Kuujjuaq officially opens cultural centre

More than 200 turn out to bless regional building



Politicians and candy drops officially opened the Katittavik Town Hall this Tuesday in Kuujjuaq — four months after the building’s completion.

Though all the principal work on the $8.5-million structure was finished by October 2002, an ideal time for an official opening only occurred this month, when all the main supporters and contributors could attend the event, said Michael Gordon, Kuujjuaq`s mayor.

“We were actually trying to have the opening before Christmas but when we made invitations for different departments it was too close to the holidays so we delayed it. We also wanted regional councillors from KRG [Kativik Regional Government] to be in town since they helped fund part of the building,” Gordon said.

The regional building has been open for months now. It hosted the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in August 2002, housed municipal employees since last fall, and now runs weekly movies for Kuujjuaq residents.

But despite the mere formality of the day, Gordon said the opening was necessary to bless the building and publicly acknowledge the efforts and financial donations behind its success.

Construction on the town hall began shortly after Kuujjuaq awarded the building’s contract to Projere Construction, a southern company, in March 2001. But before workers could lay down its foundation, federal, provincial and regional governments had to be persuaded to contribute to the costly structure.

In the end, the bulk of the money for the building, approximately $5.5 million, came from five Quebec government departments: the ministries of municipal affairs, regions, culture and communication, tourism and the secretariat of aboriginal affairs.

The federal government also donated $1.5 million to the building fund through its Indian and Northern Affairs and Canadian Economic Development departments. The Kativik Regional Government and the Kuujjuamiut development corporation provided the balance of the funding.

Gordon recognized all these contributors in a brief speech to the more than 200 Nunavimmiut who gathered inside the building after shivering through a brief outdoor ribbon cutting by Charlie White.

The town chose White to cut the ribbon, because he has been a municipal employee since the 1970s.

Gordon then made presentations to many people who contributed to the structure, including federal MP Guy St-Julien, Nunavik artist Sammy Kudluk, who designed the building’s giant mural, and Johnny E. Watt, Kuujjuaq’s first mayor.

Yet one contributor he did not thank in his speech was the construction company that raised the building.

In October 2002, Gordon said he anticipated taking the company, Progere Construction to court over a series of building deficiencies including a leaky roof and gaps in railings, missing vents and incomplete paint jobs.

After Tuesday’s ceremony, Gordon acknowledged some of this work remains incomplete. But he said Projere Construction should finish the indoor tasks this winter while the outdoor jobs will be done during the summer.

He said he did not purposefully forget to thank the company.

“If they were here [in the North] we would have probably invited them. We’re on talking terms,” he said.

For his part, Gordon received nothing but praise from other officials at the event.

After Gordon’s speech, CIBC representative Martine Cote credited the town’s leadership with the building’s success.

“I think people in Kuujjuaq have big projects in mind and the people to come through with them. Nunavik is really dynamic that way,” she said.

Benjamin Arreak, the Anglican bishop who blessed the town hall, agreed. He said that since he first arrived as a priest in Kuujjuaq seven years ago he has watched the community grow.

“The building’s a sign of the progress in the community. It’s a symbol of a community that is growing so quickly… and the leaders who brought the community together,” Arreak said.

The Katittavik town hall has been praised for its innovative design, which mirrors the curves of the surrounding landscape. The 1,900-metre building sits above the Koksoak River. It houses a 500-seat auditorium, a state-of-the-art cinema, the regional tourism association and municipal offices.

Johnny Adams, chairman of the KRG, has previously said he hopes to promote the building in southern Canada as a convention venue.

Tuesday’s public ceremony ended with the crowd returning outside and municipal workers tossing balloons and candy from the building’s roof.

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