Aatami says “the people will decide” on Nunavik report

Critics like Annie Popert won’t stop self-government process, Aatami says.


MONTREAL — Debate over the Nunavik Commission’s report on a new government for Nunavik and what it should or shouldn’t have said — is far from over.

But Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corporation said no disagreements will stall the self-government process.

Despite an apparent lack of consensus around the commission’s work, Aatami feels that it has more supporters than critics in Nunavik.

He characterized the commission’s most visible and vocal critic, former Nunavik commissioner Annie Popert, as a non-resident and a naysayer.

“In politics, you never have satisfaction 100 per cent,” Aatami said. “If one person is against it, it shouldn’t stop the process.”

Aatami pointed to her criticism of Makivik’s Silaturminut Educational Task Force report, which was tabled several years ago at another Makivik annual general meeting. At that time, Popert was the executive director of the Kativik School Board, but resigned shortly afterwards.

“What does she have against the people?” Aatami said.

The Nunavik commission’s report, tabled at the Makivik’s annual general meeting in Kuujjuaraapik, contains recommendations on the form and timetable for a new regional government in Nunavik.

It was intended to be a consensus document, but two of the eight commissioners refused to support its final conclusions.

“If one person is against it, it shouldn’t stop the process.”

— Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corporation

The report will serve as a guide when negotiators from Nunavik, Quebec and the federal government start talks on a new public government for the region this fall.

Aatami said he plans to give the people of Nunavik a chance to express their opinions about the report when Harry Tulugak, the former co-chairman of the Nunavik Commission, tours communities to hear what Nunavimmiut have to say.

“The people will be the ones to decide,” Aatami said.

General feedback on the report was to have been communicated via a call-in radio show on the Taqramiut Nipingat network, although many at Makivik’s meeting in Kuujjuaraapik asked for more personal community-based consultations.

Aatami promised to respect the results of Tulugak’s consultation, expected to take place in June.

“I would never push for what people don’t want,” Aatami said.

Even though Nunavimmiut only recently received their copies of the report, the region’s organizations have already had their hands on the report for more than a month. Not all are wholehearted supporters of the Nunavik Commission’s report nor its recommendations.

Their elected officials and administrators were to sit down this week at Makivik’s offices in Kuujjuaq for a two-day discussion of the document.

“No decisions will be made at this meeting,” Aatami said. “We want to prepare ourselves for what we want to do as organizations.”

At the meeting the school board was to table a resolution outlining its concerns over the report.

Several administrators worried about the call for Inuttitut, French, and English, to become Nunavik’s official languages.

They’re concerned that equal status for the three languages will put Inuttitut, as a minority language in Quebec, at a disadvantage, and eventually dilute its importance in the region.

Regardless of what Nunavik’s public organizations or its residents think about the commission’s report, the only referendum in the self-government process is set for 2003.

Then, residents of Nunavik will have a chance to approve or reject the result of the upcoming negotiations.

With the official end of the Nunavik Commission’s mandate, Makivik now takes over the lead in pursuing self-government.

That’s because Nunavik’s existing organizations — the school board, health board, and regional government — delegated Makivik to represent their interests on self-government.

Aatami said he doesn’t personally feel “cornered” by the report’s recommendations at all. He said he’s reassured by the federal government’s involvement as a party in the commission as well as in future negotiations.

In fact, Aatami said he was impressed by the some of commission’s recommendations, such as the creation of a house of elders.

“For us, it’s more than we expected,” Aatami said.

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