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Voicing concerns

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, October 22, 2007

CLYDE RIVER - Residents of Pond Inlet and Clyde River had the opportunity to voice their concerns to the government firsthand when a group of Nunavut ministers blitzed the two communities earlier this month.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Minister Olayuk Akesuk, left, discusses Clyde River issues with council member Nick Illauq on Oct. 2. - photo courtesy of Peter Iqalukjuak

Premier Paul Okalik, accompanied by David Simailak, minister of finance and economic development; Levinia Brown, minister of community and government services; and Olayuk Akesuk, minister of housing, met with hamlet staff and other community organizations for a few hours in each community on Oct. 2.

"We as MLAs can yell and holler in the house, but that's only one of us. When they hear from the people themselves in the community it has more impact," said Tunninuq MLA James Arvaluk, who helped organize the Pond Inlet meetings.

Capital budget items were a big topic at the talks, with the need for improved docking facilities high on the wish list of both hamlets.

"That has been a concern for quite some time," said Clyde River Mayor Peter Paneak, speaking through an interpreter. "They welcomed us to talk about it, but from what I understand it won't start right away."

Aside from reaffirming its own need for a better breakwater facility, Pond Inlet staff also wanted to know why the GN has yet to hand over the old, boarded-up health centre to the community for elders and youth groups, according to acting SAO Philip Paneak.

"We've been after it for a few years," he said. "At least when the ministers visit we can go directly to them rather than through local channels."

He also questioned why the government's officials don't travel to the communities more often.

"I remember back in the GNWT days, the main complaints from communities was that the government officials never spent any time in the communities themselves," he said. "That was one of the things that should have been rectified with the creation of Nunavut, but now we're just doing it to ourselves."

It's a question of balancing the need for trips with the high cost of travel in a large territory, according to Brown.

While some government staff previously travelled to the Kitikmeot region in the spring, she agreed that these types of trips don't happen as often as they should.

"We need to do it more. It's very important, especially in smaller communities," she said, adding that she relished the opportunity to take in the local scenery as well. "Nunavut, being so unique and spread out, there are many needs and the government is trying hard to catch up on projects. We are closer to the communities when we visit them, and that's why it's so important, to understand what their needs and aspirations are."