Nunavut government consultations under fire at Education Act hearing

“We haven’t been working together as effectively as I would like to have seen”

Nunavut Education Minister David Joanasie on Monday, Nov. 26, the first day of a public hearing held by the standing committee on legislation on Bill 25. He’s joined by Kathy Okpik, (right) the deputy minister of education, and Melissa Alexander, (left) the department’s manager of planning, reporting and evaluation. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

Did the Government of Nunavut adequately consult with affected groups as it prepared its latest efforts at education reform?

That question became the focus of the first day of the standing committee on legislation’s televised hearing on Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act.

The public hearing is part of the standing committee’s review of the bill. The public was invited to make submissions to the committee after Bill 25 was introduced during the legislative assembly’s spring sitting in June.

At this stage of the legislative process, the standing committee may propose amendments to the bill and will refer the bill back to the house.

On Monday, the committee heard from Education Minister David Joanasie, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Nunavut Coalition of District Education Authorities.

In his opening remarks, Joanasie discussed his department’s public consultations on the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, which began in Sept 2018.

“We offered a set of proposed amendments to begin the conversation with Nunavummiut and we were eager to listen to their thoughts,” Joanasie said.

“We wanted to make sure everyone’s ideas and opinions from all 25 communities were heard. We felt that all Nunavummiut needed the opportunity to provide their feedback and concerns on changes to these two important pieces of legislation.”

Joanasie said the consultation team, with representatives from the Coalition of Nunavut DEAs and NTI, visited all 25 communities by Jan. 2019 and met with over 800 Nunavummiut.

Bill 25 calls for a phased implementation of Inuit-language instruction over a 20-year period. This means it will take until July 1, 2039, for Grade 12 students to have Inuit Language Arts taught as a first language.

“Those timelines take into consideration curriculum development, student resources, teacher training and assessment methods,” Joanasie said.

In its written submission to the committee, NTI calls on the government to withdraw Bill 25 and proposes an alternative bill it has developed called the Nunavut Education Reform Act.

In her opening remarks to the committee, which she did not read directly from, NTI president Aluki Kotierk called again on the government to withdraw Bill 25.

Kotierk said her presentation was a joint response from NTI, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the Kivalliq Inuit Association and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

“Despite our rights, including under Article 32 of the Nunavut Agreement, and despite consistent effort on our part, NTI was not engaged in the development of this proposed legislation,” Kotierk wrote.

Paul Quassa, MLA for Aggu, asked Kotierk to clarify what she meant by her statement, citing the department’s Sept. 2018 to Sept. 2019 consultation period.

“Can you explain how you as the stakeholder were not, from September 2018 to September 2019… involved?”

“Our Inuit organizations have been involved in the engagement process,” Kotierk said.

But Kotierk said she felt NTI and the other Inuit associations were not involved in the writing of the bill itself.

“We had wanted to help in the laying out of the foundation… We had been asked only after the foundation had been laid out. We were welcomed to participate in the public engagements.”

Adam Lightstone, MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak, also asked Joanasie how his department had engaged with NTI throughout the consultation phase of the bill.

“What opportunities was NTI provided in drafting Bill 25 as early as the legislative proposal phase?” Lightstone asked.

Joanasie said in Jan. 2019, the department heard from NTI through a written submission.

“Nunavut Tunngavik had expressed that they wanted to provide a written submission and provide their position,” Joanasie said.

“Why is it that NTI is unsatisfied that they have had an appropriate contribution to this legislation?” Lightstone asked, turning his question to Kotierk.

“I’m pleased that we were asked to engage. We did go to the meetings and at those meetings, it felt more like listening at the meetings without having a say, without a voice,” Kotierk said.

“We haven’t been working together as effectively as I would like to have seen,” she added.

After questioning from MLAs was complete, Joanasie crossed the room to Kotierk and the two hugged.

Next, Jedidah Merkosak, the chair of the Coalition of Nunavut DEAs, made a presentation.

In its written submission to the committee, the coalition also called on the government to withdraw the bill.

Merkosak was joined by the coalition’s executive director, James T. Arreak, and Lori Idlout of the Crawford law office in Iqaluit, a member of the Iqaluit DEA who’s acting on behalf of the coalition.

“We agree with NTI that there is an urgency to preserve and revitalize Inuktitut. We have read the Nunavut Education Reform Act prepared by NTI and agree at the very least that process is important. That partnerships must be implemented,” Merkosak said.

“NTI’s role is not just as an advocate. NTI is our land claim organization and is entrusted with the voice of Inuit when it comes to social and cultural issues. NTI and the coalition must have a role in improving education outcomes.”

