In the Legislative Assembly:
A casino for Nunavut?
Nunavut needs more strict controls over lotteries and bingos, which are draining money away from families, said Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley in the legislature’s committee of the whole on March 13.
The committee of the whole looks at each GN department’s revenues and expenditures, allowing MLAs to grill ministers on how they are spending public money.
On March 13, the committee examined the Department of Community and Government Services. That’s when Curley asked for an update on lottery regulations and programs, which are now under an act inherited from the Northwest Territories in 1999.
Curley said a public consultation should be held to see what Nunavut wants in new legislation.
“I think the government will have to make a decision and have it run by an independent gambling commission aside from the hamlet council,” Curley said.
He said he thinks gambling is “out of control in Nunavut.”
Levinia Brown, the CGS minister, said her department would push for community consultations on the issue.
Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo also asked whether Nunavut could look at setting up a casino to generate new revenues.
However, he said he didn’t think it should be the government’s decision to establish a casino as a way to raise money. He said before going ahead with this plan would be important to go to residents and be sure whether “we have to resort to that to be able to make money to provide services for our people.”
“Quite frankly casinos have not been in our forecast,” Brown said, although she said she was open to discussing the option.
A call for care closer to home
Arviat needs a group home, Arviat MLA David Alagalak told MLAs on March 14.
Without this facility, young adults with behavioural problems are shipped out his community, he said.
Alagalak said their families want to help, but can’t, because sometimes they fear for their safety: “the situation is made even worse when there is overcrowding in the home.”
Alagalak wants to see the construction of a group home for Arviat in Nunavut’s next five-year capital plan.
“We need more resources and facilities to help us meet the needs of our increasing population,” he said.
Alagalak asked Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq what savings in travel would be created by a group home in Arviat. And he suggested that unoccupied units in Arviat could be easily renovated into a group home.
Aglukkaq told him “there is a lack of services and facilities in Nunavut,” but that 1,000 Nunavummiut get some form of home care services and support.
But Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson also said this assistance falls short, and he told the legislature about one couple in his community who were recently found to be in such bad medical condition, the woman was found sleeping on the bathroom floor.
Peterson urged changes to the 2008-9 capital plan in favour of community projects to help elders and other residents.
Iqaluit Housing Authority to lose its manager
On March 14, Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo paid a tribute to Susan Spring who is leaving the Iqaluit Housing Authority after 14 years as its manager.
“In this demanding role, she has earned the trust and respect of the community,” he said.
Spring was a tireless volunteer in Iqaluit, Tootoo noted, serving on a variety of boards and receiving the Andy Theriault Citizenship Award for volunteer service.
Public inquiry for Qanngualuk abduction nixed
Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley called repeatedly in the Nunavut legislature for more information and an investigation into the alleged abduction of a family in the 1940s.
Qanngualuk disappeared on the shores of Foxe Basin in the winter of 1942-43 with all members of his family, but a daughter. His descendants, the Siakuluk family, live in Hall Beach.
Curley said there should be a public inquiry into the disappearance of the family, which some say were carried away by a foreign aircraft.
But Okalik said the territorial government was “in no way shape or form…a party to this situation.
Okalik said he would continue to work with Nunavut’s MP and the foreign affairs department in Ottawa to get to the bottom of the situation.
Okalik told Curley that “as a government, it has been kind of hard” to work on that file although he said the GN hasn’t “put it on the backburner.”
On March 12 in the legislature, Curley said he wanted to know if any “spy stuff” had occurred. He said Russian visitors to Nunavut had reported there was a person living in Russia from Igloolik who had a scar. Qanngualuk’s adopted daughter apparently had a scar.
Louis Tapardjuk, minister of the department of culture, language, elder and youth, told Curley that his department has been conducting an investigation into the disappearance. Tapardjuk said there was one employee “who is dealing solely on that incident that happened years ago,” and he promised an “extensive investigation” on the abduction this summer.
CLEY also intends to erect some kind of monument at the site of the alleged abduction.
Homeowners get new financing program
First-time homeowners who want to build a new home can apply for some new money, Olayuk Akesuk, the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp., told the Nunavut legislature on March 15.
