Three contenders say growth justifies more 'representation;

Candidates push for a second riding for Arviat

By JOHN BIRD

Arviat is now either the third largest community in Nunavut, or the second, depending on who you talk to. It's in a neck-and-neck race with Rankin, and it looks like Arviat is pulling ahead.

But whether second or third, Arviat should definitely have two MLAs to represent it.

So say all three candidates running for election in the territorial riding of Arviat: Peter Kritaqliluk, Sheila Napayok, and Daniel Shewchuk.

 But for now, they'll have to deal with the fact that only one of them – not two – will be going to the Legislative Assembly once the dust settles after the Oct. 27 vote.

Besides the missing second riding, Peter Kritaqliluk quickly names three more Arviat shortages he would address as MLA: public housing, nursing and policing.

"When I was mayor the last time, our community ranked highest in need for public housing within the Nunavut settlement area," says Kritaqliluk.

He feels staffing for nursing and policing aren't keeping pace, either, with growth that now sees Arviat with "a population of well over 2,000."

"I would also be seeking an increase in the homeowner subsidy for heating fuel," he adds. "The cost of gasoline just went up 20 cents a litre in my community."

Kritaqliluk has supported his family mainly as a hunter and trapper, but served two terms as mayor of Arviat – Nunavut's southernmost mainland community, and headquarters for Arctic College – after honing his political skills as a council member and deputy mayor.

He has also helped run the local Hunter and Trapper's organization, was a member of the Nunavut Implementation Training Committee and secretary Treasurer for the Kivalliq Inuit Association.

Kritaqliluk sits on the Nunavut Planning Commission,

David Alagalak, who represented Arviat in the last legislature, is not running this time.

Another former Arviat mayor, Alagalak said he decided not to put his name forward because he felt he couldn't commit himself fully to the job.

Reached in Whitby, Ont., where she was visiting her daughter, Sheila Napayok also drew the comparison between Arviat and Rankin, which serves as the regional centre for the Kivalliq Region.

Last year Arviat passed Rankin in population, she asserts, "but our resources are a lot smaller than Rankin's."

As MLA, says Napayok, she would make it a priority to help community organizations take advantage of federal, territorial, and other organizational funding – including from Inuit organizations.

"After I worked for the hamlet [as senior administrative officer], I realized there are a lot of funds available for communities," she says, but the communities miss many opportunities to access funds because they don't know about them.

"I've got children and grandchildren" in the community, she adds, "so I want to help improve recreation and other programs."

"Unemployment is another big issue," says Napayok, who has seen mining exploration camps "popping up all over the region. The majority of people are on social assistance, and they are not getting training they need" to get jobs in the camps.

Napayok, who spent seven years working for the Nunavut government's apprenticeship program, and sat on the national apprenticeship board, wants to bring job-training programs directly to the communities.

"It's not always easy to travel to a different community and leave your family and children behind," she says. "If you could take your training at home, it's easier to complete it and get your certification."

Napayok also notes lack of support for students who travel south for education.

While in Whitby, she got in touch with a Nunavut student studying in Oshawa, and found the single mother living in an emergency shelter with her two children.

"The government says it supports students," she says, "but once you're in the south, you're left to the wolves."

Napayok also served on the Arviat council and as a member of the District Education Authority.

With a background as a Manitoba conservation officer, Daniel Shewchuk has been in the north for seven years now, travelling throughout the Kivalliq Region in his capacity as regional manager for wildlife.

He says Arviat "needs a coordinated voice" for all the community organizations, including the hamlet council, businesses, and the hunter and trapper organization.

"We've been left out on capital funding and a lot of things we need here.

Shewchuk has been working on his Inuktitut, which he describes as adequate for talking about hunting, and naming wildlife.

"I'm running because people came to me and asked me to," he says. "My heart is in it; I wouldn't do it otherwise."

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