NTI scraps Nunavut Social Development Council
Says group doesn’t perform functions set out by Article 32
The board of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated voted this week to revoke the Nunavut Social Development Council’s status as a designated Inuit organization, saying it doesn’t perform the functions set out by Article 32 of the land claim agreement.
NTI will establish a new non-profit organization to perform the functions of the group. The money allocated to NSDC will remain in the coffers of NTI and will be directed toward performing the intended functions of the group.
NTI president Cathy Towtongie informed NSDC of the board’s plans in a letter dated Feb. 7.
The NSDC executive received the letter on Feb. 28, during a board meeting in Cambridge Bay.
“We were taken by surprise by the contents of this letter,” NSDC’s acting president, Tommy Evic, said in a subsequent letter to NTI on March 4. “The concerns you have outlined have no basis, no grounds for where they come from.”
The NTI executive met face-to-face with Evic during this week’s NTI board of directors meeting in Coral Harbour.
Towtongie sat stone-faced during Evic’s emotional presentation to the board. “You letter says we have not been abiding by what we are to be doing,” he said. “We know that we have been working very hard since 1996.”
The NSDC was established in 1996 under Article 32 of the land claim agreement. Article 32 stipulated that a social body be created to report to the federal government annually and to make reccomendations on health, social, cultural and housing issues.
During a Tuesday morning meeting in Coral Harbour’s hamlet office, Evic pleaded with Towtongie to delay the board’s vote. Instead, the president listed the territory’s social ills, one by one.
“We know, within Nunavut there are suicides, murders. These are social development issues right now. Nunavut has the highest rate of suicide — 15 per cent of Inuit. It has the highest rate of birth and the shortest life span,” she said. “We do not really have social development in place right now.”
NTI first vice-president James Eetoolook took an equally firm stand. “Our concern is that the money that would benefit the Inuit are not benefitting the Inuit under NSDC’s responsibility. They have not carried forward with the actual responsibilities given to them. We are looking to improve the quality of life for beneficiaries,” he said.
“We have to admit, we do have a problem,” Evic said. “There was never any direction given to us about how improvements could be made.”
NSDC’s executive director, Lori Idlout, echoed Evic’s comments. “Frustration” is how she described the events of the past week.
“A lot of the work that we do isn’t political stuff,” she said. “We do a lot of work, but it’s within the bureaucracy of the federal government.”
Idlout’s frustration, she says, stems from the fact that NTI has not really examined the workings of the NSDC. “They haven’t reviewed how we operate to come to this decision,” she said.
“They don’t see the successes we’ve had.” She runs down a list of the organization’s recent accomplishments, from establishing an IQ task force within the government of Nunavut, to mapping Inuit place names with the Inuit Heritage Trust.
“The department of justice, health and social services endeavour to work with NSDC when they are working on new legislation,” she said.
NSDC has been working behind the scenes on the proposed Human Rights Act, the Official Languages Act and served on the working group to provide recommendations on the new Education Act, expected to be tabled in the legislative assembly this spring.
Idlout doesn’t expect the organization’s agenda to change under the direction of NTI, but, she says, its reporting structure would be very different. “The way we operate will change,” she says. “We have a really good relationship with our board members. Our board has deep-rooted knowledge of social and cultural issues.”
She fears NSDC’s immediate goals will be lost in an organization as large as NTI, and that it will not receive the guidance and support from NTI’s multi-tasking board members as it did from its intimate board of nine members.
Seven NTI board members voted in favour of the motion. Two — QIA president Thomasie Alikatuktuk and QIA vice-president George Eckalook — abstained from the vote. “We have not gotten information from the NSDC board,” Alikatuktuk said.
NTI ruled that some of the existing NSDC staff and board members will be offered employment within the new organization.