The program will offer Nunavummiut interim financing for new home construction, which will bridge the gap between the time they receive their approved mortgage and the contractor’s need to be paid.
“Interim financing, up to 85 per cent of the approved mortgage amount, is now available to eligible clients of the Nunavut Down Payment Assistance Program and the Material Assistance Progam,” Akesuk said.
Elders neglected, say MLAs
On March 16 in the Nunavut legislature, Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson asked Louis Tapardjuk, the minister of culture, language, elders and youth, for an update on what his department had done over the past year with respect to elder abuse in Nunavut.
“If one elder is mistreated, that’s elder abuse and that’s one elder too many,” Peterson said.
Peterson suggested Nunavut should observe International Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Tapardjuk told Peterson that his department is “still doing a study on elders.”
When Peterson asked what number elders should dial if they are being abused, Tapardjuk said it’s not his department. He said elders suffering from abuse could go to the elders’ groups in their communities, which fall under health and social services. He also said his department holds a conference call every month to look at how elders are doing in every region.
Tapardjuk told Peterson that there’s already a day dedicated to elders in Nunavut when elders are recognized. He said posters have been distributed about elder abuse and “what can happen to people who don’t treat elders properly.”
Kugluktuk MLA Joe Allen Evagotailak told the legislature there’s an elder in his community who is suffering from receiving long-term care far away from home.
“It’s important we give consideration to quality of life issues, like hearing our mother tongue, eating our traditional food and receiving visits from our family and friends,” he said.
Evagotailak wanted to why this elder hadn’t been moved to Yellowknife yet, as requested.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq told him the elder was on a waiting list for a residential space in Yellowknife. She reminded him that an elders’ continuing care facility will be built in Gjoa Haven and another in Igloolik, according to the capital plan approved last November.
Bring down the price!
Hudson Bay MLA Peter Kattuk wants the price of a pack of cigarettes to be lowered because he doesn’t “think it’s a big deterrent for people to stop smoking anyway.”
On March 16 in the Nunavut legislature, Kattuk told a story about how a group from Sanikiluaq once headed off by kayak to Kuujjuaraapik to get tobacco.
Finance Minister David Simailak told Kattuk he wouldn’t consider lowering the taxes, which increase the cost of cigarettes. These taxes give Nunavut more than $2.5 million in revenues every year. If someone thinks the price of cigarettes is too much then they can quit, Simailak said.
Need a passport?
Nunavut is looking at how Nunavummiut from smaller communities can have up-to-standard passport photos taken.
As it stands now, a group of students from Kugluktuk aren’t sure they can take a graduation trip to London because they can’t get the right kind of photos to go with their passport applications.
Ed Picco, the minister responsible for immigration, told the Nunavut legislature on March 16 that Nunavut wants to buy $5,000 “passport-in-a-box” machines for each community that lacks a professional photographer with the proper equipment. The cost for the passport photos would be in the same range charged in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay by photographers there.
Picco said about 60 per cent of the photos taken with the existing equipment in the smaller communities are now rejected because they don’t meet current specifications.
Picco said he’s asked the federal government, which sets standards for passport photos, to help provide training in the use of the new equipment the Government of Nunavut is eyeing. He said the GN is reluctant to absorb the costs of the training: “should we be doing that when it’s the federal government’s responsibility for passports.”
Picco was to formally announce the details of a new passport photo program before the legislature’s session ended this week.
In the meantime, he suggested anyone visiting places offering passport photo service to obtain their photos there.
Picco advised Nunavummiut who need help filling out passport applications to contact the office of Human Resources and Development Canada in Iqaluit.
The Government of Nunavut plans to switch to fluorescent light bulbs in Nunavut over a three-year period.
Ed Picco, the minister responsible for energy, told the Nunavut legislature on March 22 that the change would cut 1,300 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over 12 months.
That’s because these new bulbs use 75 per cent less energy than regular light bulbs, and last seven times longer. Picco later said the move to the new bulbs would save each household at least $100 a year.
To purchase 30,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs, Nunavut plans to use Eco-Trust money, announced in the March 19 federal budget.
Picco said a proposal to ban incandescent bulbs will be introduced at the next session of the legislature.