More acrimony over elder care in Nunavut legislature

Pat Angnakak calls it a ‘low blow’ to suggest regular MLAs aren’t prioritizing elders

Several members of Nunavut’s legislative assembly defended their votes on Monday, following comments from ministers that eluded to MLAs not prioritizing elders’ care in the territory. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

The second week of Nunavut’s spring legislature sitting kicked off with more debate over elder care in the territory.

Regular MLAs had voted on Thursday against spending $2.1 million on planning an elder care facility in Cambridge Bay, saying the money could be used more efficiently elsewhere.

That prompted accusations from cabinet ministers on Thursday that opponents of the project weren’t prioritizing the needs of elders.

“It is a slap in the face,” Pat Angnakak, MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, said in response on Monday.

“To hear our ministers argue that voting to approve the motion means members do not support Nunavut-based elder care is a low blow.”

Tony Akoak, MLA for Gjoa Haven, made the motion to pull the funding on Thursday, saying the money could instead go towards expanding existing facilities, like the nine-bed centre in Gjoa Haven, or the facility in Arviat, instead of towards the $70 million project in Cambridge Bay.

John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, said on Monday the government’s planning process is inadequate.

The GN plans to build three long-term care facilities: one in Iqaluit, one in Cambridge Bay, and one in Rankin Inlet.

“There is no publicly available document that details these three regional facilities, where elders are going to be relocated from, how many elders will be relocated each year,” he said, adding the plan falls short in terms of consulting elders and communities.

Main said it’s not enough to keep elders in Nunavut; they also need to be able to age in their own communities.

“We need to remember that if the government’s current plan goes ahead, elders will still be relocated,” he said. “Elders will still be moved from their home communities.”

Health Minister Lorne Kusugak said Thursday a long-term strategy with all the details is in the works.

He said he supports MLAs who want an elder care facility in every community, but “it is impossible to produce one in all of the communities right now.”

He said his first priority is getting the elders back to Nunavut.

“Shame on us for standing here and pounding tables and saying we care for elders,” Kusugak said before the vote.

“To take this planning money away from a Kitikmeot long-term care facility is definitely not a step forward,” he said.

“Elders are waiting in the south,” he said. “They are hurting and they are waiting for us.”

Jeannie Ehaloak, the minister of community and government services, said the $2 million requested this year would allow the rest of the planning process, including awarding a construction contract, to happen on time.

“Our beloved elders need this facility,” she said. “Any delay hurts them, hurts me, hurts everyone in this room.”

Finance Minister George Hickes said that delaying the design work will set back the facility’s opening by at least a year.

Responding to the ministers’ comments on Monday, Akoak also said “I’m happy that my fellow MLAs did vote beside me.”

“It is only because we do care for our elders.”

Calvin Pedersen, MLA for Kugluktuk, said he stands by his decision to vote against the funding on Thursday.

“It was implied the lack of support for part of the bill reflected a lack of care for our elders,” he said. “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

“We are following the advice and wisdom passed onto us by our elders, who have told us we need to scrutinize proposed plans and projects in order to make good decisions.”

MLAs brought up past proposals for community elder facilities that have been shut down by the GN, including one in Kugluktuk.

“The government denied us that opportunity to provide more long-term care within our territory,” Pedersen said. “That would have been on its way to being built by now.”

Angnakak similarly brought up a past proposal for Iqaluit, which was developed with the city, the Nunavut Construction Corp. and other partners and volunteers.

“There has been no response to date,” Angnakak said. “Absolutely nothing.”

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk said when smaller communities submit their own proposals, “all we hear from this government is ‘wait, wait and wait some more.’”

The final vote came down to 12 votes to pass the motion to remove the funding from the proposal and eight votes to keep it.

All votes to withhold the funding were cast by regular members. Similarly, regular members led the push to delete proposed funding for a GN employee home ownership program last week, with most opposing votes coming from cabinet ministers.

This story has been updated to correct the date of the vote, and leaders’ comments.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by new Continuing care Centre on

    Cambridge Bay needs a new continuing care Centre. I used to work at the current CCC that they have here. It is very dangerous for the patients and staff there. it is on the second floor of the health Centre. If there was ever a fire at the CCC or at the health Centre, the patients and staff would in dangerous. there is only one stair lift for wheel chair and the staff are not trained to use it. there is a written fire plan but no one ever did the go through the fire plan with us. MLAs voting against the funding can put elders at stake.

  2. Posted by David Simailak on

    And we too were pounding the tables here trying to keep the Elder Care facility open here. Minister at the time said Health was having challenges with the contractor so had to close it. All he had to do was issue a public tender and award it to a different contractor. Seven beds, up to 40 Inuit staff trained over the years to provide care up to level two, Elders stayed home to the end of their lives.
    There is still a definite need for a facility here to complement what GN is going to build in Rankin Inlet, providing a specific level of service.

    • Posted by Inuk guy on

      Tulliqpagit David. In the end the Cabinet Ministers are only looking out for their particular interests. Rankin already has so much infrastructure compared to Arviat and Baker Lake. Good luck keeping the jobs filled at the new elders centre as there are only so many workers in Rankin to go around. Job hopping is already an issue. Elders care centers are long term jobs that would be good to place outside of regional centres in order to promote employment. Nauguuq Inuit employment?

  3. Posted by Inuk1 on

    I’m surprised Mr. Akoak, and Mr. Pedersen would cut their region at the knees like this. The Kitikmeot is vastly underserved, and here is more of our own helping to keep us down. Cambridge Bay doesn’t even have a full-time mayor, so I beg to differ, Cambridge Bay may be the regional hub, but it is also a “small community.” Quit lumping us in with Rankin and Iqaluit, and we receive far less than these other regional hubs. This is a massive blow as Cambridge Bay is a strategic location for this Elder Care Facility for the region as a whole. To me, this spells jealousy rather than an informed decision.