Although Merkosak completed her presentation, MLAs ran out of time before they had finished asking questions of coalition.

Questions resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 26, in the legislative assembly and will be followed by presentations from the Nunavut Teachers’ Association, the Gjoa Haven DEA, and the Iqaluit DEA.

The public hearing is scheduled to conclude on Thursday, Nov. 28.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Amateur lawmaker on

    Who at NTI drafted their alt legislation? Does NTI have lawyers and legislation experts on hand for this type of work?

    • Posted by Of course on

      Yes, yes they do. Some of the world’s best lawyers work with NTI.

  2. Posted by Guita Anawak on

    We need Regional Divisional Boards back so they can give more strengths to local and regional needs. Each region is always going to have different needs.Nunavut Board then can then pass on needs to the government. I feel like it’s too much a jump to have GN to control with low access to local needs.

    • Posted by Curious on

      Interesting comment, can you give as example of what a local need might be in this context?

  3. Posted by Putuguk on

    It is interesting that our President mentions Article 32 of the Nunavut Agreement. Under that Article, the Nunavut Social Development Council was formed to give Inuit a voice for social and cultural matters impacted by government programs and policies.

    Years ago, the NSDC was folded into NTI and does not exist as a separate Designated Inuit Organization as originally intended.

    The last report on the state of Inuit Culture, required by Article 32, and now the responsibility of NTI, was put out in 2016 for the 2013/14 year. And, it does appear that the gathering of Inuit opinion and presenting this to government on the Education Act has had its challenges.

    If there are problems with putting forward Inuit opinions, then perhaps part of what is needed is for NTI to do a little more work to make good on their NSDC assumed responsibilities.

    • Posted by Concerned Observer on

      That is an excellent point Putuguk, NTI has a social and cultural department with a huge payroll of something like 16 or 17 employees and nothing to show for their work.
      The annual report on the state of Nunavut society is a clear obligation contained in Article 32 and as you said, NTI has failed to meet this land claim obligation for four years running. NTI needs to be called out on this good and loud.
      The problem is that as an organization NTI suffers from totally dysfunctional governance, most of the community directors do not have the literacy skills or the confidence to challenge the president and make the president and vice president and senior directors truly accountable to the beneficiaries.

      • Posted by Baffin Inuk on

        Yes! Finally someone who is willing to put some light on the real issue at NTI.

        Be careful, they might sue you too.

    • Posted by iThink on

      Great observation, Putuguk. This is the kind of information our local media should be writing about. Would love to see a follow up on this with some direct questions to NTI on this point.

    • Posted by nsdc on

      NSDC used to be able to speak its mind but now, as a division within NTI, it’s just a mouthpiece of the president.

      Every year they have an NSDC annual meeting within the NTI annual meeting where they breeze through their legal requirements to exist on paper, and delegate all their responsibilities to NTI. The NSDC board members are the same as the NTI board.

  4. Posted by Summary on

    These people are not talking with each other. Sometimes they are talking at each other. Sometimes they are talking past each other. Sometimes they are talking to themselves. Sometimes they are talking to their “political base”. Sometimes they are just flapping their jaws.
    Most of them are just trying to wear the others out. They are trying to “win” by discouraging others from participating.

    Instead of the Standing Committee Chair, we need a Kindergarten teacher to run this meeting.

    • Posted by Samantha Barnes on

      This is the best comment!

  5. Posted by Ukiuqtaqtumiu on

    if you cannot understand the line then we need people, people to assist the needs. first things first respecting the language and work with them and families. Education is number one if you choose to assist and not change the fact. Our parents informed us half bread are going to make a mes and so far so good and no real respect for the Inuit.Even our own are bashing each other today for the sake of spoiled world. Tukisigunaruvinga tavva taimma ullummi pinasugiaqattugut amma titirasivut malittiallugu..

  6. Posted by Standardize now on

    If there’s no standardized base to unite the dialects then you might as well give up now. Demanding a K-12 education system without an authoritative language that people can use as a base will only muddy the waters even further. Kids in Nunavut are gravitating towards English because its inclusive and everyone is welcome, everyone understands each other, etc. A standardized language will NOT eliminate local dialects, no matter what the paranoid naysaying gatekeepers say, it will be used to compliment the dialects.

    Until people set their sights on standardizing the language, then we’re all waiting our time by putting the cart before the horse.

    • Posted by Makkuktuq on

      As a young Inuktitut-speaker, I agree 100% with this. Standardize or bust.

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