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In the legislative assembly:

Northwestel rapped

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Northwestel customers in Pond Inlet are frustrated with the phone company’s decision to cut its payment agent in that community, said Tununiq MLA James Arvaluk.

This locally-based agent allowed people to pay their phone bills in cash. But Arvaluk said six of the seven payment options now available require a credit card or bank account to pay a telephone bill.

Arvaluk told the Nunavut legislature he wrote to the telephone company, emphasizing that Nunavut has few banks and “a significant number” of the company’s customers in Nunavut are unilingual elders who do not have a bank account, cheques or credit cards.

On March 14, Arvaluk tabled a letter from North­westel, which says the company is open to reviewing their decision to pull the public agent in Pond Inlet.

In Gjoa Haven, telephone customers say they want call display, so they can see the phone numbers of incoming calls. This is to track “abusive telephone calls from unknown individuals,” said Nattilik MLA Leona Aglukkaq.

“I have personally experienced this problem,” she told the legislature on March 8.

The CRTC turned down a past request by the company to add call display features to its list of offerings.

Aglukkaq also said a Nunavut resident should sit on the Northwestel board of directors to give the territory a greater voice in company policy.

Last year, the CRTC issued a call for submissions on a new Northwestel rate and service plan, and held a public hearing in July. There is no record of any submission from a Nunavut organization or government.

Aglukkaq also tabled a petition from Gjoa Haven asking for call display.
Help the dogs!

Quttiktuq MLA Levi Barnabas wants dog vaccinations and better care for dogs in the High Arctic.

The responsibility for giving rabies vaccinations to dogs has switched from one Government of Nunavut department to another several times, he told the Nunavut legislature on March 8.

“For centuries dogs have played an important role in Inuit lifestyle and culture,” he said. “It would be a shame, a real shame, if the lack of a small amount of prevention were to destroy what has been so carefully saved from extinction.”

But Leona Aglukkaq, Nunavut’s health minister, reminded Barnabas that the GN does not provide treatment for sick dogs.

“We provide vaccinations to prevent the spread of rabies to the human communities,” she said.

However, she said health department employees are not responsible for ensuring dogs receive distemper vaccinations.
What happened to our road?

Arviat MLA David Alagalak is confused – he heard that work would start this year on the long-awaited Manitoba-Nunavut road link, and that consultations had wrapped up, but he still hasn’t heard any news about a construction start-up date.

David Simailak, Nunavut’s minister responsible for transportation, told Alagalak that following consultations, engineers are trying to find a route for the road that would more closely follow the shoreline.

“They’re looking to locate the sites,” he told Alagalak in response to his March 8 questions in the Nunavut legislature.

Simailak said the road’s construction comes with an estimated $1.2 billion cost and that there’s no idea where the money will come from yet.
MLAs find holes in patient, escort travel procedures

A new plan for medical travel is in the works, Nunavut’s health minister, Leona Aglukkaq, said in the legislature on March 9.

Aglukkaq said her department recently gave cabinet an updated draft client travel strategy for the territory.

She told Akulliq MLA Steve Mapsalak the strategy would answer his concerns about unilingual elders’ need for escorts. The strategy says escorts are permitted “if the client is travelling outside of Nunavut and needs an escort to interpret.”

But she said decisions about escorts would be based case-by-case because “every patient is different.” Any changes to the policy in the future may have a higher price tag, she warned.

Aglukkaq said her department has already made changes to streamline patient and escort travel after receiving about 300 complaints following the relocation of its Baffin medical travel services to Pangnirtung.

If patients aren’t travelling directly home after their appointments, she said told Quttiktuq MLA Levi Barnabas that it could be due to problems with finding a space on a flight.

“Not every community gets a flight every day,” she said.

Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo raised the experience of an Iqaluit woman who had escorted her unilingual mother to Ottawa but returned home after run-ins with motel and boarding home staff (see March 9 Nunatsiaq News).

“Will the minister commit to looking into that?”

Aglukkaq said her staff was already aware of the case.

Weather station closing a potential danger

Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson is worried about Nav Canada’s decision to cancel its plans to establish a flight information centre in Yellowknife. Weather reporting for pilots is now provided from North Bay, Ontario.

Peterson reminded the Nunavut legislature on March 9 that “North Bay is 3,000 kilometres away from Cambridge Bay.”

He said that in medical emergencies, a few minutes can make a big difference.

“I’m particularly concerned about delays that calling North Bay would impose on our medical evacuations,” he told the house.

Peterson urged the GN’s minister of transportation, David Simailak, to write to the president of Nav Canada and urge the company to reconsider its decision.

Simailak later told Peterson he planned to send staff to Nav Canada’s annual general meeting in Yellowknife. He also promised to lobby with the NWT to change Nav Canada’s decision.
Nurses needed, but at what cost?

During question period in the Nunavut legislature on March 7, Tununiq MLA James Arreak wanted Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq to tell him if the chronic shortage of full-time nurses in Nunavut is “another hiccup.”

Last year, Aglukkaq used the word “hiccup” to describe the GN’s difficulties in running patient travel services.

Aglukkaq told Arreak that her department would continue to use agency nurses as long as it needs to.

“We have no other alternatives,” she said.

Aglukkaq said 64 of 184 nursing positions are vacant.

Aglukkaq said the health department is also looking at ways of keeping nurses through “compensation or professional development opportunities.”
Bring vital statistics back to Nunavut

The process of obtaining birth records from the Northwest Territories isn’t working smoothly for his constituents, Quttiktuq MLA Levi Barnabas told Leona Aglukkaq, the health minister, March 6 in the Nunavut legislature.

For anyone born in Nunavut after 1999, the Nunavut Vital Statistics Office in Rankin Inlet can issue an official birth certificate, an essential document for a passport application.

But those born before 1999 must to go to the NWT, Ontario or Manitoba.

Barnabas said he wants to see a transfer of official records from the NWT to Nunavut.

“As far as I know, health records of people born in the Northwest Territories are the property of that territory. I can look into that,” Aglukkaq told him.
GN slighting non-Inuit residents?

The GN doesn’t appear to value the job skills of long-time Nunavut residents who are non-Inuit, if they’re not nurses or teachers, Iqaluit centre MLA Hunter Tootoo told the Nunavut legislature on March 6.

Tootoo said these northerners are “slipping through the cracks.”

“If you’re a non-beneficiary, you grew up here in Nunavut all your life, the only way you’re guaranteed to get employment with this government is to go through the nursing program,” Tootoo said.

Tootoo said the GN should address their needs, giving applications from long-time residents some kind of priority for territorial jobs, as is done in the NWT.

“They’re not even getting short-listed, not even getting looked at, and they’ve been here, this is their home, this is where they grew up,” Tootoo said.

But Premier Paul Okalik told Tootoo that the GN’s priority hiring policy for Inuit beneficiaries is justified by the “historic disadvantage of a set group” and is permitted under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Our current state is that we are highly disadvantaged in terms of employment opportunities,” Okalik said.

Okalik said the charter otherwise protects and prohibits governments from carrying out programs which may discriminate against other Canadians: “so we want to be careful.”

“I know why we’re doing it and I agree with that but there’s something missing,” Tootoo said.

Okalik said the GN will review its policy later this year and he promised Tootoo to “see what we can do.”

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