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

Three candidates are in the running to represent the Tununiq riding in the Nunavut legislature. From left: incumbent David Qamaniq, Joshua Arreak and Karen Nutarak. (Images courtesy of Elections Nunavut)

By Lindsay Campbell
Special to Nunatsiaq News

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.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Aputi on

    Work with baffinland to get new houses, they are there for long term

    • Posted by Consistency on

      I have thought the same thing. they need to build housing for their employees in the communities. same as what the GN does with Staff housing, not free housing but so there is renting as a option, and not having to be in social housing.

  2. Posted by Truestory on

    Working with B.I.M. would benefit employees and the affected hamlets/towns. B.I.M. and the affected places should work on building affordable houses. Standard of living would improve. Not to mention training on the jobs thru B.I.M..

  3. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Not sure what you are all on about. Baffinland has pretty clearly signaled their intention to shut the Mary River project down on a temporary basis, which we all know means permanently unless new buyer is found. There wont be any new housing and a lot of people will be out of work. That is what the MLAs need to worry about

    • Posted by sharp shooter Inuk on

      I don’t think we need to worry about the largest Iron deposit in the whole wide world!

      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        You should be worried. Given the banana-republic style treatment that Baffinland has gotten from the Inuit org and the affected communities through the regulatory process no one will touch this property with a barge pole

        • Posted by Think again on

          Sharp shooter is right. You will see. This treatment you talk about will benefit you more thwn you think, then you can eat your shoe.


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