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Iqaluit’s Inuit scholarship fund may go ahead after all

A $1,000 scholarship fund for Grade 12 Inuit students in Iqaluit may end up being administered by the Town instead of the Iqaluit and Baffin school boards.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MICHAELA RODRIGUE

IQALUIT — Inuit students at Iqaluit’s Inuksuk High School could have a new scholarship to tap into, even though the Baffin school board won’t administer it.

Iqaluit town councillor Lynda Gunn wants the municipality to create a $1,000 scholarship targetting Grade 12 Inuit students who plan to continue their academic studies.

The scholarship has won the approval of town council, but two weeks ago, Kathy Smith, chair of the Iqaluit District Education Authority (DEA) told town councillors the DEA and regional school board could not “accept” a scholarship awarded to a student of a particular race.

Smith told councillors neither the DEA or DEC could administer a scholarship awarded based on race.

“We can recognize students for language skills, we can recognize them for attendance, for all kinds of things. But we will not tell students ‘you are not eligible to apply for this because you are not of a certain race,'” Smith said.

Smith said it’s board policy to not administer grants that use race as a criteria.

But that doesn’t mean Iqaluit town council can’t set up its own scholarship independent of the school board, Smith said.

“Anyone can set up an award. As far as I know, there’s no limit,” Smith said. For example, she said Valupharm Drugs has scholarships for Inuit students who want to study pharmacology.

Smith said administering includes advertising within the school and presentation at school graduation.

If the municipality wants to set up a scholarship outside of the school system, it would have to administer it through its own office and advertise it on its own, Smith said.

Gunn wants the Town to go ahead with its plans to create a scholarship. She said the Town should encourage Inuit students to further their education.

“We need to encourage Inuit children to suceed and pursue post-secondary education so that they can become part of the qualified workforce for Nunavut,” Gunn said.

Smith decided to go to Town council and raise her concerns about the scholarship after a disgruntled parent notified the DEA of the Town’s intentions.

The Town hadn’t contacted the DEA about the scholarship, but Smith said she assumed the Town would want the school system to administer the program.

The municipality has the power to create grants that benefit all or some residents, under the Cities, Towns and Villages Act and already gave its support to such a scholarship in July.

Gunn said it will now be up to the municipality’s finance, administration, legislation and community services committee to come up with the criteria for the scholarship.

She said she hopes it is ready by the end of the next school year.

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