Nunavut education minister defends consultations ahead of Bill 25

“The Department of Education has collaborated with our valued partners in good faith”

Education Minister David Joanasie says that his department has been unfairly criticized for its consultations leading up to the creation of Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act. (File photo)

By David Joanasie
Nunavut Minister of Education

When Nunavummiut only hear one side of a story, it can have major consequences.

Despite the Department of Education’s best efforts to inform the public about our activities in an open and transparent manner, and to provide Nunavummiut with verifiable facts, this newspaper published an article, “Nunavut groups submit concerns, propose alternatives ahead of Education Act hearing,” which contained inaccurate information about the Department’s collaborations with our valued partner the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities during the creation of Bill 25.

The department was never contacted by Nunatsiaq News to offer our side of this very important issue that touches the lives of all Nunavummiut. Instead, the Department of Education was asked by this paper to write a letter to the editor to correct the claims made by our partners.

The Nunatsiaq article refers to a letter written by the chair of the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities, Jedidah Merkosak, in which she calls on the standing committee on legislation to reject Bill 25. That part is factual—she did submit a letter to the committee with that statement.

However, a claim she makes within her letter is inaccurate.

Merkosak’s letter was quoted in the article:

“We have never been invited to an open conversation about legislation that would address our member DEA concerns, goals and priorities, or the possibilities we see in the Nunavut schools and community.”

The newspaper did not ask the Department of Education to comment on this claim before publishing the article.

If it had, the article would have included the fact that Merkosak’s claim is not true for the following reasons:

• The CNDEA was invited to all 25 community consultations held for Bill 25.
• At least one representative of the CNDEA attended all 25 of the community consultations held for Bill 25.
• Merkosak herself attended and participated in at least three of these meetings.
• The CNDEA was also invited to the additional education partner meetings on Bill 25 that took place in the Department of Education’s board room.
• At least one CNDEA representative attended every one of those additional education partner meetings.
• We have archived meeting notes that include quotes from CNDEA members at those meetings.
• Those additional education partner meetings included: a “kick off” meeting which was held Sept. 11, 2018; a follow-up meeting held on Nov. 22, 2018; and a “what we heard” meeting held on Jan. 24, 2019.
• Merkosak herself attended at least one of the additional education partner meetings via telephone (she is not Iqaluit-based).
• There was also a meeting that was primarily an Iqaluit DEA consultation, which the CNDEA was invited to participate in.
• The department also offered to continue collaboration efforts by presenting at the CNDEA’s annual general meeting and furthering the discussions.
• The department has these invitations archived.
• The community consultations were structured to allow collaboration: they began with a presentation from the deputy minister, followed by an opportunity for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. to present, then an opportunity for CNDEA to present, and finally an open discussion period where all parties in attendance were able to engage in dynamic dialogue.

Several of the changes proposed in Bill 25’s amendments came directly from those roughly 30 collaborative meetings the CNDEA were invited to and attended—especially the changes involving the CNDEA.

One such change is how the Department of Education is increasing the funding it provides to the CNDEA to enable it to go from two to six staff. This increase in staff will ensure local DEA members get the training they need.

NTI was included in just as many collaborative discussions.

As well, our valued partner NTI has made similar claims to the media about a lack of collaboration during the creation of Bill 25. Again, the media has repeatedly not asked the Department of Education about the accuracy of those claims.

A fact check is needed.

NTI was also invited to all of those meetings.

At least one representative of NTI attended 22 out of 25 community consultations on Bill 25, as well as the same additional education partner meetings held in the department’s boardroom that CNDEA attended.

NTI was also in regular correspondence with the Department of Education about Bill 25 during the collaboration process and accepted the department’s offer to present and further the dialogue at NTI’s board of directors meeting in Resolute Bay this summer.

The Department of Education has collaborated with our valued partners in good faith. We have provided ample opportunity for them to make their voices heard during the consultation period for Bill 25. Many of their points have resulted in changes found in the proposed amendments.

Part of improving education in Nunavut is ensuring the Department of Education remains open and transparent. We want to make sure that Nunavummiut get the facts on Bill 25.

David Joanasie
Nunavut Minister of Education

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Shameful on

    Thanks for clarifying the process. Nunatsiaq news should be ashamed of spreading this kind of incomplete misinformation, though I doubt they are. Don’t they teach this kind of thing in journalism school? Or do they only teach narrative building today?

  2. Posted by Piitaqanngi on

    The Minister’s claim of community consultations is highly questionable. How can the Dept. have done a thorough consultation with the communities when it went to only a select number of communities?
    IMHO it would truly have been a collaborative effort it the Department went to all communities.

