Baffinland expansion plans loom over race to become next Tununiq MLA
Incumbent up against Pond Inlet’s mayor and an award-winning educator and entrepreneur
In the lead-up to the Oct. 25 territorial elections, Nunatsiaq News is publishing snapshots of the races. Look for articles with “Nunavut votes” in the headline.
In the riding of Tununiq where the Mary River mine expansion project has been a hot-button issue, voters will have to decide between three candidates this territorial election.
Tununiq consists of Pond Inlet, which has a population of about 1,800. The mine is located about 175 kilometres southwest of the hamlet.
Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., the company proposing the mine expansion, wants to build a 110-kilometre railway from its Mary River mine to Milne Inlet. It would also double its iron ore shipments through the Tallurutiup Imanga marine conservation area and add another dock at its port.
The proposal triggered protests and blockades at the road to the mine from environmentalists and hunters in February who felt their concerns were not being addressed about the mine and its railroad that will run through a caribou migration route.
Incumbent MLA David Qamaniq, 60, has criticized the Nunavut government for being muted on the issue and not playing a bigger role to make sure Inuit rights are protected. He has voiced concerns over the damage the mine could have on the wildlife and water.
Prior to being elected as MLA, Qamaniq served as mayor of Pond Inlet from 2005 to 2007. He was also on the local district education authority for 12 years and was community liaison officer for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
Qamaniq did not respond to interview requests asking him about what his priorities would be if re-elected.
Challenging him is current mayor Joshua Arreak, 66. Arreak worked to help find a solution to end the Baffinland blockades and asked the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the territorial government to acknowledge and help address the concerns of protestors.
“I would back up the hamlet and the hunters and trappers organization if they are unified. Not on what my views are and would set my views aside to present the community,” he said.
“I know there has been impact already in Pond Inlet as the most impacted community on our environment and mammals.”
Arreak said he is also willing to work with all parties to address homelessness and housing issues. He would like to secure 60 to 80 housing units for his community and is interested in looking at increasing income support as well as mental health services. He added that he would also like to set up programs that offer funding for local businesses.
Karen Nutarak, 44, may be best known for founding Pirurvik Preschool, which won a million dollar Arctic Inspiration Prize. Nutarak currently works as an adult educator for the community learning centre at Nunavut Arctic College’s Pond Inlet campus. She also has 17 years of experience working at the Government of Nunavut.
Nutarak said she would work with the hunters and trappers organizations, and the community at large, to voice their concerns over the mine. But she added that she is focused largely on creating change that empowers Inuit for a brighter future.
“Education is very important,” she said.
“I really believe it’s one way for poverty reduction.”
Her other objectives are creating better incentives for teachers and nurses to stay in the North as well as implementing culturally appropriate care, which includes mental health support for Inuit.
She would like to advocate for more elder care facilities, early childhood education training and supports for daycare for working families with children under five.