Ransomware attack means Nunavut’s needy to receive food vouchers instead of money

“This will be an inconvenience for everybody,” says deputy premier

Nunavut residents on income support will receive food coupons until the territorial government’s computer systems are back online, following this weekend’s ransomware attack, said Nunavut’s deputy premier, David Akeeagok. (File photo)

By Jane George

This past weekend’s ransomware attack on the Government of Nunavut’s operating and communications systems will affect some of the most vulnerable people in the territory.

It means that if you’re among the roughly 14,000 people in Nunavut who receive income support from Nunavut’s family services department, you will receive food vouchers, instead of money, until the GN gets back online.

That will take at least a week, the GN has said.

“As part of our emergency plans, each of our income assistance workers have food vouchers, so as part of our emergency plans, basically anybody that needs income assistance today or this week….we’ll issue the food vouchers,” Deputy Premier David Akeeagok said on Tuesday, Nov. 6, in the Nunavut legislature.

At the same time, Akeeagok said the plan is to ask income support clients “to come back at a later time when our system is up and running.”

“This will be an inconvenience for everybody,” he said. “Our main focus is that we issue food vouchers for those that really need it. We are committed to doing that for today and this week.”

To receive a food voucher, clients will have to visit the income assistance office in their community, an update from the GN said last night.

In communities where there are no income assistance workers, the local community social service worker will process food vouchers, the update said.

In Sanikiluaq, the Family Services Department has made arrangements with the local stores until food vouchers are flown into the Hudson Bay community.

Akeeagok did not specify the food vouchers’ value.

In 2015, 39 per cent of the territory’s population, more than 14,000 Nunavummiut, received income assistance.

Annual payments range from $7,782 for a single person considered employable to $29,561 for a couple with two children.

The handing out of food vouchers is likely to take “at least a week.”

Lorne Kusugak, the minister of community and government services, also stated Monday in the legislature that “the entire Government of Nunavut network has been shut down until we can ensure that our system is safe from this virus. It will likely be at least a week before employees can get back in the system.”

A cyber expert has suggested that this could take longer if the GN does not pay the ransom demanded by those behind the attack.

Among the other possible financial impacts: the pay schedule for the GN’s estimated 3,500 employees could be delayed as the Finance Department works “to initiate pay on the next pay period as scheduled,” Nov. 15.

Vendors may also face delays until the Finance Department’s systems are up.

(In an earlier version of this story Akeeagok was mistakenly identified as the minister of family services)

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Note on

    What a wake up call for the Government. My father who was an elder and very independent always said a day might come when Government might not be able to give welfare out because of too many demands on money. He said they should be trying their best to come up with job incentives or local business ideas so people won’t have to rely on Government so much. It’s a shame even when there’s jobs to be had , some would rather not work. Rent and other bills are too frightening. I am so proud of the young who go to work every day and try their best to support their families. I realize there’s not enough work in some communities. With mining , jobs have come that is so badly needed. I am glad for the mining companies giving jobs to individuals who may not have jobs.
    Welfare doesn’t do any good to youth who can work. 14,000 is too many for income support.

    • Posted by Tangential on

      These are interesting points, but I don’t think they are related to the actual issue here.

      • Posted by Note on

        You are right but I felt it needs to be said because of the issue on welfare.

        • Posted by Off topic on

          I have to agree. Seeing that stark number left me stunned momentarily.

  2. Posted by Perhaps a blessing in disguise? on

    Handing out food vouchers rather than cheques may actually lead to children getting adequate food for a change!!

    • Posted by A lot of recipients… on

      Wow, that many recipients receive income assistance. There may actually be food on the table for the children and the card games are going to be low on cash this month.

    • Posted by Kenny on

      I’m wondering how much food will be put on the table with the vouchers. Is it possible some of these vouchers may be sold for cash at a lower value than the vouchers food value? What does cash buy and what does food vouchers buy? Just saying!

  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    14,000 people on income assistance? holy sheet.

    that’s 36.1% of our total population on income support. I knew we had a bit of an issue here but I didn’t realize it was that large of our people who relied on this.

    I’m sorry to say this but maybe now the Children and Elders who really need food will finally get a healthy portion.

    unless scammy joe who owns the ‘local northern after hours business’ may get passed over….

  4. Posted by Seriously Northern on

    Income assistance officers have food vouchers for emergency situations, but do they have 14000 of them times as many weeks as it will take for the GN systems to get back to normal? That’s a lot of vouchers.

    Also, are the stores going to be able to handle the situation? They need cash to pay their suppliers and employees. I suppose the GN can lend money to the stores and get it back in vouchers.

    There are lots of ripple effects of this.

  5. Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

    Let us collectively push the GN to get rid of social passing so our Nunavut youth will / can get the necessary education to take on the most basic jobs in the communities instead of living on welfare (some are alarmed by the numbers) and reduce the number of transients who come up to take on jobs available to those with the required education and work skills. At the same time, we should really set up services for mental health assistance since we Inuit carry baggage from the past that have led to continual dependence on substances and is part of the intergenerational trauma that affects our daily life in Nunavut.

    • Posted by Has, but on

      Yeah, okay, ya but, Inuit get priority hiring within the GN. That means if there are Inuit applicants they are first to be screened in, interviewed, and hired. If no Inuit is successful then the hiring process moves to the second hiring level which are Nunavut folk (lived here 1 year). Third hiring level is open season (anyone can be screened) in. Lots of opportunity for Inuit, provided you have the skills and education.

  6. Posted by Nevada Bob on

    being told today that only vouchers will work at Northern Stores, or C0-OP. What about independent stores, Inuit bitch and complain all the time about no local this and that. We have Inuit owned stores in Nunavut that will not be included in this vouch system. COME ON!! Our locally owned stores are shafted over this?

    • Posted by Nevada Bob on

      Just give up, no matter what an Inuit store does not does matters, this just proved it. Even GN is for Northern and C0-OP to bring you high prices, ignore everything else. Why else would ONLY Northern and co-op be eligible for these food vouchers??? Why not local stores? Joe S????

  7. Posted by Amittuqmiut on

    Ransom for our information through the Government? Is this what the government is facing? FYI food vouchers are given half of the income support you receive in a month with no cash, people must be running out of food by now if they haven’t already

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