Iqaluit co-op elects board of directors

Group holds first official general meeting



The first directors of the proposed Iqaluit co-op were elected at the organization’s founding meeting May 22.

Seven members were chosen to replace the co-op’s interim board and continue with the final details for the city’s new store, expected to open by September 2004.

Mary Ellen Thomas, Elisapee Sheutiapik and Rebecca Mike were elected for three-year terms; Moses Kilabuk and Mike Illnik were elected for two-year terms; and Nash Naudlak Sagiatuk and Cam McGregor were elected to serve one-year terms.

The city donated $6,500 toward the meeting, which was held in the Anglican Parish Hall.

Steering committee members have been working for three years to move the project forward after several past attempts failed due to land issues.

This time around, organizers were successful in securing a piece of property where the Toonoonik Sahoonik Hotel-Restaurant currently sits.

The new co-op will lease the land from Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. (ACL), which recently purchased the property from the Toonoonik Sahoonik Co-op of Pond Inlet.

ACL is the umbrella company representing the 35 co-ops in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, providing technical and operational support services.

A second umbrella company, The Arctic Co-operatives Development Fund (ACDF), provides financial services such as loans to co-ops. Together, ACL and ACDF work closely to provide services to member co-ops.

ACL will assist the city’s new co-op in demolishing the existing building and replacing it with a grocery store.

“We don’t have the final piece of paper yet but we do have consent from all the lawyers that there are no objections,” Thomas said.

The group is hoping its building material will arrive on the last ship this summer so that the new store’s shell can be built over the winter. If that plan is met, the store’s inventory will arrive on the first ship the following summer for a grand opening in the fall.

“We hope to be operating as a store by fall 2004 – touch wood. There are always things that get in the way,” Thomas said.

The need for a co-op has resulted from the need for better quality, better quantity food.

“Our goal is not to compete with the other stores in town by offering lower prices. We want to offer different products like bulk food and environmentally friendly foods,” she said.

One member requested more northern-appropriate products like camping gear. The board will determine inventory with input from the co-op’s membership, which currently sits at around 300.

Thomas would like to see that membership base grow to 500 by this fall and 1,000 by the time the store opens. It costs $10 to join.

Members will save on more than just groceries. The co-op may also offer savings on gas, insurance and cable.

Lucassie Arragutainaq, director and president of the Mitiq Co-op in Sanikiluaq, addressed the board and members at the general meeting to emphasize the importance of membership participation.

“Without members there would be no co-op. The people of Iqaluit have tried many times to get a co-op started here without success,” Arragutainaq said.

“But the members have not given up. In fact, there are more members now. New people have joined this co-operative and there is every reason to believe that there will be very strong support for this co-op by the people of the community.”

Arragutainaq also cautioned members saying even though this is an exciting time, it’s not the time to lose sight of the work that still needs to be done, and the ongoing efforts necessary to keep the co-op alive.

He encouraged members to invest in the new venture, shop there as much as possible, advise the board on how to make the co-op better and canvass friends and family to join.

“You can fill out all of the legal papers and incorporate a co-op. You can elect a board of directors. You can lease a building to operate your business. You can hang a co-op sign on the outside of the building to say you are a co-op.

“But just because you have all these things does not mean you have a co-op. A co-op is people. You are the co-op.”

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