Nunavut MLAs push back Inuktut education timeline, push ahead with infrastructure

·3 min read
The Nunavut Legislative Assembly building in Iqaluit. Nunavut MLAs wrapped up their spring sitting Monday. Their next sitting will start in October. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)
The Nunavut Legislative Assembly building in Iqaluit. Nunavut MLAs wrapped up their spring sitting Monday. Their next sitting will start in October. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)

The phasing-in of Inuktut as the language of instruction in Nunavut encountered some pushback Monday, the final day of the territory's spring legislative sitting.

That's when MLAs approved Bill 7, which provides for a three-year delay in implementing the education department's language of instruction regulations.

Bill 7, which has already received assent by the Nunavut Commissioner, suspends section 24 of the Education Act and most of the existing language of instruction regulations.

The goal is to give the education department more time to develop language of instruction regulations.

Speaking in the Committee of the Whole, Education Minister Pamela Gross defended the need for the extension.

"Bill 7 will not delay a made-in-Nunavut curriculum nor will it change anything for current students," Gross said.

Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada
Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada

George Hickes, MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk, said the request for more time appeared to be necessary, but "it puts the assembly into a very awkward position where we don't have any choice but to pass this legislation against our wishes."

Joe Savikataaq, the former premier and now MLA for Arviat South, said he was "not pleased with the delay."

The new Education Act came into force in 2020, during his mandate.

Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), was not immediately available for an interview, but her organization remains critical of the new delay.

NTI shared a recent letter with CBC on Bill 7 from its chief executive officer, Kilikvak Kabloona, to Rebecca Hainnu, the deputy minister of education.

"NTI does not support the fundamental assumptions and purpose of the proposed Interim Language of Instruction Act, nor does NTI support legislative sanctioning of further delays in the implementation of Inuktut language of instruction opportunities," Kabloona said.

Nunavut MLAs vote to carry over 130 projects

On Monday, Nunavut MLAs also moved to keep work going on 130 infrastructure projects in the territory.

They approved Bill 1, a $162.3-million supplementary capital allocation, introduced by Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak.

"If the assembly does not approve these appropriations, any previously approved capital funding could collapse and the Government of Nunavut would have to cancel these projects or defer working on them until appropriations are available," Kusugak said.

The number of projects carried over was higher than usual, Kusugak said.

"Over the past two years, COVID outbreaks and isolation periods have hampered our ability to move projects ahead on schedule," Kusugak said. "We are also seeing the costs of our projects increase significantly as bids continue to come in over budget."

Passage of Bill 1 will keep the big Rankin Inlet airport project alive.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

Its original cost estimate stood at $66.6 million, but has since risen. Now the new airport will cost $84.4 million, Kusugak said. This amount incorporates a $24.4-million shortfall if additional federal money, already at $45.5 million, doesn't come through.

Also needed is more money to replace the Sanikiluaq hamlet office, badly damaged in a storm last September.

The lowest tender for that came in at $15.9 million, $2.9 million higher than approved, Kusugak said.

Kusugak also wanted MLAs to approve spending $11.5 million more for secure liquor and cannabis warehouses to improve security.

He said the liquor and cannabis commission would repay the Nunavut government for that expense.

The Nunavut Legislature adjourned Monday afternoon, one day ahead of schedule. The next sitting starts Oct. 27.

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