Operator of Iqaluit’s Elders Home quits, says GN belittled staff

Health Minister Lorne Kusugak says government was happy with Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut’s work

The Iqaluit Elders Home is temporarily closed after six elders were transferred out of the facility May 8. (File photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The not-for-profit organization that managed the Iqaluit Elders Home for the past 25 years has quit, saying its staff has been belittled and ignored by Government of Nunavut officials.

In fact, Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut’s chairperson, Aimo Muckpaloo, says even his notice to the Department of Health that the society wouldn’t be seeking a contract extension this spring went unheard.

It leaves the GN without an operator at the facility whose residents were transferred to other facilities nearly two weeks ago after the government reported staff had been exposed to COVID-19.

Four elders were sent to Embassy West in Ottawa and two others were sent elsewhere in the territory, with one of them returning home with family, Nunavut’s chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said at a May 10 press conference.

He said the residents who were sent south needed “advanced care” that could not be provided in Nunavut.

Health Minister Lorne Kusugak told Nunatsiaq News the decision to transfer the residents has nothing to do with finding new management.

While the Government of Nunavut owns the Iqaluit Elders Home and is responsible for providing long-term care to the territory’s senior citizens, it had contracted Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut to manage the long-term care facility for six senior citizens.

The contract was set to end March 31, but Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut continued to provide care to the home’s residents through May 10 because the government failed to line up a different organization to provide those services.

Muckpaloo outlined his concerns in an April 7 letter to Health Minister Lorne Kusugak, which the society provided to Nunatsiaq News.

In it, Muckpaloo says he had been attempting to reach Kusugak for weeks.

“Two weeks ago you were travelling. Last week you were busy. This week you are not in Iqaluit,” states the letter.

“We were belittled and ordered to change our society, remove Inuit from positions and take orders which your staff were not prepared to put in writing … At each turn the department threatens us to do what they want or they will terminate the contract.”

In an interview on Monday, Kusugak declined to comment on the government’s relationship with Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut and did not say whether he responded to Muckpaloo’s letter, but said the society “did a very good job in taking care of elders in Iqaluit and we really appreciate that service.”

All of this comes as the territorial government transferred six elders out of the home May 8, which it said is temporary and due to most of the home’s staff isolating for potential exposure to COVID-19.

Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut has concerns about how that transfer was carried out, too.

Anne Crawford, who has volunteered with Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut for more than 25 years, said the society proposed to the government over the phone that the elders could be placed in short-term accommodations in Iqaluit, where fully vaccinated short-term workers could provide care.

She said staff not in isolation could also put in extra hours to make this plan work.

Crawford says a stop-gap solution would only have been needed for four days. After that, enough staff would have been out of isolation to care for the elders.

“[The government] was so intent on just taking everybody south that they never wanted to talk about options,” she said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

“The conversation was basically, ‘We’re getting them out of here.’”

Crawford says that despite the Department of Health publicly saying the elders will return as soon as possible, the elders were told something different.

She said the government needed the society’s workers to communicate with the elders, and when the elders did not consent to going to Ottawa right away, the government told staff to say “how important this was and how short-term it was.”

“It was absolutely clear that it was two weeks,” she said.

Nunatsiaq News asked Kusugak whether the elders were pressured into consenting to go south, and he said they were not.

When asked how long elders were told they would be gone, Kusugak did not answer, saying that was an “operational issue” and that he wasn’t involved in that discussion.

When asked what department staff told the elders, he said, “I can’t get into the details of that, of those conversations.”

“I assure you [their return will] be as quick as possible,” Kusugak said.

Muckpaloo and Crawford say Pairijiit Tigummiaqtikkut is willing to continue to provide services at the home until new management is found.

But after the elders were sent away, Crawford said, the locks on the building were changed.

In the meantime, the government has not yet hired a new organization to manage the facility, and Kusugak said it has no timeline for when that will happen.

Clarification: This story has been updated to be specific about how many elders went south, and why they were sent.

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(39) Comments:

  1. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    Perhaps, Nunatsiaq would Care to dig deeper into why PT was also removed unceremoniously from operating the medical boarding home.
    Can you say micro managing by the GN senior staff?
    How many Inuit are working at the boarding home now? At one time the boarding home was majority Inuit staff and rightfully so.
    Dig a little deeper Nunatsiaq.

    • Posted by That is Truth on

      “Dig a little deeper, Nunatsiaq”

      How many times can this be said? We seem to be subjected to an almost ceaseless procession of superficial analysis on practically every story.

  2. Posted by HSS on

    Basically, Mr. Kusugak had no answers and did not know when the elders were coming home nor what the future is for the elders facility.

    The answers that he did have, he didn’t want to divulge.

