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Nunavut's first female premier

No balloons or painted campaign buses, and barely any door-to-door soliciting. Unlike the noisy campaigns to the south, the first election in Nunavut was informal and low-key. Residents in small communities already knew the candidates running — and their families. When people went to the polls in 1999, they did it on their own terms, electing a consensus government and making special provisions for voting in a vast territory. They were looking for candidates to tackle the region's toughest obstacles: poor access to health care and high suicide and unemployment rates.

Eva Aariak needs just one round of voting to hear the cheers and to begin receiving hugs in the Nunavut legislature. The mother of four and grandmother has become the second premier in the territory's short history. Aarik was previously the member of the legislative assembly for Iqaluit East and Nunavut's languages commissioner. Though her ascension promises a new face for Nunavut, not everyone is happy. Incumbent Paul Okalik and veteran politician Tagak Curley turn down cabinet positions, Okalik maintaining that Nunavut had chosen change. On the other hand, Elisapee Sheutiapik, the mayor of Iqaluit, is all smiles. "She's an amazing woman, very capable, and I think she's really going to help the government move forward."

• Aariak was born in the northern Baffin Island community of Arctic Bay and has lived in the Nunavut capital of Iqaluit for the past 22 years. She's the owner of Malikkaat, an Inuit arts and crafts shop.

 • She is fluent in both English and Inuktitut.

• Aariak was Nunavut's languages commissioner from 1999 to 2004, and returned to the post in an acting capacity in December 2007 following the resignation of Johnny Kusugak.

• She was first elected to Nunavut's legislative assembly less than a month before becoming premier. In succeeding retiring member of the legislative assembly Ed Picco in the Iqaluit East constituency, Aariak became the sole woman in Nunavut's third legislative assembly.

• The second legislative assembly, which ran from 2004 until 2008, boasted two female members, Leona Aglukkaq and Levinia Brown. Aglukkaq served as Nunavut's health minister while Brown handled the community and government portfolios. In the fall of 2008, Aglukkaq moved into federal politics and became the Conservatives' new MP in Nunavut. She was then named federal health minister. Brown was defeated in the territorial election by Lorne Kusugak.

• Aariak was once a CBC reporter.   

Medium: Television
Program: Northbeat
Broadcast Date: Nov. 17, 2008
Guest(s): Eva Aariak, Paul Kaludjak, Elisapee Sheutiapik
Reporter: Allen Auksaq
Duration: 2:15

Last updated: November 20, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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