Cambridge Bay council defends appointment of mayor
Critics say a byelection should have been held to fill vacancy caused by election of former mayor Pamela Gross to legislative assembly
The Hamlet of Cambridge Bay is standing by council’s decision to appoint Angulalik Pedersen as mayor despite calls for his resignation.
Councillors followed the Nunavut Elections Act, which allows a hamlet to fill the mayor role by appointment or byelection if a mayor leaves mid-term, said a statement released by the hamlet Thursday.
Council has also decided that a 300-signature petition calling for the mayor’s resignation was invalid, as it only had a name and signature listed on the paper.
To be valid, petitions must have the full names and addresses of the residents who sign, as well as witness signatures, the reason of the petition written on each page, and it must be filed with the municipality, said Marla Limousin, the hamlet’s chief administrative officer, in an email.
Council will review its procedures bylaw on how and why a mayor may be appointed, educate the public on its procedures and review and strengthen its communication policy, to avoid similar situations in the future, the statement reads.
Council appointed Pedersen on Nov. 4 to replace former mayor Pamela Gross after she resigned in order to run for MLA. She won the seat in October.
If a mayor leaves office before his or her term is up, council can either appoint a new mayor or hold a by-election, as long as it’s not within six months of the term ending, according to the Nunavut Elections Act.
Pedersen was selected to serve as deputy mayor in 2019. Since then, he served as acting mayor on several occasions when Gross was out of town, according to the statement.
“He has working knowledge of the municipality, the committees of council and in the areas of emergency response,” it says.
Pedersen declined an interview request with Nunatsiaq News.
Some residents have since voiced concerns about how the hamlet handled the appointment.
Peter Ohokak, who co-led the petition and presented it to council, said people weren’t getting responses to emails and were not told how or why the decision got made.
“When citizens were outraged, we demanded answers,” he said.
Ohokak called the decision to appoint a mayor, rather than hold a byelection, “illegitimate.”
“And that doesn’t only look bad on our municipality … it looks bad to Cambridge Bay as a whole. All of us.”
Ohokak said the dispute has nothing to do with Pedersen personally, and everything to do with the community’s right to vote.
“This issue is about doing what is right for the citizens of Cambridge Bay, not what is expedient for the hamlet council,” he said.
“The council requests the residents of Cambridge Bay to accept this decision and allow council to move forward with their work as an elected body,” states a motion passed by council.
Charles Zikalala also organized the petition. He said he and others wanted to be given the opportunity to vote.
“Who in their right mind would make a three-minute decision for a population of about 2,000 people that are willing to vote,” Zikalala said.
He said council hasn’t operated in a transparent way, and that’s made residents lose trust in the government.