'The only presence we had was the post office.'

Federal government opens centre in Kuujjuaq


KUUJJUAQ – After years of being nearly invisible in Kuujjuaq, the federal government has opened a centre where Nunavimmiut can get help with passport applications and other services.

The Canada Service Centre arrived after a long lobbying campaign by Makivik Corp.

The centre's trilingual staff can also issue boat licences and explain how to join the Canadian Forces or the RCMP. They'll also help with paperwork related to former residential school students' common experience payments.

Adamie Alaku, manager, and service agents Norman Gordon and Joshua Adams, can provide service in Inuttitut, French and English, in person or throughout Nunavik from a call to the centres toll-free line at 1-866-351-6278, by mail or on-line.

The centre's four computer terminals are also available for the public to directly consult federal department web sites.

Since 1992, when the last federal government workers transferred over to the Kativik Regional Government, the Government of Canada's visibility in Kuujjuaq has been low key.

"The only presence we had was the post office," says Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corp.

Canada Service Centre's opening means a second Canadian flag now flies outside the centre at 884 Naakavvik Street in Kuujjuaq.

At its Nov. 22 opening ceremony, elder Johnny Watt, a former mayor of Kuujjuaq recalled the arrival of the first RCMP constable in 1943 to Kuujjuaq.

From then, until the 1970s, the federal government and Quebec vied for control of Nunavik, offering duplicate services in policing and education.

Then, when the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement defined Quebec's greater responsibility in the region, the federal government's presence diminished.

In 1992, the Kativik Regional Government started to deliver services, such as employment insurance and income security, on behalf of the federal government.

Even with the opening of a Canada Service Centre in Kuujjuaq, the KRG will keep its responsibility for these services.

However, the centre means federal government officials will have a place of their own to work and hold meetings while they're in Kuujjuaq.

"It will allow us to increase the presence [of the federal government] in all Nunavik communities," said Nicole Barbeau, deputy minister of Service Canada in Quebec.

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