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Picco sure bill will pass

NTI lobbies MLAs to delay Education Act

By CHRIS WINDEYER

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. asked MLAs to delay third reading of the new Education Act this week, saying the legislation doesn't do enough to incorporate the 77 recommendations NTI made earlier this year.

In a letter to David Alagalak, chair of the standing committee on health and education, dated Sept. 8, NTI president Paul Kaludjak said the committee should not refer Bill 21 to the legislature's committee of the whole for third reading, the last stage before MLAs vote on a bill.

In a January submission, the land-claim organization offered 77 recommendations aimed at giving district education authorities more power, ensuring more Inuit language education, incorporating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit into the curriculum and ensuring services for special needs students.

"Seventy-two of NTI's recommendations have yet to be addressed in any way," Kaludjak wrote in the letter, obtained by Nunatsiaq News. "Indeed only five of the proposed amendments relate to areas in which NTI has identified concerns and none adequately address any of NTI's concerns"

MLAs, sitting in committee of the whole, must actually vote to send a bill to third reading.

Bill 21 was scheduled to go before Committee of the Whole this past Tuesday. The bill was expected to see third reading and a final vote from MLAs by this past Thursday, after Nunatsiaq News' press-time this week.

Late Tuesday, NTI issued a joint press release with all three regional Inuit associations demanding that MLAs not pass Bill 21 "in its current state" because it still doesn't give enough power to district education authorities, takes too long to implement full Inuktitut-language instruction through Grade 12, and shortchanges special needs students.

In an interview, Ed Picco, the education minister, said he believes MLAs will pass the bill. He said Bill 21 has been amended to address NTI's concerns about Inuit language education and the amount of power vested in the DEAs.

That's been a big sticking point. Picco said he must maintain the final say on most matters, but said the department has removed many of the ministerial powers that upset DEAs, including control over school principals, staffing and policy.

In fact, Picco said he was preparing to table in the legislature a letter from Ilinniaqtulirinirmut Katujjiqatigiit, the coalition of Nunavut DEAs, endorsing the bill as amended.

Picco said the Nunavut Teachers Association also backs the bill.

"We've bent over backwards to meet them [NTI] where we think we can meet them, but at the end of the day the minister still has to be accountable for education in Nunavut," Picco said.

And on Inuktitut-language instruction, as it stands, Bill 21 would implement Inuktitut as a language of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 12 by 2019.

NTI says that's nowhere near soon enough, but Picco counters that there simply aren't enough Inuktitut-speaking teachers in the territory to make it happen sooner.

"I cannot meet the timeline that NTI wanted me to meet for full Inuktitut instruction from K to 12," he said. "I just don't have the bodies to put in the classrooms."

A new Education Act has been in the works for nearly eight years, and in the meantime, Nunavut has continued to use the old act brought over from the Northwest Territories.

"That's a dated piece of legislation," Picco said. He said no legislation will please everyone, but a so-called "made-in-Nunavut" act is better than what's in place now.

And if Bill 21 doesn't pass before the legislature dissolves, the new crop of MLAs elected in October will have to start from scratch.

"It's imperative that we pass it," Picco said.

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