Aatami, Tulugak face-off again in bid for Makivik presidency

Nunavimmiut vote Friday, April 7


Next Friday, April 7, beneficiaries of Makivik Corporation will choose a new president for their land claims organization.

About 4,800 Nunavimmiut are eligible to cast ballots for either Pita Aatami, the current president of Makivik, or Harry Tulugak, a Nunavik government negotiator.

This is the second time these two have competed for the top position at Makivik. The first time was in 1998, when Aatami won 34 per cent of the vote and Tulugak won 17 per cent. Aatami went on to win two more mandates, and, in the last election of 2003, Aatami received 64 per cent of votes cast.

During past elections, Aatami has campaigned successfully on a platform of bread-and-butter issues, such as more housing, jobs, and improved access to education.

Aatami has a solid reputation for brokering successful deals for Nunavik, including the billion-dollar Sanarrutik economic agreement with Quebec. Aatami has also promoted the self-government negotiations between Nunavik and the provincial and federal governments.

During this election, Aatami has been telling Nunavimmiut that his continued leadership will mean continuity in many outstanding files, such as the offshore agreement, the dog slaughter debate, residential school compensation and preparation for a major economic conference this fall.

In a telephone interview, Aatami was able to list a dozen issues he wants to advance, such as encouraging more youth to participate in sports.

“In anything, it’s never finished. You always have unfinished business to do. Once you have gained something you want to go a step further.”

Aatami said a vote for him is a vote for what he and his team have accomplished and plan to do for the region.

Aatami and Harry Tulugak have worked closely together on the Nunavik government file since Tulugak was named co-president of the Nunavik Commission in 1999. Makivik later named Tulugak as one of three Inuit negotiators, a position Tulugak still holds.

Before these appointments, Tulugak was mayor of Puvirnituq from 1991 to 1993. When incidents of mass sexual abuse in the community came to light in 1995, Tulugak took charge of the healing efforts. Until recently, Tulugak served on the executive of the Inuulitsivik Health Board, and, for a time, he was the board’s interim director general.

If elected, Tulugak wants Makivik to become a regional leader in restoring social peace to communities.

“We’re not starving anymore. We’re living in warm houses, but still these horrible things are happening. How can we stop killing each other? One murder is one too many, and it affects families and communities,” Tulugak said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “There’s no way to measure the damage to peoples’ hearts and minds.”

In the lead-up to the April 7 election, Tulugak has been speaking on the radio to spread his ideas. These include Makivik becoming the co-owner of a mine or renewable resource development in Nunavik.

“We need to be busy making a good life for ourselves,” Tulugak said.

Creating more jobs and getting more Inuit to work will help youth forget about suicide, and “take pride in who we are and who we come from,” he said.

Tulugak said he also wants Makivik to tackle the problem of loose dogs in communities. He would like to explore the possibility of satellite tracking to improve travel safety on the land and to lobby for a longer airstrip for his home community of Purvirnituq: “It’s been over 20 years and we’re still waiting.”

Above all else, Tulugak said he’s urging all Inuit beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement to get out and vote.

Living in Puvirnituq won’t stop Tulugak from working in Kuujjuaq when needed to do the job, Tulutgak said. Neither will running against Aatami for Makivik’s leadership prevent the two from working together in the future. Tulugak underlined his great “respect and admiration” for Aatami. For his part, Aatami said they faced off once before and worked will together afterwards.

“I can work with people if they are ready to work on behalf of the people of Nunavik,” Aatami said.

Polls will be set up next Friday throughout Nunavik and at the Montreal offices of Nunavik organizations. The election results will be announced that evening on the final day of Makivik’s annual general meeting, which takes place next week in Kangirsuk.

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