Only 29 per cent bother to cast ballots

Nunavik Inuit vote to accept $2 million payout


KUUJJUAQ – Nunavik beneficiaries voted last week in favour of receiving cash payouts from a Nunavik Trust and an offshore land claim agreement dividend worth $2 million.

Many beneficiaries in Kuujjuaq said they were not aware of the Sept. 17 referendum, for which only 2,050 or 29 per cent of the 6,868 eligible beneficiaries turned out.

Those who did vote chose among five ways that the $2 million could be spent, including individual compensation, measures to reduce the cost of living, additional fuel rebates, community development programs and assistance in buying hunting and fishing equipment.

The option of individual payouts received 57 per cent of the votes cast.

Only 15 per cent of voters supported more measures to reduce the high cost of living, 10 per cent wanted additional fuel rebates, another 10 per cent wanted to see more community development programs, and only seven per cent supporter help to buy hunting and fishing equipment.

Each beneficiary is expected to receive about $300.

"People told us two years ago they want to determine how returns from the trust would be spent, and we have fulfilled our commitment and will continue to do so again next year. The questions on the ballot were taken from suggestions made during the community tour," said Makivik president Pita Aatami.

A higher turnout for the vote would have been good, Aatami said, but he called the vote a "far better approach and more democratic" way to distribute the funds than letting the corporation's executives decide on how to hand out the money.

Makivik said payments could take several weeks to process.

The Nunavik Inuit Land Claim agreement, which provided a $54.8 million installment this summer, will see about $100 million more over the next 10 years. About $2 million will be handed out next year, too, to beneficiaries, Makivik said.

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