    • Posted by Atii on

      rush to move them south but i heard that they can walk out and go smoke even during the closures .
      if some or all of this information is true those elders will not be long in the south .
      smart for the one family to take there family instead of a move south but that is because they have the way to do it .
      keep an eye to see how quickly they return because that place frees up space so quickly for the high cost G of NU pays them unlike the rest of canada prices.

  3. Posted by Paul on

    I would be shocked but to tell you the truth I’m just not surprised at how the GN conducts itself, it has been operating like this for so long some departments worse than others but it’s a huge problem with our government.
    Ministers taking orders (recommendations) from their staff with little key information or a backbone to direct t

  4. Posted by Dumb on

    The GN fails, again. I wish they’d stop being incompetent or step aside when they can’t handle the work. I’m sure the elders would have preferred to stay here. How many other contracts are they failing on, with others bearing the brunt?

    • Posted by GN fails again on

      They shut down the facilities and send elders to the south. No consultation, no compassion, no understanding of what this means to elders. They are good only at destroying an already hurt society and create positions filled with qallunaat on big salaries and housing. Inuit? No, thank you, we better send them to the south

  5. Posted by Gord Renfrew on

    Not that 6 lives are not important. But think of it. Six people (elders) with a building, staff, ongoing care, a board, a contract and Health in the mix.

  6. Posted by Private Matter on

    Who is Anne Crawford and this non profit org to tell the Media private health information of Elders? Is this not against the privacy legislation? It is like some contractor at the hospital ending their contract and then going to complain to the media and then relaying what I was told by hospital staff. More protection is needed.

    • Posted by Say What? on

      There was no personal medical information of any type released. This is a complete non-issue.

    • Posted by Duh on

      What an ignorant comment.did you read the part which stated Anne Crawford has been volunteering for the elder’s society for 25 yrs. You should be applauding her not criticizing. She has worked tirelessly for Elder’s in this community

  7. Posted by Getting Fed Up on

    Department of Health (not the front line workers) seem to be out of control.
    Let me expand on that.
    Most of the GN senior people seem to be out of control, and they seem to be pulling Nunavut down with them.
    The GN cannot hire staff. They cannot sign a contract with the union. They cannot stop the empire-building.
    The Ministers are not in charge. Their senior staff tell them what they want them to know, what to say and what to do.
    The Ledge will be in session soon. There will be lots of questions from the MLAs, but no answers from the Ministers. All they can do is read from the briefing notes provided by their staff.

    • Posted by Think About It on

      The front line workers are not out of control; you have got to be kidding me. Protected by the unions, some of these front line worker make up their own rules, how they interpret the guidelines, how they read the codes. After working with different front line workers in different regions I can tell you first hand that belittling does not even start to explain. I have seen them threaten Hamlet staff and contractors with fines (large fines) and possible jail time for infractions that are false or misinterpreted. Just ask some SAOs.

    • Posted by Uvanga on

      These senior management are all from the south, with no idea at all what the Inuit are all about because they have never experienced growing up here, but they claim “all my friends are Inuit”, but “I have lived here for 7 years”, but “I hunt with the Inuit” not knowing full well nor trying to fully understand us. Government of Nunavut take a stand for the Inuit and start hiring more Inuit. You hire people from the south and TRAIN them, why not hire Inuit and TRAIN them and have faith in them! The Government of NU would not be in these kinds of predicaments if they only involved more Inuit. Rant and Rave.

      • Posted by Not Really on

        With the benefit of insight into senior management at Health I can tell you that they spend way too much time trying to twist and turn everything to suit NTI and impossible “Inuit Wishlists”, rather than getting down to business and making real decisions in an efficient and timely manner. Reports, consultations, meetings, too much talk. They have no strategy, no plan, just get through another day or week, another rant from NTI’s president, and shoot for 5pm Friday is the goal. Those under senior management do the best they can with very poor direction. Glad I do not work for this department. These people eat each other, as anyone can tell by senior management shuffles over last 3-4 years. Now they are back with a retired Deputy Minister who did not leave a great legacy to build from.

  8. Posted by Anonymous on

    Having previously worked at the Elders Home, I’ve seen staff pull triple shifts because other staff didn’t show up. It was very frustrating. Not because of employees, but because of management.

    • Posted by Saywut on

      How is staff failing to come to work, the fault of management and not the actual employee who didn’t bother going to work that day?

