QIA President’s Message, June 2020
I want to begin by taking a moment to commemorate our colleague Johnny Malaiya Kublu. Once again, I want to extend condolences to his family, friends and community members in Igloolik.
Johnny Malaiya Kublu was a kind, humble and well-respected community leader. He had a passion for our culture and worked hard to record and preserve the knowledge of Inuit Elders. He will be greatly missed.
As you all know, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all our work and modes of operation have changed in the past few months. We have had to make adjustments to where we work and how we work. Our team has re-organized our priority files and created new emergency initiatives, even the way we host our meetings has been modified.
In response, our efforts in the past few months have been redirected to address this new reality and the immediate needs of Qikiqtani Inuit under the pressures of this pandemic.
In mid-March QIA implemented new measures in response to COVID-19 and suspended all our regular programs and closed our offices to the public. Our staff’s efforts were re-directed to design new emergency initiatives.
I want to begin with some of the measures undertaken at QIA.
QIA’S COVID-19 INITIATIVES
On March 30, QIA rolled out two initiatives to assist Qikiqtani Inuit during the COVID-19 pandemic including food vouchers for Elders and emergency funding for Qikiqtani families to social-distance on-the-land and harvest. The initiatives rolled out in April 2020 and conclude at the end of June 2020.
Working in partnership with Arctic Co-operatives, QIA allocated $3 million to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on Qikiqtani Inuit Elders. The funds are being distributed as $250 vouchers every other week. These vouchers are for Inuit Elders 60 years and above.
Elders are at higher risk of respiratory infections such as COVID-19, this emergency financial support will help them access healthy food and necessary cleaning supplies. We have identified 1,200 eligible Elders for this initiative across the Qikiqtani Region. On May 26 they received their fourth distribution of cards/hampers.
Through this initiative we have delivered $900,000 in vouchers to Elders as of May 12, 2020.
To support social distance and promote harvesting to providing healthy country food to our communities, QIA is offering Qikiqtani Inuit, who have established camps or cabins, over $2 million in short-term financial assistance to go out on-the-land.
Priority is given to Inuit who are willing to spend 14 days or more on-the-land. Inuit must supply their own means of transportation.
As of May 20, 886 online applications were received for the COVID-19 emergency on-the-land initiative. Through this initiative we have distributed $1,035,000, as of 20 May 2020. 690 households have been approved to receive this funding as of May 20, 2020.
QIA has also ramped up our communications and public outreach efforts to continue to inform and educate Qikiqtani Inuit about COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures.
To date we have created:
- A series of COVID-19 posters shared on our website and social media
- A series of COVID-19 music videos created in partnership with Becky Han to educate Inuit about issues such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing to protect Elders
- A series of short COVID-19 animated GIF’s targeted at families to educated children
- A COVID-19 portal on our website which helps Inuit access all essential applications and resources
- An educational resource page on our website for families homeschooling
- Series of blog posts informing our community about Inuit doing amazing things in the face of COVID-19
These posters, videos and posts have been shared hundreds of times with Inuit across the region.
The funds for QIA’s COVID-19 response plan come from the Indigenous Community Support Fund (ICSF) announced by the Federal Government on March 25, 2020. QIA’s share of that fund is approximately $6.1 million ($6,132,544).
To date, these initiatives have been a huge success. Our online applications for the on-the-land program are being completed quickly – with new applications arriving daily. Families have sent photos and messages from successful on-the-land trips from across the Qikiqtani Region. Elders have also told us that the grocery vouchers are making a big difference in their lives – giving them regular access to necessary household goods.
SUPPORT FOR HUNTERS AND TRAPPERS ORGANIZATIONS
NTI is providing $5,000 to each HTO with matching funds from the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Kivalliq Inuit Association and Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
KAKIVAK SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT PROGRAM
In addition to these initiatives, QIA is also supporting Kakivak to implement two programs to assist Inuit-owned businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The $1 million Qikiqtani COVID-19 Emergency Wage Subsidy Program will provide urgent wage subsidies to assist struggling businesses in the Qikiqtani Region avoid the lay-off of Inuit
- The $500,000 Qikiqtani COVID-19 Business Relief Program will provide small Inuit- owned businesses in the Region direct support for operating expenses to enable them to survive the negative impacts of the pandemic.
Through this initiative Kakivak has approved nearly $100,000 in direct financial relief for Inuit small businesses, as of May 20, 2020.
NON-COVID-19 WORK AT QIA
TALLURUTIUP IMANGA AND TUVAIJUITTUQ
Our Department of Marine and Wildlife continues to deliver new benefits for Inuit through Tallurutiup Imanga. Our Nauttisuqtiit team continues to deliver and grow: in Arctic Bay, our team has continued providing healthy country food to their community during the pandemic. We have conducted the orientation over numerous video conferences for our new Community Supervisors in Grise Fiord and Clyde River. Additionally, our Community Supervisors for Pond Inlet and Resolute Bay will be officially starting in June.
We also continue to advance on infrastructure, including working closely with Qikiqtaaluk Business Development Corporation on the completion of business plans and feasibility studies for multi-use facilities. We are in negotiations with the Government of Nunavut and Transport Canada on a Memorandum of Understanding to deliver community harbours in Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay. Additionally, we supported a joint consultation on harbour design in Arctic Bay and Clyde River with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
On governance, we have established the Inuit and Government of Canada consensus-based Aulattiqatigiit Board to oversee the management of Tallurutiup Imanga. We have also consulted communities on the development and design of Imaq, an Inuit advisory committee, made to support management and the delivery of benefits.
