Kuujjuaq mayor: Nunavimmiut must respect transients
“It’s discriminating against ourselves”
A travelling pool of Inuit construction workers could produce certified journeymen in Nunavik, but Kuujjuaq Mayor Michael Gordon says to make this plan work, Nunavimmiut will have to change how they think.
The residents of Nunavik communities must start thinking as a region, so Inuit construction workers from one community will feel comfortable working in another place, he said.
“Even when construction companies do try to hire Inuit to go to another village to work, you get people from the village, the regular folks, who start complaining that their jobs are being taken by Inuit from another community,” Gordon said.
Most never complain about Qallunaat taking the jobs from them.
“Starting from the Hudson Bay Company and the traders, all the way to now when construction workers come up from the South, we’re so used to seeing Qallunaat instead of Inuit,” Gordon said. “When someone sees an Inuk come in, and can relate to the guy, then they think they should have the job instead.”
Gordon, who is also a member of the executive of the Kativik Regional Government, said Nunavimmiut must change this behaviour or the region won’t ever see licensed journeymen carpenters, plumbers or electricians.
“We can’t be that way,” Gordon said. “It’s discriminating against ourselves.”
Over the past five years, people from other communities in Nunavik have relocated to Kuujjuaq, the fast-growing administrative centre of the region, for work.
“I’ve always tried to welcome them. They’re replacing someone who comes from the South,” Gordon said. “They’re also filling a job that couldn’t be filled by someone from here in the first place.”
Gordon supports the conclusions of the report on the lack of Inuit journeymen, which was tabled at the recent meeting of the KRG regional council.
“We’ve got these guys 60 years old and over who are lifetime carpentry workers and they can’t even get their journeyman’s licences. It’s because they can’t speak or write English or French. Even the hours they’ve worked all these years, they can’t put those to a licence,” he said.
Gordon doesn’t think it’s fair that the Commission de la construction du Québec sets standards that are so hard for Nunavimmiut to comply with, but he said the KRG hasn’t been able to make its case accepted by the powerful union members of the CCQ.
“It’s very, very difficult and KRG has tried many times to discuss it with them,” he said. “It was never really fruitful.”