Building sale to end Illitiit saga

Volunteer society will sell youth cottage to pay debt



Iqaluit’s Illitiit Society plans to sell its building, once used as a “youth cottage” for troubled teenagers, to pay off the organization’s whopping debts.

Illitiit once ran the Oqota homeless shelter, as well as the youth cottage. But the youth cottage project dragged Illitiit deep into debt after city council pulled the plug on funding.

Today the organization provides no services, and according to chair Bill Riddell’s estimate, owes at least $250,000 to former employees, Revenue Canada, the City of Iqaluit and utility companies.

Last month Riddell petitioned city council for funds he says they owe Illitiit. He said he hasn’t received a reply.

“We just haven’t gotten anywhere,” Riddell said.

He asserts that he was misled by council more than a year ago, when councillors voted to provide Illitiit with more than $224,000 to run the homeless shelter and youth cottage last spring.

Council rescinded that decision one month later, after information surfaced that Illitiit owed large sums of money to Revenue Canada for paycheque remittances.

In the meantime, the Salvation Army was given control of the homeless shelter.

Riddell estimates the youth shelter building, located in Lower Base and visible from the Ring Road, is worth about $300,000 — enough to pay any outstanding debts.

Riddell said he hasn’t given up pursuing the city for money, but will begin looking for potential buyers for the building.

“It’s my position that the city owes us money,” Riddell said.

Any additional money made from the sale would go towards another charity dedicated to helping the homeless, such as Habitat for Humanity, Riddell said.

Riddell has also abandoned plans to establish a United Way, a project that he’s talked about for years. He said a chapter of that organization couldn’t be supported by Iqaluit’s small population base.

“We need to think about another way of doing it,” he said.

Riddell said the demise of his organization should be a cautionary tale to other non-profit groups in town.

“Everyone who depends on the government for money is at risk,” he said.

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