Councillors fed up with trash-strewn streets
“Whether it’s your garbage or not, it’s your land”
When the prime minister’s visit and the arrival of a cruise ship coincided to bring close to 1,000 visitors to Iqaluit on the same day, the city frantically cleaned up, removing garbage and splashing fresh paint on buildings.
At a city council meeting on August 15, Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik and other councillors expressed their gratitude to the people who chipped in to help clean up the capital on short notice.
The mayor was confident that the city put its best foot forward, but expressed regret that it takes a special occasion to make people want to clean up the city.
“I think we all have pride in who we are and where we come from, but I don’t think that comes across,” Sheutiapik said in an interview. “Whether it’s your garbage or not, it’s your land.”
Despite a successful spring clean-up in mid-June, garbage quickly filled the streets, and gutters around the city in no time. “Two weeks after the clean-up I was out picking up garbage,” said the mayor.
Coun. Nancy Gillis is also infuriated by the amount of garbage around the city.
“The city is doing its best to improve the surroundings so that people won’t want to litter,” she said. “But people just don’t care enough. It’s sad to see that people don’t take pride in where they live”.
Gillis suggested stricter enforcement of the littering bylaw to fine people and deter them from throwing trash on the ground.
“We try to use compliance rather than fines,” said Robert Kavanaugh, the chief bylaw officer. His office gives a notice to houses and commercial sites where they see violations of the by-law and if there is cooperation, no fine is imposed.
Kavanaugh said that his office has issued 40 to 50 notices since the start of spring, of which only three or four have resulted in fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
For the average citizen caught throwing their trash on the ground, the fine is $500, but Kavanaugh said he often asks the offender to clean up the mess instead of fining them.
Sheutiapik thinks that the solution lies in teaching people not to litter, which she thinks should start in schools.
The mayor and Gillis both support a second clean-up in the fall to take the pressure off of the spring clean-up when the snow melts and uncovers heaps of garbage.
The mayor is also interested in starting a program where departments of the federal and territorial governments and NGOs adopt an area that is their responsibility to keep clean throughout the year.