  4. Posted by Former Insider on

    Ottawa provides money for construction in Nunavut because almost all that money ends up in the pockets of southern construction firms, southern suppliers of material and southern labour. Ottawa did not provide money for operations of Elder facilities in Nunavut, and for the operation of treatment programs in Nunavut, because most of that money stays in Nunavut.
    Now the GN is giving those operating contracts to southern firms, probably expecting that Ottawa will pay for them.
    Nunavut needs elder facilities in EVERY community.
    An elder is not just an old person. An elder is a person with experience and connections in a community, where the knowledge and experience of the elder serves the people in the community.
    Take an elder from their community and all you have is a hunk of meat in a jail cell.
    Nunavut needs at least 25 Elder facilities.
    Let’s not go through the same planning and contracting process 25 times.
    Let’s develop a real Nunavut construction firm that can start building a small Elder facility in a small community. They could learn and go on to build larger Elder facilities in the larger communities. This is actually required by the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement. The GN is supposed to create and award contracts in ways that build capacity in Nunavut.

  5. Posted by Jayko Palongayak on

    As a residential school survivor I can see my future taken away again. Placing elders away from their homes …wake up you young politicians….remember who fought for you to get proper schools in every communities so the hurting can stop…US ELDERS!!!!…so there…fundings should never be the reason for you to send us elsewhere to go through that hell again…my two bits for you youngsters.

    • Posted by Elder on

      I agree. All the elders growing older and the trauma for families away from elders.
      The question to ask is, if these homes are built will that mean elders stay the remainder of their lives in Nunavut?? No, I don’t think so. These homes only have the first levels of care. This means ALL those in the south would stay in the south.
      Yes, the care homes help, but why are they not for up to level 5?

      • Posted by old ccw on

        it depends on how much workers are trained. I’ve seen a lot working at the continue care Centre. There are not a lot of trained CCWs in Nunavut. I was lucky enough to have training and took a few classes with Nunavut Arctic College. If there was none of those, I would’ve never last there. It also gets tiring working shift work, schedule changed frequently too. it wasn’t good for the my brain and body.

  6. Posted by Puiguq on

    Either Pat Angnakak forgot to respond to her own seniors society’s proposal for the year she was Health Minister, or it wasn’t the shovel-ready plan she is trying to make it sound like now.

  7. Posted by Manapik on

    Take care of your parents, they took care of us.

  8. Posted by elder’s helper on

    What is the use for fighting for elders care centre . The Minister already close the one in Iqluit?

    • Posted by Had It on

      Maybe it’s time to close the Minister’s career. Maybe the Minister should resign or be fired by the Premier. Who wants leadership like this? There will be an election soon. I won’t be voting for anyone who closes Elders facilities. Will you?

  9. Posted by Elder on

    The priority should be focused on elders, not what building goes where and which community will get more. Elders including myself are at our last years of our lives, and we still want to contribute to our communities. Yes, our bodies may not be able as they used to be but our minds are still very much active and we want to leave that knowledge to our families, friends and communities.
    Sending us to a foreign environment, south will displace us and will take our ability to contribute to the well being of our people. Most of us do not know how to live in the cities and certainly not used to being confined to a building or room. We are used to being free to roam the land and our communities.
    Living down south will not allow us to pass our knowledge to other for those ‘others’ are not of our culture. They have their own and we should not impose our culture and beliefs to those who are grounded in their own, just like we are.

    Please, make up your minds as to where and what should go into the communities. We (elders) don’t have much time left to wait and it will be your loss if we don’t pass our knowledge to our people. Because that is what is happening now, elders are being put away in foreign environment where they cannot be who they really are, people of knowledge and who can guide you into the future.

    ᐃᓄᑐᖃᓂᒃ ᐃᕼᐅᒪᒋᔭᖃᕐᓗᕼᐃ ᐱᓕᕆᓚᐅᕆᑦᓯ.

  10. Posted by Gjoa Haven and Kugluktuk on

    Coincidence that the MLA’s of both communities who rallied the GN to build the regional LTC center in their communities are the ones that are fighting to pull the funding from the Cambridge Bay LTCC?

    I think not.

  11. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    At this point, I want to try not to get emotional about this whole fracas.
    I have spent many years working for the Iqaluit Elder’s Society Pairjait Tigumivik.
    In all those years, the board and management hand a reasonable working relationship with the Department of Health.
    The Department listened to the Society and increased funding to the reasonable level to operate the Elder’s facility.
    The Society originally managed the old boarding home and when the new one was built operated it on behalf of the contractor.
    In both facilities, the policy was to hire Inuit and I can tell you with the exception of Jim Taylor and myself, I can’t recall any non -Inuit working in either location over those many years,
    Then one day out of the blue. The contractor of the boarding home arrived and took over operations. Based on my experience over the last years with the Society, I don’t believe this was the fault of the contractor. It was the pressure put on the contractor by the Department senior staff who was a micro manager not a contract administrator.
    That same micro manager who is at one of the most senior levels now was a direct result of the Society leaving the Elder’s facility since Jim and I retired.
    This is not the time to shoot down those MLAs who want more information on facilities. The Assembly is given limited information from senior management of the department who have moved in to Nunavut with little or no experience in the north.
    The MLAs and Minsiters need to demand detailed answers from ths micro manager and make the sound decisions we, the voter, expect from them.
    And please remember that all members in the Assembly, although representing their communities are now expected to make decisions that are in the best interests of Nunavut as a whole.

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