Fall sitting in Canada’s Nunavut territory begins Thursday

The fall sitting of the Nunavut Legislature starts Thursday, Oct. 17. The sitting will see talk of mental health and education. MLAs will review the government of Nunavut’s proposed capital budget for the coming fiscal year. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)
MLAs and cabinet ministers of Nunavut, in Canada’s eastern Arctic, are gathering in Iqaluit today for the start of the Legislative Assembly’s fall sitting.

Spanning three weeks, until Nov. 7, this sitting marks a half-way point for the fifth assembly.

MLAs are tasked with reviewing the Nunavut government’s capital estimates for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. This means lots of talk about community infrastructure. Finance minister George Hickes will introduce the bill for the proposed capital budget at the start of the sitting.

The Nunavut Housing Corporation is scheduled to appear first.

Overhaul of mental health act

For other new legislation, House Leader Elisapee Sheutiapik says cabinet plans to introduce a bill that would update Nunavut’s Mental Health Act. Bill 36 will outline requirements for government-provided addictions treatment, the reporting of suicides and traumatic events, and the rights of a person accessing mental health services.

Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik is the house leader. (David Gunn/CBC)

“There are some [acts] that we have gone back to that truly have cultural appropriate wording,” Sheutiapik says of Nunavut legislation. The amended Mental Health Act would better reflect the needs of Nunavummiut, she says. “Mental health has been a real issue of concern in our territory. The modernization of it will help guide us in the act.”

Nunavut’s Mental Health Act was inherited from the Northwest Territories. The N.W.T. government updated its own mental health act last year. To revise its act, the Nunavut government consulted with Inuit communities in 2015 and 2016. In 2017 the health department released a report that said communities want to see elder involvement, support for families, the minimization of trauma and Inuktut terminology included in the act.

What’s in store for the education act

The standing committee will request an extension to keep reviewing Bill 25, an Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act. The bill, which is at second reading, proposes a slow roll out of bilingual Inuktuk education in Grades 4 to 12 over the coming two decades.

John Main is the Nunavut MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove and the chair of the regular members’ caucus. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

Nunavummiut [the residents of Nunavut] can expect to see public submissions on that bill tabled during the sitting. The standing committee is reviewing those submissions in camera. But in the last two weeks of November, it will hold televised public hearings for bill 25. Committee chair and Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main says this type of hearing is not common.

“It was decided that a televised hearing for this bill would be appropriate. It will allow for a greater degree of public engagement or at least observation of our work on this bill,” Main said. “It is a very important piece of legislation.”

Departments will begin to table responses to 17 written questions from MLAs. And, responses are expected from the government to three special standing committee reviews of reports by the Qulliq Energy Corporation, the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Representative for Children and Youth Office

“We’re looking forward to the government’s response, particularly on the child abuse recommendations,” Main said. “Going forward we’re looking for indications that changes are being made and that things are improving.”

Members will also talk about making Nunavut Day, July 9, a statutory holiday. That’s through Bill 29, an Act to Amend the Labour Standards Act and the Interpretation Act with Respect to Nunavut Day.

A swearing in ceremony for Nunavut’s new member for Tununiq, David Qamaniq of Pond Inlet, is taking place this morning, Oct. 17. He replaces former Speaker Joe Enook, who died in March.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian FedElxn 2019: 800 candidates, 40,000 tweets…. but only 7 mention Inuit? What gives?, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finnish Parliament debates Rinne govt’s first budget proposal, Yle News

Norway: Political earthquake shakes up Northern Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Career diplomat to represent Murmansk region in Russian senate, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s FM calls for more EU involvement in Arctic as country hosts EU Arctic Forum, Radio Sweden

United States: Finnish and US Presidents agree on Arctic security policies, Eye on the Arctic

Beth Brown, CBC News

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