Akeeagok touts devolution, repatriating elders as cabinet descends upon Ottawa
Nunavut ministers meeting with Trudeau, federal counterparts throughout week
Premier P.J. Akeeagok wants to see Nunavut and the federal government make progress on an agreement to transfer more powers to the territory.
That’s one of several issues he and his ministers are planning to tackle as they descend upon Ottawa for a week of meetings.
In an interview Monday, Akeeagok said the transfer, or devolution, of some powers from Ottawa to Nunavut has long been a priority for the territory, and he plans to bring it up again when he meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“That’s something I’ve mentioned every bilateral meeting I’ve had with the prime minister, and I will continue to advocate for,” he said.
“There’s mineral riches that are on Crown land and they would allow us to be able to build the economies that we see as a territory, and really, that’s the next chapter in our territory’s history that I’m very much looking forward to seeing concluded.”
Akeeagok’s statement reflects a comment Sen. Dennis Patterson made last week in Iqaluit during the Nunavut Mining Symposium.
“Devolution and continued support of the mining industry that is the largest contributor to Nunavut’s GDP as well as one of the territory’s largest employers — second only to government — is the key to unlocking the territory’s potential,” Patterson said in his April 26 keynote address.
“We now stand on the cusp of a new and exciting opportunity to position the territory globally as a world leader in mineral development.”
This week has been dubbed “Nunavut on the Hill.”
Akeeagok and all of his ministers are in Ottawa for meetings on Parliament Hill and around the city.
After meeting with Nunavut MP Lori Idlout on Monday, other items on Akeeagok’s agenda include sitting in on Question Period.
There are also meetings scheduled with Patterson, Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller, and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
Housing, the recent federal budget, health care and reconciliation are on the discussion table with those ministers, among other topics.
A meeting with National Defence Minister Anita Anand to discuss Arctic security is also on the agenda.
“We know Arctic security and sovereignty has been at the forefront of not only northerners’ [attention], but Canadians’, so I very much look forward to that bilateral meeting with her,” Akeeagok said.
Elder care is another key component of this week’s cabinet trip.
Health Minister John Main plans to visit elders and staff at Embassy West Senior Living in Ottawa this week.
Both Main and Akeeagok said Nunavut is working to “repatriate” elders who are living at Embassy West due to the lack of long-term-care services in the territory.
Construction of a new elder home will be completed this year in Rankin Inlet, according to Main. Construction is also set to begin on facilities in Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay.
“The plan is to build that capacity in-territory and have it available for Nunavummiut so that they’ll be closer to home,” Main said.
“I think we have to stay in a mindset of continuous improvement, because I recognize that even having three homes in the regional centres … there will still be hardship associated with that as well.”
Families of Embassy West residents get two free trips per year for visits, all expenses paid by the Government of Nunavut.
Main said the Health Department is looking at providing more free trips per year for those families, but the longer-term goal is to be self-sufficient and not have to rely on out-of-territory service.
“For the time being, Embassy West, we really appreciate the services that are provided there,” Main said, “and we’re always looking for ways to improve supports, not just for the elders but also for their families in terms of their visits here and spending time with their relatives.”