Nunavut welcomes Aariak’s return to public life as commissioner
“She knows exactly what’s going on in government”
Updated at 5 p.m.
Nunavummiut are welcoming the news that former premier Eva Aariak will return to public life — this time as commissioner of the territory.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Aariak’s appointment to the role Tuesday, Jan. 12.
“I’m very excited Ms. Aariak is taking on this new role, and I know she will bring integrity and strength to the role,” said Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq in a statement. “I look forward to working with her, and know her wealth of experience will serve Nunavut well.”
While Nunavut’s premier doesn’t make a formal recommendation for who should serve as commissioner, Nunavut’s MLAs had the chance to put forward names and applications for the commissioner’s role, which were then sent to the prime minister’s office for consideration.
Aariak fills a position that has been vacant in Nunavut since June 2020, when former Nunavut commissioner Nellie Kusugak’s term expired.
Originally from Arctic Bay, Aariak started her professional career in education, teaching in communities across the territory. She later worked as a journalist for CBC before being appointed as the first languages commissioner of Nunavut.
After relocating to Iqaluit, Aariak helped open and operate the retail store Malikkaat.
In 2008, Aariak was elected as MLA for Iqaluit East, at which point the assembly chose her as premier — the first woman to hold that role in the territory. She served as Nunavut’s premier until 2013.
Although it’s unusual to have a former premier sit as commissioner, many welcome the extensive experience in politics Aariak brings to her new position.
“I think it’s a big plus, for her and for Nunavummiut,” said Ann Meekitjuk Hanson, a former commissioner of Nunavut who served in that role from 2005-2010, while Aariak was premier.
“She knows exactly what’s going on in government.”
Hanson said Aariak’s knowledge of the territory goes beyond her time in politics; she said Aariak understands Nunavut’s communities and their needs, and the symbolic part of the role requires commissioners to forge that connection.
“I really enjoyed working with her,” Hanson said. “I’m delighted that we now have a commissioner and I’m delighted that it’s Eva.”
The commissioner of Nunavut is appointed to a five-year mandate.
Territorial commissioners fulfill many of the same duties as provincial lieutenant governors: opening the legislative assembly, swearing in its members and the executive council as well as giving assent, or final approval, to legislation.