Paul Quassa, Rebecca Mike want changes to NTI’s direction
NTI presidential election candidates Paul Quassa and Rebecca Mike both want to make NTI more responsive to the needs of beneficiaries.
MICHAELA RODRIGUE and SEAN McKIBBON
IQALUIT — Nunavut’s social problems are Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s problems, says a candidate for the organization’s top job.
“It’s wrong to say this is the responsibility of the Nunavut government when they don’t have any resources. Jose was saying we don’t touch government programs, but we have to share resources,” said Paul Quassa, a candidate and former president of NTI.
“I think it’s our responsibility to ensure social problems are being dealt with, though it’s not specified in the land claim agreement.”
Quassa is one of six candidates vying to be president of NTI. He says he is re-entering the political fray after a six-year absence so NTI can “get back to what the Nunavut land claim was supposed to give us, which was rights and benefits for all Inuit.”
He will face off against a slate of contestants that include incumbent president Jose Kusugak, former MLA Rebecca Mike, Inuit Tapirisat president Okalik Eegeesiak, Rankin Inlet resident Cathy Towtongie and Coral Harbour resident Leonard Natsek .
Nunavut’s regional development corporations are benefiting more than individual beneficiaries, Quassa said. He said the money that resulted from the land claim agreement is compensation to all Inuit for past wrongs.
“None of the ordinary beneficiaries besides elders and hunters have seen anything. This capital is compensation,” Quassa said.
Target social issues
He now wants some of that money used to target social issues at the community level.
The programs, Quassa said, would be geared to Inuit but may, in some cases like community centres, be accessible to non-beneficiaries. But he said Nunavut is 85 per cent Inuit and would be the majority who would use any such facilities or services.
Quassa also said NTI should look to other land claim organizations such as the Makivik Corp for ideas on how to help its own beneficiaries.
To pay for these programs, Quassa said there will be more than enough income from Nunavut Trust investments once NTI has paid down its debt.
He also says more money could also be freed up for the communities once the regional development corporations become self-sufficient and don’t have to rely on NTI for their budgets.
Quassa also said NTI should beef up its presence within the communities by opening small offices.
“How can we ensure people are seeing and believing in NTI at the community level? Beneficiaries don’t rely on NTI,” Quassa said.
“Obstacles” long gone
Quassa left NTI in 1993 after a series of scandals involving alcohol and violence. He admits to his past but he says it is now behind him.
“Alcohol was the cause. This is something I have given up,” Quassa said. “I have dealt with the obstacles, those obstacles are long gone.”
“I wouldn’t have run if I didn’t have confidence in myself.”
Candidate Rebecca Mike also wants to improve beneficiaries’ understanding of NTI and what it does. And she says NTI needs to improve its internal policies.
“I think a lot of Inuit who are unilingual especially have very little understanding of what the Nunavut land claim is,” Mike said.
As well, Mike said beneficiaries sometimes face a brick wall when they try to get information from NTI. If elected, Mike wants to create a five-year communications plan.
“It’s been difficult to get information other than the annual reports,” she said. Mike said beneficiaries have trouble finding out about investments and the operations of NTI and the RIAs. Things as simple as agendas for upcoming board meetings or even the dates of meetings are not posted or distributed to beneficiaries, she said.
“The information I am referring to is the progress of NTI in terms of implementing the land claim and how much money it costs to implement.”
She said that with more information, beneficiaries can scrutinize the organization made to protect them.
“It would give the beneficiaries some sense of control. Right now I do not know what policies they have so I cannot begin to scrutinize how they spend their money. I know I’m not the only one,” Mike said.
She said NTI also needs to create more management and financial policies to guide how it operates. NTI needs a policy to deal with extra investment profits such as this year’s $11-million surplus.
“If NTI had a policy in place made by Inuit organizations and NTI, there wouldn’t have been any talk about giving beneficiaries $500 each like it did last spring,” Mike said.
If such policies were in place, Mike said beneficiaries would have a better understanding of how their money is being spent.
Mike also wants NTI to train Hunters and Trappers Organizations in resource management and mining development. And she says more work is needed to encourage small business development.
But first she said NTI should sit down with the Nunavut and federal governments to come up with a realistic time table for implementing the land claim.
“NTI’s role is to protect Inuit interests and Inuit rights. NTI should get down and so some serious planning for the next five years.”
Candidate Leonard Natsek could not be contacted by Nunatsiaq News press time.
The NTI election is scheduled for Dec. 13.