QIA candidate says women, handicapped have place in QIA

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MICHAELA RODRIGUE

IQALUIT — The Qikiqtani Inuit Association should open its doors and represent all beneficiaries, not just abled-bodied men, a presidential candidate says.

“They need a woman in there. It’s been a men’s organization. Women and people with disabilities have been left out,” said Iqaluit resident and QIA presidential candidate Meeka Kilabuk.

“[I’m running] to make sure the organization has some kind of balance — not just men,” Kilabuk said.

Kilabuk points to the lack of women on QIA’s board of directors, other than the guaranteed seats.

She said if society learned to be more open, guaranteed seats wouldn’t be necessary.

“We shouldn’t have to do quotas. If people can equally welcome everyone, then we don’t need quotas,” she said.

But for now ,she said people with disabilities should also be guaranteed a seat.

“It’s time that it’s representative of different types of beneficiaries, she said.

Kilabuk currently works for the Nunavut Council for People with Disabilities.

To date, Kilabuk said only elders and hunters have received a direct benefit from the land claim agreement. She said in the future, QIA’s parent organization, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., should consider paying out a dividend to all beneficiaries.

“‘Did we get Nunavut?’ — people are saying that,” Kilabuk said.

Kilabuk is also pushing for the creation of an elders’ “senate” that would have the power to approve or veto NTI and regional Inuit association decisions and recommendations. Communities would appoint elders. She said such a body would cost money, but would provide an objective view on issues.

For example, she said such a body could have considered NTI’s decision last year to lengthen the terms of the president and first vice-president.

Kilabuk said QIA needs to tackle the social problems facing beneficiaries in the Qikiqtaaluk region, and should lobby the federal government on social issues such as housing and health care.

“We have to get back to basics. There’s too many people living in one house,” she said.

The federal government needs to be reminded that Inuit are separate from First Nations aboriginal groups and have their own special set of rights.

Kilabuk said she has connections with the federal government in Ottawa and that could help her in her lobbying efforts.

“I know cabinet ministers, I know the prime minister, their staff — they know me,” she said.

Kilabuk would also lobby to increase the amount of Inuktitut instruction and teaching materials in Nunavut’s schools. She questioned why Inuktitut first-language classes aren’t taught in higher grades.

She said the land claim agreement should be put in text book format to be taught at the high school level.

She also said QIA has a responsibility to defend Inuktitut.

“That’s the role of QIA… to defend the rights of Inuit beneficiaries and make sure those rights are protected,” she said.

She also wants QIA to begin a library for beneficiaries and to archive Inuit history.

Kilabuk said her biggest challenge during the campaign will be to convince people to listen to new ideas.

Kilabuk will face off against incumbent president Pauloosie Keyootak, Johnathan Palluq and Johnny Kopak at the ballot box on Dec. 13.

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