Sanikiluaq residents unable to obtain photo IDs

·3 min read

Sanikiluaq residents have been unable to apply for or renew their drivers licences or government photo identifications since a storm in early September wrecked the community’s government liaison office.

Allan Rumbolt, MLA for the Belcher Islands community, has been raising the matter in the legislature, saying that residents need valid ID in order to board a plane for medical travel.

Because of the community’s location in southern Hudson Bay, residents who need medical attention that can’t be provided at Sanikiluaq’s health centre fly out of the territory to Winnipeg, rather than to Iqaluit.

“We are required to travel out of territory for all medical purposes,” Rumbolt said on Oct. 22, “and the reason for this is because we have no connection to the rest of the territory.”

Since the storm, local services are “pretty much back to normal,” Rumbolt said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The biggest remaining issue is with the government liaison office.

“It’s fairly frustrating,” Rumbolt said. “Some things are harder to move forward.”

Applying for drivers licences and photo ID from Sanikiluaq has always been an arduous process, Rumbolt said, but it was getting better because the government liaison office was getting set up to start sending drivers licence and photo ID applications electronically.

“But when the building got hit with the storm, all that was knocked out,” Rumbolt said, “so now they’re back to square one.”

When Rumbolt raised this in the legislature on Oct. 22, David Akeeagok, minister of community and government services, said “this is being handled as critical.”

Akeeagok said equipment would be sent to Sanikiluaq, starting at the beginning of November.

He also said that the government is in the process of enabling Nunavummiut to apply for drivers licences and photo IDs online.

“It should be up and running by now.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Rumbolt said that Sanikiluaq’s government liaison office has yet to be repaired and lacks the needed equipment. He also said that the online ID application process didn’t include a way to submit a photo.

Rumbolt said he had heard of one person stuck without a valid ID who needed medical treatment, but that their situation has been “rectified and they found a way to get them home, but I’m not sure how they did that,” he said.

Another issue that Rumbolt has been raising in the legislature is how residents of Sanikiluaq can’t visit anywhere else in Nunavut without having to go into isolation first, because there are no direct flights from Sanikiluaq to anywhere else in the territory.

On Sept. 21, Rumbolt asked if the Government of Nunavut would consider asking airlines to fly from Sanikiluaq to Iqaluit.

Transportation Minister David Akeeagok replied that either a flight from Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit would be a good option, but he said “it’s the airlines that sets those routes.”

Commercial flights to Sanikiluaq have decreased from six a week to two a week.

There used to be three flights a week to Winnipeg with Calm Air, Rumbolt said, but that’s been reduced to two a week.

There used to be three flights per week between Sanikiluaq and Nunavik with connections to Montreal, but those stopped altogether in March.

Because Nunavut has been helping to subsidize Canadian North and Calm Air since the pandemic started, Rumbolt said the territory should be able to work with the airlines to give input into flight schedules.

Rumbolt himself hopped on a charter to fly from Sanikiluaq to Iqaluit for this sitting of the legislative assembly.

He said the Qulliq Energy Corp. has the most charters to the community, but there are also flights for court services.

“I’d say we’re probably averaging a couple a week for sure right now,” he said.

But he said a direct commercial flight to Iqaluit would allow more residents from Sanikiluaq to further their education, for example.

Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News