Leaders push for Nunavik riding

Say presentations fell on deaf ears

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

ODILE NELSON

Nunavik’s Inuit leaders demanded a House of Commons seat for Nunavimmiut at the final public hearings on Quebec’s proposed 2004 federal election boundaries held Dec. 16 and 17 in Montreal.

Quebec’s Federal Electoral Boundaries commission, a three-member panel appointed by Elections Canada that has no political affiliation, has been conducting hearings on its suggested changes to the province’s federal election borders since Nov. 7.

The Quebec commission released a report of proposed changes to the province’s 75 federal ridings this summer. The changes are part of a country-wide revision of Canada’s electoral map.

Among the proposals is a suggestion to divide the present Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik federal district into two renamed ridings, Abitibi and Nunavik.

But the commission’s proposed “Nunavik” riding does not follow the territory’s traditional southern border.

Instead, because Nunavik’s small population of 10,000 does not meet the minimum 72,375 population requirement for a federal riding in Quebec, the commission decided to extend the riding from Ivujivik to the 50th parallel.

This way the riding includes Quebec’s James Bay Cree population as well as voters from the Vallée-de-l’Or region. The proposed Nunavik riding contains 79,573 voters.

But Makivik Corporation president Pita Aatami told the commission this Tuesday that such a division is unacceptable because it does not empower the people of Northern Quebec.

He reminded the commission it can suggest a riding where the number of voters is less than the minimum provincial requirement — if there are extraordinary circumstances.

“Nunavik is being tacked on to an electoral district which is dominated by large population centres a thousand kilometres to the south. It is a situation where the possibility of electing a Nunavik representative to Parliament is almost nil,” Aatami told the commission.

“Nunavik’s landscape, climate, geography, transportation links, economy and high cost of living, have more in common with other parts of the Arctic than areas of Quebec south of the 55th parallel…. We have steadfastly maintained that this uniqueness must be recognized.”

Aatami also chastised the commission for not conducting public hearings in any of the region’s 14 Inuit communities.

Johnny Adams, the Kativik Regional Government chairman, echoed Aatami’s sentiments in his speech to the commission.

In an interview following his speech, Adams said he felt the commission was only paying a passing courtesy to their concerns.

“You could see they weren’t 100 per cent hopeful they would suggest a representative for Nunavik,” Adams said.

Adams admitted he was frustrated over the issue. Since 1983, he said, Nunavik’s Inuit have unsuccessfully called on four separate commissions to grant the region its own riding.

But he also said Makivik and the regional government will continue their efforts until they succeed.

“We need our own representative. We don’t have anything in common with our southern counterparts in terms of our community, culture, language and identity,” he said.

The Quebec commission has not released any official response to the public hearings. It is expected however to take the recommendations into account before it presents its report to the House of Commons in the spring.

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