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Legislature stalls July 9 Nunavut Day

“We want to make sure that the people have a say…”

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MICHAELA RODRIGUE
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT – Nunavut residents can scrap plans to celebrate July 9 as the official Nunavut Day – at least for this year.

The territorial government recently announced plans to turn July 9, the date of the proclamation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in 1993, into an official holiday.

But the legislative committee charged with studying the bill needs more time to ponder the idea and doesn’t expect to have a recommendation before the fall session.

“That’s not going to happen this year. We’re going to continue discussing it in the fall session and that will be the time we’ll decide which day will be Nunavut Day,” said Baffin South MLA Olayuk Akesuk, chair of the operations and government services committee.

Committee members want to consult with municipalities and residents before they bring forward a recommendation to the legislature, Akesuk said.

“We’re going to talk to the association of municipalities sometime probably next month and we’re going to introduce the bill to them,” Akesuk said.

If passed, the bill would eliminate the August civic holiday in favour of a July 9 holiday. April 1, the day Nunavut officially divided from the Northwest Territories, would not be marked as an official holiday.

But Akesuk said some Nunavummiut, including those in his constituency, would like both July 9 and the August civic holiday off. Such a move could have financial implications for businesses and municipalities that may be forced to close or pay extra to employees an additional day each year.

Akesuk said the municipalities and residents should be heard on the issue.

“We want to make sure that the people have a say before the bill is passed,” he said. “We don’t want to make people in Nunavut say: ‘the government did this.'”

Nunavut’s first anniversary passed without official celebrations this year. Premier Paul Okalik said the lack of festivities were part of the government’s plan to make July 9 the official holiday.

He said April 1 is less significant to Nunavummiut and was chosen for the federal government’s convenience.

Since 1993, July 9 has been an unofficial holiday celebrated by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and the GNWT allowed its Inuit employees to take the day off.

Last year the Nunavut government allowed employees what it called a “cultural day.”

Making the day an official holiday would eliminate the confusion and allow everyone to celebrate, Okalik said.

“July 9 is also a day for all Nunavummiut to celebrate. Through the agreement, Nunavut and the public government that represents all residents became a reality,” Okalik told the legislative assembly recently.

But some residents have criticized the plan and argue April 1 should in fact be recognized as
“Nunavut Day.”

In a letter to Nunatsiaq News, Iqaluit resident Donna Waters wrote, “you can’t just change the birth date of the territorial separation! Nunavut Day is April 1, when Nunavut was born. It was not born in July when the agreement was signed.”

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