    • Posted by Wrong Bill on

      The department went to 8 communities for Bill 37 and all 25 for Bill 25. so in fact, the department went to all of Nunavut’s communities for the current Bill being discussed.

  3. Posted by Alethea on

    You may have given everyone an opportunity to comment on the very flawed bill your department had created, but you did not collaborate with those partners in writing it. Which you are required to do in the land claims agreement. Anyone who attended these meetings knows that a huge part of it is spent listening to a presentation from the GN. Instead of asking what people want, they ask for comment on the proposed bill. So most of the conversation ends up being about what’s wrong with the bill, and not focused on good alternatives.

    • Posted by Egerton Ryerson on

      Your opinion is based on false information. The Nunavut land claim agreement does not say that Government is obligated to allow DEAs or Inuit associations or anyone else to be involved in “writing” legislation.

      Besides, the DEA Coalition is not an Inuit representative organization anyway, it is a public government entity. Furthermore the DEA Coalition did not exist in 1991-1992 when the Land Claim Agreement was completed, so it cannot possible be covered by the NLCA.

      Finally, Article 32 of the NLCA says Government must give Inuit “an opportunity to participate in the development of social and cultural policies, and in the design of social and cultural programs and services.”

      That is not the same as allowing outsiders to write laws. In fact, that cannot be allowed to happen because it would infringe on the exclusive right of the Legislative Assembly to pass laws and govern itself under the powers granted to it by the Nunavut Act.

      Here is Article 32:

      Government obligations under Section 32.1.1 shall be fulfilled by Government:

      (a) providing Inuit with an opportunity to participate in the development of social and cultural policies, and in the design of social and cultural programs and services, including their method of delivery, in the Nunavut Settlement Area; and

      “(b) endeavouring to reflect Inuit goals and objectives where it puts in place such social and cultural policies, programs and services in the Nunavut Settlement Area.

      Here is the Nunavut Act, which gives the legislature the right to pass its own laws on education:

      23 (1) Subject to any other Act of Parliament, the Legislature may make laws in relation to the following classes of subjects:

      (m) education in and for Nunavut, subject to the condition that any law respecting education must provide that

      (i) a majority of the ratepayers of any part of Nunavut, by whatever name called, may establish such schools in that part as they think fit, and make the necessary assessment and collection of rates for those schools, and

      (ii) the minority of the ratepayers in that part of Nunavut, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, may establish separate schools in that part and, if they do so, they are liable only to assessments of such rates as they impose on themselves in respect of those separate schools;

      • Posted by Anne Crawford on

        Who are you really and why are you using this false name and “supporting” David Joanasie?

        Check it out on Wikipedia – the real Egerton Ryerson (1803–1882) was known for playing a key role in the design of the Canadian Indian residential school system.

        I have seen this pen name used before, always to oppose indigenous education rights.

        I prefer Ms. Merkosak’s plea for an open discussion about possibilities in our schools. Let’s not get distracted from what our children need and deserve by this kind of squabbling.

  4. Posted by Commentator99 on

    I believe David Joanasie is very wrong to make this complaint against Jedidah Merkosak, a community volunteer and long serving Coalition leader.

    She wants an “open conversation addressing member DEA concerns, goals and priorities, [and] the possibilities CNDEA sees in the Nunavut schools and community”

    He defends by saying: the Department had lots and lots of hearings – designed and run by the Department, focused on questions the Department had chosen, structured as the Department had planned, to a timetable to Department wrote, based on legislation the Department drafted all by itself.

    We spent millions and years doing it our way. WE LET YOU TALK about OUR PET PROJECT, be grateful. WE IGNORE your requests, WE NEVER RESPOND to your submissions, WE NEVER FILL POSITIONS designed to work with DEAs and communities, but damn it you shouldn’t complain. We generated piles of paper! and did I mention we spent millions?

    No Minister, you never did have an open conversation.

    You travelled around Nunavut listening to the echoes of your own officials. You have been called out fair and square.

    It has been a very sad waste for all of Nunavut and especially for our schools and students whose education should be our first priority.

  5. Posted by Don’t Talk At Me on

    The GN is good at talking at people. It is not good at talking with people. Talking at people is not consultation.
    +
    Nunavummiut are sick and tired of people coming from Iqaluit and talking at them.
    +
    When have you (the GN) ever gone into a community and asked people “What are your biggest problems? How can we help you?”

  6. Posted by Let’s move forward. on

    He said, she said.
    So what. That is old news.
    The CNDEA, NTI and others made some great submissions for change.
    Look at them and move forward.

  7. Posted by Worker on

    This will never be resolved unless the GN does the what Greenland with their act because we like first nations too many tribes and dialects and cant agree on language as a whole.

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