We are also working closely on other feasibility activities to support Inuit stewardship across our region. This includes ongoing work associated with the feasibility process of Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area. We will be undertaking an Inuit Qaujimanituqangit study of the Ellesmere Island marine region, which will inform long-term protection in the area. We are looking forward to learning about the Inuit Qaujimanituqangit of the Tuvaijuittuq and Sarvaqjuaq area. In early 2020, we visited the community of Sanikiluaq to discuss the Qikiqtait initiative and future cooperation moving forward. We have been working closely with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada to develop a “whole of government” approach for Qikiqtait.
QIKIQTANI TRUTH COMMISSION
QIA has received $17.5 million from the Government of Canada. The Contribution Agreement for the remaining $2.5 million is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks. Negotiations to reach our larger financial goal have been impacted by COVID-19.
We have hired a new team member, the Qimmiit Revitalization Coordinator, who will focus on that qimmiit related projects and programs.
MARY RIVER PROJECT
The Mary River Project is currently operation at 4.2Mtpa; the Responsible Ministers’ decision on extending the Production Increase to 6.0Mtpa is expected any day. QIA has been in close contact with CanNor’s Northern Projects Management Office on this topic.
Work regarding the Nunavut Impact Review Board Impact Assessment process on the Mary River Phase 2 Proposal is currently on pause. NIRB has stated that there will not be a resuming of the Impact Assessment process until some COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. QIA staff have been actively engaged with Baffinland in this time to development an Inuit Certainty Agreement to ensure that Inuit concerns are addressed before any support for Phase 2 can be provided.
As of March, 2020, all Nunavummiut employed by Baffinland have not been permitted to the Mary River Project site due to COVID-19 restrictions. They have been in their home communities, while still receiving pay from Baffinland. We continue to receive updates from Baffinland on this situation.
TERRITORIAL COVID-19 MEASURES
I also want to highlight some updates on the COVID-19 response in Nunavut.
NTI/GN SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY FOOD PROGRAMS DURING COVID-19
On April 3, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Government of Nunavut announced $2 million for community food programs during COVID-19.
These funds will be distributed directly to hamlets, to deliver community-based programming to fit their needs. Funds will be allocated by community-size:
- communities under 1,000 people will receive $40,000,
- communities over 1,000 people will receive $90,000,
- Iqaluit will receive $200,000.
These funds will provide nutritious meals for Nunavut’s most vulnerable, using communities’ existing expertise and networks during COVID-19.
GN IS NOT LOOSENING RESTRICTIONS
Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, has indicated that restrictions will be loosened if Nunavut continues to have no COVID-19 cases and testing is made possible in the territory.
The government has said that daycares will be one of the first services to open. It is possible that some restrictions will be lifted as of June 1 in Nunavut, and that work restrictions will also be lifted by early June.
QIA may implement a phased approach with senior management reporting to the Iqaluit office first and other staff returning to the office shortly afterwards.
FEDERAL COVID-19 MEASURES
The Federal Government has put in place a number of measures to support Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have provided a list of some of these key investments for your information.
REGIONAL RELIEF AND RECOVERY FUND: COVID-19
On May 13 the Government of Canada announced a Regional Relief and Recovery Fund: COVID-19. The Fund will help to mitigate the financial pressure experienced by businesses and organizations to allow them to continue their operations, including paying their employees; and, support projects by businesses, organizations and communities to prepare now for a successful recovery. The initiative is implemented by the six regional development agencies and includes two components:
- $675 million to support regional economies, businesses, organizations and communities in regions all across Canada; and,
- $287 million to support the national network of Community Futures Development Corporations, which will specifically target small businesses and rural communities across the country.
CANNOR RELIEF TO TERRITORIAL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19
On April 17, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CANNOR) announced the Northern Business Relief Fund (NBRF). This fund provides short term support for ongoing operational costs to small- and medium-sized territorial businesses impacted by economic disruptions due to COVID-19.
Businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be prioritized for this funding. The Fund provides support for operational costs in the form of a non-repayable grant ranging from $2,500 to a maximum of $100,000.
The funding will cover a maximum period of 4 months, retroactive to April 1, 2020. The Fund has been designed to complement other federal measures announced to date.
FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR TERRITORIES
On April 14, the federal government is providing $129.9 million specifically for Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to not only help with the health-care system’s response to COVID-19, but to provide financial support for northern airlines and other businesses.
$72.6 million of the money will go toward preparation and response in the health and social services departments in all three territories, with:
· $30.8 million for Nunavut
The federal government says it’s also providing up to $17.3 million for northern airlines to ensure those companies can continue to fly essential goods like food and medical supplies into remote communities.
· Nunavut will receive up to $5 million
The federal government says the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency is also providing $15 million in “non-repayable support” for businesses in the territories that have been affected by COVID-19, but don’t qualify for the federal financial support already made available.
The federal government also plans to put an additional $25 million into Nutrition North Canada.
These are unusual times and at QIA we are doing our best to continue to work with and support public health officials to keep Nunavummiut safe.
Protect our Elders, our communities, and yourself.