Candidate indifference breeds voter apathy
Don’t expect high turnout for Inuit associations when candidates don’t engage with voters
Inuit voters are casting ballots to fill 21 elected positions across Nunavut, but you wouldn’t know the race to fill some of the most powerful posts in the territory is even underway.
Election day is Dec. 12 for positions at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Kivalliq Inuit Association and Kitikmeot Inuit Association. There are 62 candidates running for spots from president to community director.
Nunatsiaq News published profiles of the candidates for senior positions — president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer. There are also community director spots up for grabs. Those officeholders have clout, too.
But the response to interview requests and a three-question survey was underwhelming, surprising and disappointing. Most of the candidates ignored the opportunity to tell readers what kind of leader they would be.
There wasn’t much campaign coverage by other media, either, or even much chatter on social media.
True, Inuit associations are private organizations accountable to their members — Inuit beneficiaries — through annual general meetings and annual reports. Realistically, though, how many Nunavummiut wade through the minutes of annual general meetings or take an interest in poring over mind-numbing annual reports?
When Nunatsiaq News asked each organization how much board members are paid, there was silence from all but one. Kitikmeot Inuit Association provided a full list of its salaries in the interest of transparency, though the response noted that as a private organization it was not required to disclose them.
The president of the Kitikmeot association is paid between $192,000 and $242,000.
The associations may be private, but they serve a public role. They’re responsible for ensuring obligations committed to Inuit under the Nunavut Land Claim are fulfilled.
Because of where a big portion of their money comes from — federal government programs, the Nunavut Trust fund, and from mining royalties — they should be more accountable to the public, including through the news media.
Inuit have a right to know how the organizations are run and to know about the people who want to run them. An election is the perfect time for those seeking positions on these boards to tell Inuit voters a bit about themselves.
However, low voter turnout, election after election, demonstrates there’s a disconnect between these organizations and the members they serve.
When Aluki Kotierk was elected as president of Nunavut Tunngavik inc. in 2020, only 17.5 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.
These organizations wield a lot of power and influence.
For example, Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s opposition to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s proposed expansion of its Mary River mine factored heavily in the federal government’s decision to reject the project.
NTI is suing the Government of Nunavut over what the territorial Inuit organization says is the government’s failure to deliver Inuktut instruction in the territory’s schools.
And when NTI leaders made the decision to jet off to France in September to pressure French officials to extradite Rev. Johannes Rivoire for his alleged sex crimes against Inuit children, it raised the ire of many readers.
They wondered if the organization should have spent its money and time on issues like housing at home instead of hunting for Rivoire, an exercise in futility whose outcome was a foregone conclusion.
So, for Inuit who want their associations to represent them well, get out and vote on Monday. The stakes are always high, but turnout is often low.
The best way for Inuit to control their destinies is to take an active interest in deciding who represents them at NTI and on the regional Inuit associations.