Youth centre, rec programming priorities for Igloolik’s new CAO
George Qaunaq took on hamlet’s top bureaucratic role in April
Igloolik’s new chief administrative officer says he’s looking forward to opening a new co-op and expanding the community’s soup kitchen program over the coming months.
George Qaunaq officially took on the position April 1, picking up the reins from former CAO Greg Morash who has since retired after staying on part-time during the summer to get his successor up to speed.
“For the first year, I’m just going to keep it the way it was run before,” Qaunaq said, when Nunatsiaq News caught up with him in his office earlier this month.
He added he’s gradually gaining confidence in his new role.
“If I get more comfortable, I’ll start making my own decisions with the help of council members and members of my staff. They really know what they’re doing,” he said.
Qaunaq may be cautiously settling into the job of running a hamlet of approximately 2,000 people, but he brings with him close to 20 years of municipal services experience.
A lifelong resident of Igloolik, he started working in the hamlet’s finance department in 2004, then moved on to work at the local housing authority in 2013. In March 2021, he returned to the hamlet’s finance department as its director before being offered the job of CAO this past spring.
In his new role, Qaunaq is responsible for approving department spending, submitting government funding proposals, hiring new employees, helping with finance decisions, working closely with the public works director and keeping minutes of council meetings, among a myriad of other responsibilities.
One major community project Qaunaq is looking forward to seeing completed is the opening of Igloolik’s new Co-op.
After a fire in January 2021 destroyed the previous Co-op, a larger two-storey building with a new warehouse, offices and a bank in addition to the grocery store is on track to open sometime around December.
Some struggles facing Igloolik currently are a lack of a dedicated youth centre and a need for more recreational programming for young people, Qaunaq said.
A recent spate of fires in the community points to a larger issue of young people needing an outlet and a space to go.
“It has a lot to do with kids being bored with nothing to do a lot of the time. Especially in the evening, there’s nothing going on,” he said.
“I did try to mention to the council about a youth centre, of course that space is going to be hard to get.”
There are several buildings in Igloolik that sit empty, but many of those can’t work as a youth centre, Qaunaq said, because they require a lot of renovations.
“Trying to get funding for these things is never easy,” he said.
One recent program, however, that Qaunaq said has been successful is Igloolik’s soup kitchen. It started earlier this year, and has become popular among community members.
Qaunaq said that generally within an hour of opening on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, many foods on offer get scooped up.
For the rest of the week, staff are busy preparing meals and getting supplies to keep the kitchen running.
“We’ve just started, [but] distribution seems really successful. We’re planning to continue for the next couple of years,” he said.
“We’re thinking of getting at least one or two more people to make sandwiches or pickup bags every other day.”
He said the hamlet is also considering shipping in more dry goods to help meet demand.