No date set for Gjoa Haven’s GN offices to reopen
Government headquarters in Nunavut community were destroyed by fire in March
More than three months after a fire destroyed the Government of Nunavut’s local headquarters in Gjoa Haven, the hamlet is still waiting for a new office to get up and running.
“One has to understand that everything was lost, and not only just for the motor vehicle staff but the other department staff, they lost everything … it was quite devastating,” said James Demcheson, acting director of motor vehicle services.
“These are the kinds of things that we’re not fully prepared for, so I have to be quite honest, it was a little hard-going at first.”
After a brief suspension of services immediately following the fire, the division shifted to providing some online, like driver’s licence renewals and registrations, with one staff member working remotely from Rankin Inlet and another from Iqaluit, Demcheson said.
On June 1, Economic Development and Transportation Minister David Akeeagok announced in the legislative assembly that a new office space had been chosen for Gjoa Haven’s GN staff.
“We expect to be back to normal operations in the new office before mid-June,” he said.
More than two weeks have passed since that estimated date, and Demcheson said he still doesn’t know the new office’s address.
“[What] I have received so far is a floor plan, but I haven’t been given the name of the actual building itself,” he said.
The office is not yet ready for in-person operations, and there is “no definite date set” for that to begin, Demcheson said.
“I would say sometime this summer, but I can’t really guarantee that it will be within sometime [in July],” he said.
Akeeagok did not return a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the Department of Government and Community Services, which is responsible for choosing the new office location, also did not provide the address of the new office location despite multiple requests from Nunatsiaq News.
Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak said he believes the GN is in fact still looking for an office space.
“As far as I know there was a tentative office place chosen but does not seem to be acceptable for both employees or the community members,” he said in an email Monday.
“There is no ramp access and people would have to climb two sets of stairs to get to the offices. This would not be good for people who have disability issues. So I believe right now they are still looking for office space.”
Demcheson said he’s received some emails and phone calls from residents who are concerned about the delays, but most people have at least grown used to accessing services online, thanks to two years of remote service delivery during the pandemic.
“The desire is to have our staff members back in a normal office setting, because they really do want to get back to work. It just unfortunately has taken some time going through the GN process of it all,” he said.