Fun, frolics and fishing for Nunavut MLAs
CAMBRIDGE BAY — The legislative assembly kicked off in Cambridge Bay May 17 with drum dancing, throat singing and the school choir singing “O Canada” in English and Inuinnaqtun.
It’s the first time the Nunavut legislature has held a session in the Kitikmeot region.
The session was scheduled to begin on May 16, but a storm delayed the opening. Things got off to a fine start the following day at the gymnasium of Killik school, where the assembly will sit until May 31.
Here’s a look at some of the issues that Nunavut’s ministers and MLAs discussed during their first few days in the assembly.
Confusion over M’Clintock money
A $200,000 grant to compensate polar-bear hunters in the M’Clintock Channel has left some people confused and concerned.
The GN recently announced it will provide the money to hunters to make up for the cash they’ll lose from being forced to cut back on bear hunting. Last fall the GN dramatically cut the polar-bear quota in that area.
While the grant is good news for hunters, some MLAs are worried the money will be taken out of other programs or even other communities.
Sustainable Development Minister Olayuk Akesuk explained that the money is part of the community initiative program for the Kitikmeot region, which has $300,000 budgeted for it.
But with $200,000 going to hunters, there’s only $100,000 left for programs in Kugluktuk and other Kitikmeot communities.
“In terms of activities for $100,000 dollars for Kugluktuk, that is not very much,” Kugluktuk MLA Donald Havioyak said.
Another concern, raised by Glenn McLean, is whether money to keep the program running will be taken from the Kivalliq’s and the Qikiqtaluk’s community initiative programs.
Akesuk assured him that won’t happen. Instead, if extra money is needed, he said it will come from other Sustainable Development programs that aren’t being used as much, Akesuk said.
Government ministers and MLAs had fish and fun on their minds last week.
On opening day of the legislative assembly — before getting down to serious government business — ice fishing was the hot topic.
Manitok Thompson, public works minister, jokingly mentioned that she would love to go fishing during her stay in Cambridge Bay.
“I would like very much to have an opportunity to go ice fishing and I would just like to say at this time that I’m not your typical type of over-the- hill touristy type of ice fisherperson, so don’t try to fool me if you’re trying to take me out,” Thompson said, sending the assembly into roaring laughter.
Glenn McLean, Baker Lake MLA, soon joined in on the fun. He said he always wins at the Baker Lake fishing derby, but someone else would come out on top this year since he wouldn’t be participating in the derby.
Top cops, top dog
In recognition of Canadian police week, the legislative assembly praised the work of Nunavut’s police force.
And they didn’t forget to mention the territory’s top dog, Max the drug- detection dog.
MLA Glenn McLean said many of Nunavut’s 103 RCMP members often go beyond the call of duty to ensure that Nunavummiut are safe.
“I would like to call on all members of the legislative assembly to join me in thanking all the two-legged and four-legged members of the RCMP for their dedication and hard work,” he said, smiling.
Chesterfield’s rocky dock
Residents of Chesterfield Inlet want a sturdy, permanent dock built to replace the one they construct out of rocks every year.
James Arvaluk, who represents the Kivalliq community, said Chesterfield’s dock is dangerous because its rocks and boulders are wobbly and people sometimes fall off them.
The community is also looking for more funding to help with the $40,000 cost of building their dock.
There looks like there’s some hope for Chesterfield Inlet’s requests.
Transportation Minister Jack Anawak said the Canadian Coast Guard will likely provide money to Nunavut communities to help them build docking facilities. He said, “It is likely Chesterfield Inlet will be a first priority.”
Anawak anticipates Nunavut will get the money sometime this year.
Traps and cash for fox trappers?
Coral Harbour’s fox trappers want bigger subsidies and free traps from the GN.
Right now, fox trappers in that community each get a $25 subsidy.
James Arvaluk, MLA for Coral Harbour, said the government hands out millions of dollars to welfare recipients, but puts only a few dollars into hunters’ and trappers’ programs.
Arvaluk put the heat on Olayuk Akesuk, minister of sustainable development, asking if his department could give out some free traps.
Akesuk didn’t directly answer Arvaluk, but he did say his department is “looking at how we can make changes so that we can put out more benefits for the hunters and trappers, especially for the sealskin and fur program.”
Gun registration a barrier
The federal gun law is preventing hunters from taking part in the spring waterfowl hunt, argued Kugluktuk MLA David Havioyak.
He told Justice Minister Paul Okalik that many hunters are still waiting to receive their gun registration and some still can’t buy ammunition.
When Havioyak asked the minister to give hunters an update on the GN’s gun-registration lawsuit, Okalik couldn’t offer much consolation. He said court cases take a long time and he wasn’t sure when the case would be resolved.
Okalik reminded MLAs several times that the gun law is a Canadian, not Nunavut, law. “We are opposed to this legislation but the federal government initiated it and it has been put in place and there are daily problems with the legislation,” Okalik said.
He suggested that hunters take their concerns to Nunavut’s federal representative, MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell.
GN wins gold
The Nunavut government has won a gold award for innovation in its public service.
The award, sponsored by IBM Canada and Price Waterhouse Coopers, honours Nunavut for transforming its entire public service operations. Nunavut was selected from more than 100 municipal, provincial and territorial governments.
Kelvin Ng, Nunavut’s human resources minister, congratulated government workers for their achievements.
“The award is a tribute and recognition of the hard work, effort and dedication of the public service of the government of Nunavut,” Ng said.