Mary Johannes was elected as Kuujjuaq’s new mayor on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Mary Johannes)

New Kuujjuaq mayor hopes to tackle waste management issues, drug trafficking

Mary Johannes won Wednesday’s election after losing in 2018

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Kuujjuaq’s newly elected mayor says she hopes to resolve waste management and drug trafficking issues in the community.

Mary Johannes won the race for mayor on Wednesday with 343 votes, three months after the election was pushed back due to COVID-19. She defeated incumbent Sammy Koneak, who earned 107 votes. Jason Berthe, another candidate, finished second with 289.

Kuujjuaq residents also elected councillors to represent the community. Claude Gadbois, Allen Gordon, Bobby Snowball, Jobie Tukkiapik, Larry Watt and Shirley White Dupuis were the six successful candidates out of seven who ran.

Johannes said she had a small gathering Wednesday night, within the current public health guidelines, to wait for results and eventually celebrate her win. She said she thought she would be nervous, but ended up being calm and patient, and eventually excited, about capping off a successful campaign.

“We were waiting for the results, and I had family over, and it was pretty interesting to be patiently waiting,” she said.

Now that Johannes, the president of Ilagiisaq — Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, and a past candidate in the 2018 Kuujjuaq mayoral election, is preparing to take on her new role, she has some issues in the community she says she wants to address.

Johannes says she hopes to work with the Kativik Regional Government on relocating the community’s garbage dump. The current location is close to the river. By keeping it there, it poses an environmental risk to residents who depend on the river for food and drinking water, she said.

“I’m worried about the fish and the sea mammals that we eat,” she said. “I’m really focusing on clean environments for our community.”

Another issue Johannes says she hopes to address involves the recent arrests in connection with the sales of illicit drugs and alcohol in Kuujjuaq and across Nunavik.

Two weeks ago, three men in Kuujjuaq were arrested in a drug bust, in which cocaine and firearms were seized, according to police. And last week, the Sûreté du Québec arrested 13 people in Montreal and Nunavik in connection with illegal alcohol sales in the region.

Johannes said she wants to work with local police to stop illicit drugs and alcohol from entering Kuujjuaq, and that the effects of substance use is harming the community.

“We see a lot of elders at home being affected by, especially, the youths that are taking the hard drugs, and it’s affecting the homes too,” she said. “That’s a big problem for the whole of Nunavik, not just Kuujjuaq.”

Other priorities Johannes addressed include working with KRG to open a new hunters’ support store, as well as maintaining the community’s cemeteries, which have often fallen victim to vandalism.

Johannes says she’s looking forward to working with the various organizations that serve Nunavimmiut and leading Kuujjuaq along with her council.

“I’m looking forward to the equality and unity for all of us, and the focus on our community that needs to work together,” she said.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Best wishes on

    Finally a mayor who tells it like it is. Lock up the drug traffickers for a long damn time and throw away the keys, they have no place in the North.

    • Posted by NUNAVIMIUK on

      She s the new mayor ,leave the locking up of dealers to the courts. No mob rule please.

  2. Posted by Qball on

    Wish Nunavut can do the same to we got so much inn iqaluit and other towns noone wants to talk about it cops just let them be even my lil bro is a heavy user to now lots of inuit pass alway over the years of O.Ds and we never see it on news

    • Posted by Curious to hear more on

      Can you tell us what drugs Inuit are overdosing and dying from?

      My top guesses would be sugar and cigarette smoke.

      • Posted by eskimo joe on

        Even sarcastic about Inuit death, even been to Vancouver, I have seen pity on VES. man speaking of drugs, ur territorial lands are infested with it, so stop been sarcastic.

        • Posted by Tell me more on

          I’m not being sarcastic about Inuit death. I don’t actually believe there is an epidemic of overdosing going on at all. This has the sound of hyperbolic non-sense. Am I wrong? Maybe just answer the question then?

          • Posted by Not dying from overdose on

            Inuit are not dying from over dose of any drugs, alcohol included. But Inuit are dying from drugs, more so alcohol abused. Anyone living in Nunavik, and has any awareness of day to day life, knows all too well, that its death by incredible numbers by abuse of alcohol. It’s suicide manifested by alcohol, homicide manifested by alcohol, vehicle accidents, from drunk driving. In more recent times, we can add in diseases as well, as more people are drinking far more, lots of binge drinking. Drugs are playing a big part as well to all the deaths. But let’s also consider the injuries, and so many people crippled and brain damaged for the rest of their life. Oh, the misery to family affected. Nunavik pays very very dearly for alcohol and drugs, but overdosed might have one here and there, but Nunavik’s crises in not overdosing, but abuse and problem handling it well. and this hard drug environment needs drastic action, to get those suppliers out of the community.

