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Candidates talk about goals if elected to lead Kitikmeot Inuit Association

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Monday, March 14, 2011

KITIKMEOT - Three people - Vivienne Aknavigak, Joseph Otokiak and incumbent Charlie Evalik - are vying to become president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

NNSL photo/graphic

Joe Otokiak: Candidate says he wants to bring more openness to KIA.

NNSL photo/graphic Charlie Evalik: Incumbent wants to continue progress he has made.

Kitikmeot Inuit aged 16 or over, enrolled or eligible to enroll under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement can cast their ballots on March 28 (or March 21 for advance polls) to choose who will lead the association.

The position of president is a term position until March 31, 2014.

Nunavut News/North asked each candidate why they are running, what they are hoping to achieve and what they think would be their biggest challenge.

Joe Otokiak is a former KIA board member, former hamlet councillor and acting mayor as well as former commissioner of the Nunavut Planning Commission.

He said he is running because changes are needed at the association.

"People need to know what's happening at KIA. Beneficiaries are being left behind," he said. "I think the organization is looking too much (towards) non-renewable resources development at the moment.

"I mean you can only do so much with that but people's lives are more important."

He added social issues, such as suicide, must first be dealt with.

"Once you get that to some kind of healthy state, then economic opportunities will look after themselves more down the road," said Otokiak.

The 56-year-old Cambridge Bay resident said he hopes to bridge the gap between elders and youth.

"Young people need to learn those skills of survival from our elders before they pass on," she said.

Making sure communities are ready to handle development opportunities when they occur will be his biggest challenge, he said, as they happen fast, especially with mining.

Otokiak is married and has five children and many grandchildren.

For the last 10 years, he has worked as a freelance Inuinnaqtun interpreter/translator for various organizations throughout the territory, including the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the legislative assembly, NTI and KIA.

Incumbent Charlie Evalik wants to continue his work as president of KIA, he said, working with other organizations and regions to transfer some programs to the regions, closer to the communities.

He added he wants to continue working on the economic development initiatives they are undertaking with companies such as Newmont Mining Corporation's Hope Bay project and Shear Diamonds's work.

"I need to continue to work in that process," he said.

The 59-year-old from Cambridge Bay was first elected president of the association from 1996 to 2005 before being re-elected in 2008.

Evalik said he hopes to achieve continuity for the Inuit.

"We hope to achieve major agreements with the mining companies, where we participate in terms of development of their mining initiatives, ensuring business opportunities as well as employment training opportunities are available from those developments for the Inuit in the Kitikmeot," he said.

Evalik is also the chairman of the Nunavut Resources Corporation and has negotiated a number of Inuit Impact Benefit Agreements. Closer to Cambridge Bay, he was the community's first settlement secretary.

Continuing working with the mining activities that are happening will be challenging, said Evalik.

"Ensuring Inuit are ready ... for the employment and training opportunities that might derive from those developments," he said. "We've got to get the Inuit ready for those challenges so they can take on employment training business opportunities within those developments."

Evalik is married and has three children.

Vivienne Aknavigak, a former economic development officer in Taloyoak, said she is running "for the betterment of Kitikmeot East."

More social programs, such as after school or drop-in centres for youth, are what she hopes to achieve.

"My biggest challenge would be the mining sector. To put in more programs for the employees, and social issues," she said.

Nunavut News/North was unable to obtain a photo of Aknavigak before press time.

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