Nunavut leaders to meet, but behind closed doors

Claiming they’ll get more done if the public isn’t breathing down their necks, Nunavut leaders will meet Jan. 13-14 for a behind-closed doors meeting in Iqaluit.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT – Nunavut leaders will meet in Iqaluit next month but they’re not inviting the public to join them or to listen to what they’ll have to say to each other.

Instead they’ll shelter themselves away from the inconvenient glare of public scrutiny for a two-day behind-closed-doors meeting to talk about progress towards creating Nunavut and dividing the Northwest Territories.

Indian Affairs Minister Jane Strewart, Nunavut Tunngavik President Jose Kusugak, and NWT Deputy Premier Goo Arlooktoo will meet in Iqaluit Jan 13-14.

Public not welcome

But, unlike the previous leaders’ summits held in Arviat and Cambridge Bay, the public isn’t welcome.

“We’ve come to the point now where the GNWT, NTI and the feds have to sit down and have some real frank, heart-to-heart discussions,” Arlooktoo said. “If every single word is being recorded, I know it’s difficult for some to say what’s really on their minds.

“It was difficult to get good discussion and good negotiations going in public because everybody was forced to take a position in public and stick to it,” Arlooktoo said of the Cambridge Bay meeting last February. “Politicians being what politicians are, it’s difficult to start going back on what you said earlier.”

Kusugak agreed, saying he’s hoping for a candid meeting.

Anawak must produce progress report

A key component of the two-day discussions will be a progress report presented by Nunavut’s Interim Commissioner Jack Anawak.

“We’ve been asking for it for a number of months,” Kusugak said about an update on the work of Anawak’s office on the Nunavut Implementation Commission’s Footprints 2 report.

“We’re trying to get the interim commissioner’s office to give us their first report and we want to have a good meeting with the interim commissioner,” Kusugak added.

The January summit will be the first time Anawak will have met with the three leaders since accepting his appointment eight months ago.

In recent months, Anawak has been criticized for what’s being perceived as lack of progress on implementings Footprints 2.

Anawak says, however, that the work is getting done.

He added he’s had ongoing discussions with Stewart about any personnel assistance his office may need.

No extra “help” from Ottawa?

He’s seconded one person to work in his human resources department, but has not hired anyone else from Indian affairs. He added Stewart has not appointed anyone to his office.

“If anyone’s going to work in the interim commissioner’s office, the interim commissioner has to do the hire,” Anawak said, referring to the short appearance in his office of a senior bureaucrat from Ottawa this month.

Anawak’s report to the leaders will include his plans for a revised justice system, government information systems and the hiring of Nunavut’s first deputy ministers.

Amagoalik will chair meeting

NIC Chief Commissioner John Amagoalik will chair the meeting. That’s a more central position than he played at February’s Cambridge Bay meeting when the NIC was all but shut out of discussions when the GNWT played host.

“We still need to decide a couple of political items,” Amagoalik said of the content of the meeting. “For instance, the number of MLAs and the timing of the first election.”

Iqalungmiut will also be spared the flood of bureaucrats who generally accompany a leaders’ summit.

“Officials won’t be out in force as has been the case at meetings in Arviat and Cambridge Bay,” Arlooktoo said of the scaled-down affair.

In fact, delegations from the three parties have been restricted to a maximum of four in an effort to cut down on rhetoric and accomplish more business.

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