  9. Posted by Frustrated and embarrassed on

    Our elders deserve better than this, it is so frustrating how the directors and managers work at the GN, the ADMs and DMs, it almost seems like they are working against Nunavut and going against everything that would improve things and be more accountable with funds.
    It’s so embarrassing to constantly hear about the incompetence of the upper management of the GN. One thing after another, common sense seems to be lacking on so many levels,
    We really need stronger leadership that just don’t take their marching orders from their staff, leadership that is not afraid or intimidated by their support staff. Leaders that can see what is not working and work towards making changes and make sure the changes are implemented.
    Reports after reports on what is. It working and changes needed but our MLAs keep failing Nunavut. Come election time this fall make sure you vote and vote for someone that will work to make changes in the GN, not this status quo, MLAs just showing up and reading something that was given to them without any real thought.
    We need a huge change, this government has been so embarrassing and incredibly frustrating.

    • Posted by ian on

      YES,I AGREE,tail is wagging the dog.if weak politicians will not make a decision,the civil servants will,

    • Posted by still here on

      The government(all of them) refuses to hire people with experience, but will hire someone out of school or who is there friend from back home into positions of authority, because those people can be manipulated into thinking a certain way for them to be here for 5 years so they can pay off there home down south. There are so many managers and directors that wont even consult there staff on decisions. Also these hires have no clue about the culture and how things are up here and what the people are going through on a daily basis in there lives, we as the staff have no way to follow up issues with the government because HR is there for the managers and directors, not the employees. Honestly, if you have no empathy, you should not be a manager or a director in Nunavut. Maybe it is time for inuit organizations to step up more visually to do more for their people, especially when there union is closer with management than it is with the people that pay union dues. Hi this is Nunavut!

  10. Posted by Safe Place on

    You are all so great in complaining, why not start involving yourselves in politics and you’ll quickly how “easy” it is when you are bombarded by unqualified residents daily. Sending the elders to the south in a fully managed quarantine area was the safest place for them to be. ELDERS are in a dangerous place where residents give a shit about complying with the health orders of the CPHO. You know, the guys and the department who looked after Nunavut in a great way and ensured that we haven’t seen the worse yet. Grow up, all of you and comply. Once you demonstrate that you fit in the COVID situation in Iqaluit, or Nunavut, it will be soon a COVID free space and our elders, children and residents with respiratory illnesses can live their life

  11. Posted by Soothsayer on

    Carl Jung once cautioned us to beware of unearned wisdom. – Let’s also beware of those who have been positioned where wisdom and judgement are required, yet they have never cultivated those skills. Beware of those who believe their positioning is an acknowledgement or confirmation of skill and judgement they simply don’t have. We are surrounded by them. I know I am.

  12. Posted by It Is Simple on

    Looks folks, we choose the politicians who go on become ministers. If they’re not leading/supervising, then we need to do a better job of who we choose.

    It is that simple in concept.

    In reality, there is a very shallow pool of candidates who present themselves for election. We need to encourage a more people to get into politics so that we have broader choice.

    The problem is not DMs or ADMs, responsibility stops with the minister – always.

    • Posted by North Baffiner on

      I find it interesting to note that some ministers are predictable, as when taking over a portfolio, the result is usually long-term Inuit staff somehow quitting in disgust, or contracts being treated as non-binding, workers treated as second-rate citizens or their concerns treated as afterthoughts.
      I believe it is doubly important to have experienced people who are used to handling their own empires, take over the reins of these failed departments. It would require some dictatorial powers, especially in departments where non-Inuit hold the ultimate power. They are the departments that keep failing.
      Many qualified Inuit already worked to change the system, but impacted only certain departments that now have strong leadership and long term visioning. These departments still hold over 76% Inuit staff and they are operated more smoothly than departments with multiple non-Nunavut residents; the majority of whom look down on Inuit based on their racist opinions of southern natives, and thereby, inference that Inuit are incapable and useless.

      • Posted by No Moniker on

        Interesting narrative here. Allow me to parse this and please tell me if I am missing anything. The underlying assumption seems here seems to be that non-Inuit do and will, inevitably, lead their departments into ruin (because… they just don’t really care about Nunavut?), while Inuit lead departments are smooth running and, by some virtue, in a state of growth, renewal and repair. Is that accurate? While this honestly feels like a crapload of biased, and probably racist non-sense, I am open to whatever evidence has lead you to this conclusion.

        • Posted by Uvanga on

          you will only get a lot of thumbs up from your southerner counterparts because majority of my people do not have internet and yours do.

          • Posted by No Moniker on

            I think you’re mistaken, Uvanga. There are almost certainly more Inuit connected to the internet in Nunavut than non-Inuit. The better question might be which demographics read this news source and are engaged in the discussions? From there, how could you know that certain opinions or preferences are held by whole populations?

            Maybe the real problem is your arguments are just not very good or compelling?

            For example, above you made this statement: “The Government of NU would not be in these kinds of predicaments if they only involved more Inuit.”

            I’m sincerely curious what makes you so sure? Personally, I don’t think it would make any difference. The real issues here seem to center on competence, not ethnicity.

