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Akulliq election gets green light

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 10, 2008

NUNAVUT - Voters in Repulse Bay and Kugaaruk can expect to head to the polls by mid-December.

The election is back on in that riding following the Nunavut Court of Justice's dismissal of a constitutional challenge by former MP Jack Anawak.

A new writ will be issued Nov. 10, and the byelection is scheduled for Dec. 15. Nominations are due by Nov. 14.

"They've been waiting long enough," said Elections Nunavut lawyer Patrick Orr.

Anawak twice appealed a decision of Elections Nunavut which barred him from running in the territorial election because he did not meet residency requirements.

In order to run or vote, one must be a resident of the territory for 12 months preceding the election.

Anawak was not, and Elections Nunavut's decision was upheld in court shortly after nominations closed.

His lawyer, Steve Cooper, returned to court a second time to present a constitutional challenge Oct. 14.

He argued his client was being denied his constitutional right to vote, as well as his rights as an Inuit beneficiary, by the Nunavut Elections Act.

As an Inuk, Anawak "is entitled to rights that maybe are different from the rights of a non-beneficiary," he said via teleconference call, adding that as a beneficiary he should be able to participate "in anything that involves his or his children's land."

In his written decision released Nov. 6, Justice Earl Johnson said Anawak was confusing his rights to vote in the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. elections with that of voting in a public government.

"Simply being an Inuk domiciled in Nunavut does not give him the right to vote in a public government election regardless of the rules," he wrote.

Neither Anawak nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

"We're very gratified that the court has upheld the legality of the Nunavut Elections Act," Orr said. "It's our view that residency is a basic issue of where you are living, rather than where your heart lies."

Marius Tungilik, one of the previously declared candidates in the riding, said he was looking forward to "hitting the road running."

"I'm pleased that the case has been resolved and hopefully to the satisfaction of everyone," he said. "With an election just after the municipal elections and just before Christmas, it should be interesting no matter what way it goes."

Anawak's ineligibility was one of two which made waves leading up to the election.

In Iqaluit Centre, Okalik Eegeesiak also had her name yanked from the ballot when it was determined she did not meet the residency requirements.

Orr said Elections Nunavut will likely take a closer look at that particular section of the Elections Act.

"It's possible that we might want to take a look at changing it slightly, putting some further provisions in on what temporary residency might mean," he said.