some day we'll be an independent territory," said Bob Lyall at last week's annual general meeting of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association in Cambridge Bay.
Lyall, a KIA board member, said the Kitikmeot needs a "Bloc Kitikmeot" party within the Nunavut legislature to represent its interests in Iqaluit, the same way the Bloc Québécois represents Quebec in Ottawa.
Charlie Lyall, Kitikmeot Corp. president, says the GN should be called the "Government of Baffinland" because Iqaluit and the Baffin region reap most of the money handed out each year for new infrastructure.
Lyall told the KIA meeting that he doesn't have a lot of confidence in the Nunavut government. The Kitikmeot Corp. and Kitikmeot Economic Development Corp. already work independently from the territorial government on job training and suicide prevention.
Lyall said the Kitikmeot Inuit organizations wouldn't get into these areas if "we saw the government doing it."
"They forget that we're out here. They totally ignore us," he said.
Bathurst Inlet and Bay Chimo (Umingmatok) say they suffer the most from the GN's lack of concern for the Kitikmeot.
Delegates Martina and Connie Kapolak told the KIA meeting how housing in Bathurst Inlet and Bay Chimo is in short supply, poor condition and subject to mold.
Since the sole store and school closed down several years ago, they have to travel to Cambridge Bay for supplies, a trip that takes eight hours by snowmobile, and her children must board in Cambridge Bay to attend school.
The GN's decision to put its $16-million territorial trades school in Rankin Inlet is also a sore point for the KIA, which wants to train Inuit for work in the region's mines.
Delegates to the KIA meeting condemned the legislature's decision to reject a 2006 proposal from the Nunavut Electoral Boundaries Commission. One of its recommendations was to dump the Akulliq riding in favour of a new Kitikmeot riding called Netsilikmiut East for Taloyoak and Kugaaruk.
The Akulliq riding now spreads over two regions, with Kugaaruk in the Kitikmeot and Repulse Bay in the Kivalliq.
KIA delegates also said the proposed Nunavut Education Act slights Inuinnaqtun and the Nattilikmiun dialect because it doesn't guarantee education for students in the two Kitikmeot languages in schools outside the region.
The KIA passed 12 resolutions, which the organization plans to send to their MLAs. These include a call for more money for underfunded crisis centres, more support for youth and elders as well as the creation of an additional Kitikmeot riding.
Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson, who attended more than a day of KIA meeting, told delegates that he would continue to challenge the territorial government on these issues.
"We're sending a message," KIA president Donald Havioyak said. "We want to make sure it gets to people up there."