          • Posted by Demographics Matter on

            Ah, your us and them attitude is showing again. We should have a look at the age and other demographics of ‘your people’.
            “My people” are Nunavummiut, and the majority in my circle live all day long on the internet.
            Whether they use this forum is another conversation of course.

        • Posted by Vastly and Overwhelmingly on

          The problem with that thinking is that the ultimate leadership of all departments is overwhelming Inuk. Look at the current ministers, and the ministers for the last ten years. They are responsible for our government, and they are and have been vastly and overwhelmingly Inuit.

          Inuit are the key decision makers in our territory territory, despite the constant refrain that they aren’t.

          • Posted by Tom on

            Yes the leadership is mostly Inuit and they are not doing a great job at leading and directing their departments,
            But where it’s important is the director and management level, this is where things get done or not done in the GN, this level is the foundation of the GN, this is where things are decided on how the GN move move forward or backwards, unfortunately our leadership has not done a great job in making sure their staff do what is needed to be done. As a result we are stuck with this gong show of incompetence and not improving our government.

      • Posted by Spewing Nonsense on

        Departments with over 76% Inuit staff? Which ones are those again? Oh yeah, Culture & Heritage and EIA are the only 2. Literally the 2 smallest departments excluding OLA; combined, they are smaller than each of CGS, Education, Family Services, Finance, Health, and Justice.
        And what else can we say about C&H and EIA? The positions in these departments largely don’t require any sort of specialized training or higher education. There are no Teachers, no Nurses, no Social Workers, no Lawyers, no Engineers, no Accountants. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about GLOs not every showing up for work though.

        • Posted by And Further on

          Furthermore, Culture & Heritage plus EIA make up literally 3.4% of all filled positions in the GN, and only about 2.4% of the GN’s O&M and Capital budgets.
          For the most part, these departments could halt operations entirely and it would hardly be noticeable.

      • Posted by It Is Just A Fact Of Life on

        The thing is North Baffiner, the racist assumptions are also very strong among many Inuit in higher levels of government.

        The elephant in the room that is never discussed is the deeply discriminatory and derogatory attitudes that many higher-level Inuit hold towards non-Inuit, regardless of ethnicity.

        It is just a fact of Nunavut life.

        Regardless, being Inuk does not necessarily make a person a better or worse employee, just as being non-Inuk doesn’t make a person a better or worse employee, everyone has to be assessed on individual performance, not ethnicity.

        • Posted by North Baffiner on

          Elephant in the room, eh? Last animals that size were the Mammoths, and we know how they ended up. We talk about the same size, just wrong era and species.

          Many positions require degrees and sciences, so Inuit are stuck with non-residents until we can get our own people educated. The original planners wanted to start prioritising education immediately to get Inuit ready before 1999, but we were told that TFN did not win education rights, therefore, we would not interfere.

          Racism exists everywhere, but I was not talking about racism per se, rather the fact that long term visioning, and a resident who understands the history and who looks for qualified Inuit to continue the vision of the department are usually successful.

          The problem with many other departments is their cyclic experiences through changes. Many have gone through changes to integrate with the residents’ expectations to provide better services but every time a new deputy minister takes over, all the successes and changes made up to that point go out the window, and all of the fought for changes go back to zero.

          Most non-Inuit who are not public servants, rarely look down on Inuit because they live with us everyday, while public servants who work because of Inuit, just complain and paint Inuit with the same brush as they work out of their modern offices.

          Usually the derogatory attitude is one from the civil servants who complain their ministers are low-browed, unorthodox and uneducated morons… Racism exists everywhere, and when you keep seeing it, then you start also treating non-Inuit with the same attitude as the majority does.

          I know about racism, especially our own Inuit.. their racism is even more hurtful because it comes from your own…although it is doubly hurtful when both cultures say that you belong to neither one and that you are not good enough for either one too!

  13. Posted by Uvanga on

    I wonder if the Health Minister is aware that the Embassy West Senior Living only has one interpreter translator for all the Inuit senior clients there? I saw a post about their loved ones going there and there is no interpreter translators available after 8 in the evenings.

    • Posted by Inuit Minister on

      If only the Health Minister was Inuk! Then he’d know and do more for his people living at Embassy West! Oh, wait…

      • Posted by Non Inuit Director’s on

        If only the Minister of Health had more Inuit staff, after all the management do run the departments and keep the Minister updated on the department.

  14. Posted by Former on

    From my understanding, The staff at the elders home we’re 95% Inuit staff. Probably the only GN funded with that percentage of Inuit staff.
    Great Job GN!

    • Posted by John WP Murphy on

      As were the staff at the boarding home at one time, when PT operated it.

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