NTI seeks $10 million fund increase from Nunavut Trust

“It takes money to implement the Nunavut land claim”

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

GREG YOUNGER-LEWIS

Anticipating a battle over its spending habits, Nunavut’s Inuit land claim organization has already brewed-up a back-up plan if its request for a bigger budget is turned down at next week’s annual general meeting.

Executive members of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. will sit down with the Nunavut Trust from Nov. 2-4 to discuss how much money NTI needs to deliver services and programs to the territory’s beneficiaries in the coming year.

James Eetoolook, NTI’s acting vice-president of finance, will make a controversial case to the trust delegates, appointed by regional Inuit organizations, who oversee the $1.2 billion in compensation for beneficiaries of the 1993 Nunavut land claims agreement.

Eetoolook says the trustees “need to be convinced” that they should approve NTI’s proposed $45-million budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year.

That would be a $10-million jump from the previous budget, approved by the trust members at a meeting in Sanikiluaq last year.

“I don’t think we’re overspending,” Eetoolook said. “We’re spending right. It takes money to implement the Nunavut land claim, I think we’re doing that. We’re not spending for the sake of spending.”

The requested boost in funding comes at a time when trust members have been openly criticizing NTI and its affiliate organizations for spending too much, too fast, and throwing the treasury’s savings plan off kilter.

According to media reports, trust member Bill Lyall told delegates at a recent meeting of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association that overspending has occurred nine out of the last 11 years.

Lyall said Inuit organizations now owe the Nunavut Trust almost $116 million. He says the accumulated loans have jeopardized the trustee’s hope of having more than $1.1 billion left over when the federal government’s annual payments end in 2007.

Eetoolook declined to explain why NTI was looking for the boost in funding, but defended the request, saying they were only halfway through implementing the obligations of the land claim. He said the executive had a particular focus on Article 20, which covers Inuit water rights on Inuit-owned lands, and Article 32, which sets out Inuit rights to participate in making social and cultural policies.

Eetoolook also remained coy about how NTI will deal with possible rejection from the trust members, already skeptical about NTI’s handling of their annual budget.

But he confirmed that NTI’s executive was looking at “options” for other sources of funding, to be discussed after next week’s meeting.

Eetoolook remained optimistic that NTI would be able to curb its spending once the various birthright corporations started earning more money, instead of asking to be propped up with subsidies.

“We’re not bailing anybody out,” he said. “We’re assisting. Eventually they’ll be standing on their own feet, we hope soon.”

NTI also hopes the Nunavut Trust will be able to increase the return on investments from the interest on its $1.2 billion capital.

Eetoolook said the conflict between the two sides mainly comes from a lack of communication, specifically NTI’s need to tell the trust about their different programs and activities.

“I think all of us there might have a little bit of room to tighten up our belts,” he said. “We’ve been doing that all along.”

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