Help for the hungry

Nunavut to divvy up $1 million in federal funding among its communities

Food hampers for residents of Rankin Inlet were donated by Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. The mining company also donated food and supplies to Arviat and Whale Cove. (Photo courtesy of Mark Wyatt/Facebook)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Government of Nunavut is giving every hamlet in the territory money to help provide residents with food, the premier announced on Nov. 27.

The $1 million contribution comes from $11.36 million the federal government announced it was giving Nunavut Nov. 25.

Communities with fewer than 1,000 residents will get $20,000, the premier said. Those with more than 1,000 residents will get $45,000, and Iqaluit will get $100,000.

The GN doesn’t know when it will get the federal money — it’s called “immediate relief” — and Premier Joe Savikataaq said on Nov. 27 it should be available “today or next week.”

On Monday, Nov. 30 Savikataaq said the money hadn’t yet flowed.

The GN has already created agreements to give the money to the hamlets, so as soon as it’s available, it can be spent.

All communities are being affected by the lockdown that went into effect on Nov. 18 — schools are shut down, so children can’t access school lunch programs, for example. However, the three communities in the Kivalliq with active cases of COVID-19, Arviat, Rankin Inlet, and Whale Cove, are “struggling more and affected more,” Savikataaq said.

These Kivalliq communities will get additional money from the federal funds, which included $1.8 million for food support, he said.

The rest of the federal funding is allocated to specific areas, such as personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, supporting municipal services, expanding internet bandwidth for education, and supporting early learning and childcare programs.

Percy Kabloona, the mayor of Whale Cove, wasn’t aware on the morning of Nov. 26 of the extra federal money coming his way, but he said the funds would be welcome.

While there is no evidence of community transmission in Whale Cove, there are 19 people who have COVID-19 in the hamlet of 460 people. Approximately 120 people in total are in isolation, according to a GN spokesperson.

“I’d be happy if we get some of that money to our community,” Kabloona said over the phone. “[COVID-19 and the lockdown] is a lot of work to deal with.”

Everyone’s pitching in, though. People who can’t leave their homes are leaving money and grocery lists out for the Canadian Rangers, who buy them groceries and drop them off outside.

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd, a company with two mines in the Kivalliq region, donated $25,000 for a grocery and cleaning kit for every household in the community, Kabloona said.

“That was done on Monday, so everyone’s happy with that,” he said.

Local RCMP are pitching in, too, delivering homework to children out of school. “So our kids are doing their homework,” Kabloona said.

The mayor said his communication with Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, and Health Minister Lorne Kusugak, has been good.

The head nurse in Whale Cove is working around the clock, Kabloona said, and the airplane that has been chartered to pick up swabs is still making daily flights to deliver them to Iqaluit or Rankin Inlet for testing.

In Rankin Inlet, the president of the Kivalliq Inuit Association, Kono Tattuinee, said the presence of COVID-19 in his community and region has “been a rough patch.”

Along with the $11.36 million going to the GN, the KIA is getting $8 million from the federal government, through Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

“I thought it was very good news,” Tattuinee said.

To access the money, the KIA has to have a contribution agreement with NTI. Tattuinee said he didn’t know when that would be in place.

In the meantime, the KIA is rolling out some money next week from the federal Indigenous Supplemental Fund, Tattuinee said.

The KIA is going to work with stores and hamlets to use the money to order and distribute food and supplies to families who need it the most.

“Definitely people are hungry,” Tattuinee said.

“We Inuit have been very resilient right from the get-go,” Tattuinee said. “Life has never been easy, but we never forget where we came from, and we’re a community, we’re all trying to do our best during this very difficult time.”

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