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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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Paving over cultural identity:
status of Iqaluit’s Mile 40 asphalt plant project
by Sue Hamilton
On March 9, 2015, I wrote to John Quirk, Clerk of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly. The twenty names I included in the “copy to” line represented elected members of the Government of Nunavut and Iqaluit city council, Nunavut Tourism and two media sources, Nunatsiaq News Online and The Arctic Journal.
I began my letter to Mr. Quirk asking for background on the choice of the Canadian Inuit Dog as the young Nunavut Territory’s Official Animal pronounced back in May 2000. (I had been advised he would be the person to contact as he was on hand for the young Government of Nunavut’s – GN – historic Legislative Assembly session.) I used this inquiry as a stepping stone to express concern in general 1) about what GN might have had in mind in long term support of its Official Animal and 2) the plans of Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit, to establish a second asphalt plant on what is known as the Mile 40 site where Inuit Dogs had been picketed for a very long time but would have to be removed due to the plant’s construction.
Mr. Quirk kindly replied to my letter. By snail mail, he included a copy of the May 1, 2000 hansard (“the official, complete report of proceedings in a parliament or Legislature”) which he indicated constituted “the extent of the official record of this decision”.
Below is an extract from that complete hansard:
Item 16: Motions Motion 25 – 1(3): Official Emblems
Mr. Quirk closed his reply by indicating that my concerns regarding the Mile 40 issue should be directed to Iqaluit elected officials. I don’t dispute he’s right about that. But I will never retreat from my belief that the issues relating to the Canadian Inuit Dog’s present and future are ones that need to be acknowledged and addressed at a Territorial level!
Eager to keep the lines of communication open, I replied to Mr. Quirk (using the same list of “copied to:” addressees), thanking him for his response, acknowledging that the Mile 40 issue is one to be addressed by Iqaluit’s city council, but also seeking to pursue answers to the greater issue of the Nunavut’s Official Animal and if there was back in May 2000, or is any intention or plan to actively work at keeping it as a living symbol of the territory. Is the qimmiq in the 21st century, as when Mr. Alakannuark pronounced on May 1, 2000, “… as much a part of the lives of Nunavummiut today as it was for our ancestors”?
That was sent April 1.
In short order I received an email from an Iqaluit city councilor who was on the email to Mr. Quirk distribution list. The message to me, which included a “copy to:” list with the names I included in my emails to Mr. Quirk, could be described as rancorous:
“…stop saying the city of Iqaluit does not support the teams and write a retraction letter to the paper on that issue…Your problem with the Gov't of Nunavut is not a problem with the city of Iqaluit as even the land you refer to is the GNs land…Until you have actual facts please stop accusing the city of not caring and kindly stop emailing me until you have facts to support your claims of the city not caring…”The facts are that issues surrounding of dog teams in Iqaluit specifically, and a lack of support for the qimmiq on the part of the Nunavut government in general have existed for a dozen years before this city councilor’s 2012 election to office. I decideded a letter written in the councilor’s tone did not warrant a response. I was not about to stoop to engaging in a pissing match. Nor I did see any reason for writing the demanded retraction.
Outside of Nunatsiaq News and The Arctic Journal’s unsolicited publishing of my original letter to John Quirk, such was the extent of that round of correspondence.
On June 16th, I wrote to Iqaluit’s Office of Planning and Development asking, quite simply, to be advised of the status of the Mile 40 asphalt plant project (making no reference to the dog team relocations from that area). As of The Fan Hitch publication date, June 26, there has been no response.
On June 18th I wrote to the Executive Director of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) and on June 18th – That’s not a typo, it was the same day! – I received a reply! In a nutshell:
“… it remains our understanding that there are currently no plans in place to develop a second asphalt plant for the city of Iqaluit. As I understand the lands in question are under the administration of the City of Iqaluit, it would be the City’s responsibility to ensure that any planned works or activities does not proceed until the appropriate authorizations are in place…Should the construction of a new asphalt plant be proposed for the city of Iqaluit, it would be the NIRB’s expectation that the same would not be exempt from the requirement for NIRB screening…”
Also on June 18th I received emails from two other officials, one from NIRB and the other from a department within the city of Iqaluit (not a councilor or the mayor) cordially offering to keep me informed of any further developments on Mile 40 building plans!
From my seat 1,528 miles (2,459 km) south of Iqaluit, it is difficult to gauge the response to NIRB’s assessment of the Mile 40 “situation” and its consequences. Although it would be welcomed, official word from Iqaluit bureaucrats has not been forthcoming nor is it expected, give past experience. Dog team owners have their own reasons to be restrained from comment, and I respect that.
And as for the Government of Nunavut, aside from its relationship in some way with this Mile 40 thing, it still appears it is failing to address, let alone even acknowledge, the spirit of that May 1, 2000 Hansard of the Legislative Assembly Item 16: Motions Motion 25 – 1(3).
In the April 1, 2015 edition of Nunatsiaq News Online, on the occasion of Nunavut’s sixteenth birthday, Canadian government Member of Parliament for Nunavut, Leona Aglukkaq, said, “We must continue to look forward to the future to make sure our language, culture and traditions remain strong.” It would be reassuring if a commitment to the aboriginal Inuit Dog was prominent as one of the strong traditions of which she spoke.