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While Baffin Regional Hospital nears completion in the capital, Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo is calling for an investigation into the hiring of Inuit workers on major construction projects. - Kent Driscoll/NNSL photo

MLA calls for investigation into hiring practices

Kent Driscoll
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 05/05) - The government of Nunavut will investigate claims that companies are hiring Inuit workers to stay at home.

Iqaluit MLA Hunter Tootoo said in the legislative assembly last week he had "received some very disturbing information about a southern contractor that's in town here doing a couple of major projects."

Projects that have 51 per cent government of Nunavut funding require that a set percentage of Inuit workers be hired, under Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajutti policy.

Major projects in Iqaluit include the new Nunavut Court of Justice, the new Baffin Regional Hospital and a school.

"I was informed that this company was paying Inuit to sit at home, knowing full well that they were not going to be on the job," said Tootoo.

"They could show on paper that they were meeting their Inuit employment levels."

Community and Government Services Minister Levinia Brown confirmed that her department will be investigating Tootoo's question.

"Our staff is investigating it, and once I have that report, it is important that the findings go back to the people," said Brown.

Tootoo asked the question, but doesn't have any evidence to back it up. "I know that the concern was raised to me, but I have no proof," said Tootoo.

When asked if they had been hiring Inuit workers to sit on their hands, a spokesperson with one company emphatically said no.

"Oh God, no, there's no way," said the spokesperson.

The issue of hiring Inuit workers was in front of the legislature the first week of the sitting as well. Sanajit Construction and their southern partner Clarke Builders of Edmonton were fined $58,000 for not meeting their quota.

They were required to hire 32 per cent Inuit labour, but only hired 25.71 per cent. They received $17 million to build the Kivalliq Health Centre in 2003.

That $58,000 fine eclipses the total of the two previous years. In 2003 and 2004, $14,000 in fines were handed out.