Iqaluit to develop Inuit employment plan

Only 44 per cent of city staff are Inuit



Iqaluit city council wants to change the way the municipality is staffed. At the moment, less than half the city’s staff is Inuit and too few of them are moving into high-ranking positions.

This year, city council will begin drafting a new Inuit employment strategy for the municipality. At the June 11 council meeting, councillors voted to set aside $50,000 in Iqaluit’s 2002 budget to work on the policy.

The goal is to increase the number of Inuit who work at Iqaluit’s municipal office and to bring more Inuit into mid- and upper-level jobs.

“We should look at the existing Inuit staff and if they have aspirations to move up the ladder and what positions they’d like to be in,” said city councillor Lynda Gunn.

The Inuit employment policy is a follow-up to an agreement the municipality and its workers made last summer when they negotiated a new collective agreement. They agreed to form a committee to make improvements to an Inuit employment strategy that had been drafted in 1997.

Currently, the municipality’s Inuit staffing levels are low. Of its 94 employees, only 42, or 44 per cent, of them are Inuit.

What’s worse, Gunn said, is too few of the Inuit staff are supervisors or directors. Instead, they’re stuck at the bottom of the ladder, working as drivers and labourers on the city’s water and garbage trucks.

According to the municipality’s staffing statistics, there is only one Inuk in a director’s position and only three Inuit in coordinators’ positions. In comparison, there are eight qallunaat directors and 11 qallunaat coordinators.

Five years ago, things weren’t much different. Employment records from 1997 show that only 42 per cent of the municipal staff were Inuit.

Now, council says, it’s time to break that pattern.

Gunn said the municipality should strive to be more representative of Iqaluit’s Inuit population. She’s urging council to take another look at the 1997 Inuit employment strategy.

In 1997, the council at the time hired a local firm to work on a human resources and Inuit employment strategy. The result, a 33-page report, was tabled in July 1997.

It didn’t set out staffing targets that would have required that certain numbers of Inuit be on staff. But it did recommend that the municipality develop training programs for those Inuit interested in working their way up the ladder.

In the end, the report and its recommendations fell by the wayside as the council found itself dealing with tremendous population growth and the extra demands it put on the Iqaluit’s crumbling infrastructure.

“This was an issue that was put on the backburner and forgotten,” Gunn said.

But Ookalik Curley hasn’t forgotten. During the past year, she has been trying to get Inuit employment back on Iqaluit council’s priority list.

Curley, the assistant senior administrative officer, has been coming to council meetings with her Inuit staffing statistics in hand, pointing out that the level is still below 50 per cent.

“I wanted to have the issue on the table, in front of their faces,” Curley said in an interview.

There’s a lot of room for improvement, she said.

“The middle management, the supervisors and the upper management: we need to work on these,” said Curley, who is one of the few Inuit holding an upper-level position.

Training programs are key to improving the situation, she said. Such programs can include courses or work placements in different municipal departments.

She said administration and council are anxious to get the ball rolling. But the eagerness to deal with Inuit staffing isn’t about making everyone feel good that there are Inuit working for the municipality. “It’s not for our personal satisfaction,” Curley said.

Rather, she emphasized, having Inuktitut-speaking employees means unilingual Inuit wouldn’t have to worry about phoning a municipal department and discovering they can’t be served in their own language.

“Unilingual Inuit have to go to me or an interpreter/translator or one of the bilingual staff. To me that’s unfair,” Curley said.

“None of the unilingual residents should have to feel that they’re a burden to the organization that serves them.”

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