            • Posted by Still curious on

              Alcohol is absolutely deadly for sure. But besides alcohol, which drugs are you referring too?

  3. Posted by Peter on

    Congrats a breath of fresh air who tells it like it is, you have my support.

  4. Posted by Hopeful? on

    To the newly elected mayoress of Kuujjuaq, Congratulations. Yes, the drug dealers are getting away with every illegal activity throughout your community and Nunavik. I am asking that once you have started this long road ahead of you, could you look into the Server CORRUPTION by all Organizations within the community of Kuujjuaq and to begin laying criminal charges against those who are defrauding the governments, municipality and the housing bureau. CORRUPTION is RAMPANT at Kuujjuaq and people wonder why it feels as though they are living in the WILD WILD WEST due to the CORRUPTION that is being noticed by the Kuujjuaq residents on a daily basis. Good Luck! Stay Safe!

    • Posted by Sewagelightison on

      Please explain about the corruption. Server corruption… using work internet for personal leisure? Where and by who? What other corrupt activities are taking place?

  5. Posted by Corruption, drugs and big toys on

    Get tough with criminal activity corruption and drugs, yes. Kuujjuaq needs a watch dog person to size things up, it’s unhealthy right now , and no one putting anything in place to stop it. It’s no wonder we’re having water and sewage issues and no money. The money around Nunavik is phenomenal. It’s just that it’s mismanaged, wasted and abused. Everything from gas and the abuse of organizations vehicles to trips, food, on and on. And don’t forget rip off services within the community. Over rated and over charge on all commodities. Over priced everything, even in the face of subsidy from the government. The population is suffering. As far as drug dealers, like the ones arrested recently, look at their trucks, boats . Everyone knows who they are. A few are new comers to town in past few years , with connection to family on moms or dads side. Get them out of town, right after they’re charged in court and found guilty. The mayor is also the president of FCNQ. She needs to demand more transparency from the head office about the ridiculous prices in local coop stores. Kuujjuaq needs an overhaul, for the sake of a healthy future. Go get the bad guys Mary, put all concern parties together with police and go to it.

  6. Posted by New mayor with caution on

    The outgoing mayor was starting to break away from some of the old school ways of thinking, and embrace some compatibility to the rest of the developed world. Some progress was being made, like getting the fm radio station to respect the airways , laws and regulations of licensing. People historically have been inappropriate on the airways without any restrictions or responsibilities. But the old mayor, even though, had lots of knowledge about the budgets and the deficits, he was already separating himself from the population by trying to control bingo,( it’s big time bingo town), plus his rock power hour on Friday evenings at the fm has some kind of selfish tone, and he seems to repeat himself so much. It was not a surprise he didn’t get voted in again. As for the new mayor, she is old school ways, and mentioned in her campaign that the fm radio is Inuit radio, and she didn’t seem to feel the same way about appropriate content and restrictions in the name of Inuit using that radio. She’s not experienced with management , budgets and deficit. It’s not even clear if she knows where the money for municipal management comes from in first place, but let’s see. Between her catering to the old school, and the challenges of more appropriate ways, we’ll see later. A few drunks did get their way this past weekend on the local fm talent show, and they were not cut off the air.

    • Posted by Rock power hour out on

      The outgoing mayor and his Rock power hours, not one hour, but several on Friday nights, has been a negative campaign for him , since the show started some time last year. That show allows him to take a few hours of control towards the population. During the show, no one can call into the radio for anything, even to send a message, contradicting the fm own mandate. He’s also created a go fund me page, which he promotes on the rock power hour show, funding to build a recreational Center amongst the multi million dollar arena on the hill top in town, referring to the poor state of opportunities for the population. I think thus far , it’s raised about 600 dollars, in the goal of 30 million, yes that’s 30 million. At the rate it’s going, it will be thousands of years to fulfill. Can’t help thinking about other communities in Nunavik that have hardly anything, let alone an Arena, and he’s trying to raise 30 million, yes 30 million to build another such facility, with false pretence of having nothing to express the recreational needs. That the outgoing mayor, he don’t like bingo either , not a famous dislike for a mayor of kuujjuaq.


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