Jack Anawak: Nunavut’s government-maker gets to work

Nunavut’s interim commissioner has now set out on a mission to create a people-friendly Nunavut government.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT The people of Nunavut must feel comfortable with their new government.

And what level of comfort residents are able to achieve is how Jack Anawak will measure his success as interim commissioner.

“We want a user-friendly system where people aren’t going to be intimidated,” Anawak says.

Anawak, the man in charge of setting up the Nunavut government and hiring its first civil service, sits comfortably in his newly-renovated Iqaluit office.

A herculean task

His easy smile and relaxed air belie the herculean task that awaits him.

By March 31, 1999, when his job ends, he must have put in place a functioning Nunavut government.

This includes developing a recruitment and employment plan, negotiating new government contracts, both nationally and internationally, establishing a decentralized model of government, and concluding an agreement with the federal government to pay for Nunavut after its creation.

He must also maintain an open exchange with the people of Nunavut on the process, and act as diplomat and promoter of the new territory in the period leading up to its creation.

On top of that, he must create a government with an emphasis on traditional Inuit values, and attempt to meet a goal of at least 50 per cent Inuit employment at all levels.

“We can’t be intimidated by the magnitude of the job,” he says, as he gazes toward a map of Nunavut hanging on the wall. “We have to look at each individual area.”

Anawak was appointed interim commissioner in April after spending two terms as a member of Parliament for the riding of Nunatsiaq, which has been renamed Nunavut.

The “people” departments first

He admits to a simple philosophy about what the Nunavut government should be for the residents of the territory.

“We want to make sure the people of Nunavut have a say.”

Anawak says the “people departments” are where residents of Nunavut, the majority of whom are Inuit, must see a difference.

“Justice and social issues will be the basis of the Nunavut government,” he says.

A justice system based on traditional aboriginal values and taking responsibility for one’s actions and a social services system where people aren’t criticized or devalued for being on welfare are just two examples, he says, of how the Nunavut government can be different from the present system.

No carbon copy of the GNWT

The model for the Nunavut government won’t be based on the current territorial government, a system, he says, that is adversarial and repressive for the Inuit of Nunavut.

“We know it cannot be foreign to the present system,” he says, but added the foundation will be a government focused on the people it represents.

“We will have a functioning government, but not so functioning that changes can’t be made by the Nunavut government, the elected leaders.”

Those leaders, he says, will decide whether or not to carry on his philosophy of the Nunavut government. They’ll be the ones who have to find creative ways of setting policy and redistributing government funding.

“They need to have the ability to look beyond just one issue,” he says.

Deputy minister recruitment to start soon

Anawak must start hiring government staff by April 1 next year, but says he may begin advertising for deputy ministers within the next few weeks.

“If we have the support from DIAND (department of Indian affairs and northern development), we may start the process before that.”

He added this sector, along with the medical and legal fields, will likely not reach Inuit employment targets before 1999.

“There has to be an understanding we may not reach 50 per cent in all areas,” he says. “We have to face that reality, but let’s not get defeated by something we can’t, at this point, do anything about.”

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