Nunavik beneficiaries go the polls next week

Eligible Inuit beneficiaries will choose a treasurer and a second vice president for the Makivik Corporation next week.


MONTREAL — Next Friday, for the third time during the past six months, Nunavimmiut are going to the polls.

In September, they elected Pita Aatami as the new president of the Makivik Corporation. Then, a provincial election followed in early December.

Now, on March 19, beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement will be choosing two new Makivik executive members.

Three candidates are in the race for treasurer, Bob Deer, Minnie Grey and Anthony Ittoshat, while two are running for second vice-president, Johnny Peters, and Mark Papigatuk.

The candidates for treasurer all agree on one issue — if elected, they plan to enlarge their role and not concentrate solely on managing Makivik’s finances.

Put local development first

“We have to come up with a clear vision of how we are going to develop this region,” said Bob Deer.

A longtime resident of Quartaq, he is vice-president of the Nunavik Mining Exploration Fund, as well as a director of Quartaq’s Landholding Corporation.

Deer says he wants to “think big”, but start small, by looking at ways of building up a more solid economic base in Nunavik’s communities.

If elected, Deer says that he would continue to support Makivik’s large subsidiaries, but he that would also pursue a more grass-roots, hands-on approach to economic development.

He is proposing to found a new Makivik-administered fund. This fund would provide seed money and expertise for local business development.

In his opinion, the Landholding Corporations and the coops need to work more closely together.

“We have to tear down some of the walls,” said Deer.

Deer would also try to strike more joint ventures with outside companies to create more employment in communities.

“What we really need is jobs, since our youth is so dependent on revenues to feed their families,” he said.

Don’t forget about social needs

Minnie Grey wants to broaden Makivik’s mandate to include more political action on social issues.

She says that the position of treasurer isn’t just “a matter of money”. If elected, Grey promises more “partnership with the people.”

Grey says that she wants to bring her experience from the social sector back to Makivik. Fifteen years ago Grey served as Makivik’s third vice-president.

In 1993, Grey chaired its Educational Task Force. For the past eight years, she’s been executive director of the Ungava Bay’s Tulattavik Health Centre in Kuujjuaq.

She wants to prepare youth for more involvement in Nunavik’s leadership. Creating more overall well-being in the communities is another priority that she’s like to see Makivik invest in.

“We need to be more socially-oriented, to be more sensitive to their needs,” she said.

Such a strategy, she says, would also indirectly foster more economic development.

Assist traditional workers, hunters and fishermen

Anthony Ittoshat, the mayor of Kuujjuaraapik, Makivik board member and former Kativik Regional government councilor, is no stranger to Makivik’s executive, either.

Since Pita Aatami’s election as president last September, Ittoshat has served as Makivik’s treasurer and says he is now is eager to continue his work.

After the “best year ever” for Makivik’s investments, Ittoshat says that he wants to continue to manage beneficiaries’ funds in the best possible way and plow even more of this money directly back into the communities.

Ittoshat supports establishing sewing shops and traditional workshops as a way of reducing unemployment in the communities.

“We have a lot on untapped talent there,” he said.

Ittoshat also wants to step up lobbying for tax breaks to hunters and fishermen who purchase skidoos or boats, and fight for more docks to be built in Nunavik.

With the downsizing of the marine infrastructure program from $122 million to $30 million, many communities slated for new facilities now face a long wait. In the meantime, he says many boats are being lost and fishermen suffer the consequences.

“Why doesn’t Makivik put the money up front and try to speed up the process?” Ittoshat said.

Johnny Peters, who is running for another term as second-vice president, also wants to continue his work on behalf of Nunavik’s hunters and fishers.

“When I was growing up, before Qallunaat arrived, me and my family, we relied on country foods for food, clothing and shelter,” said Peters, speaking through an interpreter. “Today, country foods are still necessary for food and clothing. It’s always going to be the Inuit way, and I want to make sure it doesn’t disappear.”

Peters is concerned about obtaining equal hunting and fishing rights for Inuit, no matter where they are.

“When Nunavimmiut go to Nunavut, they can’t hunt or fish at all, but then Nunavummiut come to Nunavik, we say, “Sure, you can hunt and fish,” said Peters. “We are the same people, so we have to come up with a solution, so that hunting and fishing are open to both people, from both regions.”

Due to Mark Papigatuk’s busy schedule of meetings, Nunatsiaq News was not able to reach him for an interview. Papigatuk, who lives in Salluit, currently sits on Makivik’s board.

The results of this election will be announced as its annual general meeting winds down, sometime late Friday evening.

Prepared with interpretation assistance from Maggie Putulik

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