Nunavut's public power utility is facing more questions about the treatment of its Inuit employees by senior staff, with the territory's Inuit land-claims group demanding an independent review.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has formally voiced its concerns about the treatment of Inuit employees at Qulliq Energy Corp. at least twice in the past seven months, according to letters obtained by CBC News.
In one letter, dated Jan. 20, Nunavut Tunngavik president Cathy Towtongie said her group has received complaints "that Inuit employees may have been unfairly disciplined for raising reasonable questions" about the interpretation and implementation of Nunavut's land-claim agreement as it relates to human resources.
Towtongie asked Lorne Kusugak, Nunavut's minister responsible for Qulliq Energy, to "do everything needed to ensure, through appropriate action at your level, that any discriminatory practices within QEC against Inuit employees and Inuit values be stopped and remedied immediately."
The letter came after two Inuit employees were suspended without pay from Qulliq Energy, allegedly for asking questions about their Inuit land-claim rights. One of the suspended workers was also demoted.
Let go from job
Former Qulliq Energy employee Robert Tookoome told CBC News he was let go from his job as a human resources support assistant after less than four months on the job.
Tookoome, who is Inuk, said he was hired last September and relocated to his home community of Baker Lake, Nunavut.
"I thought it was going pretty good," Tookoome said. "Then I started noticing some uncomfortable comments mainly from the HR director, Catherine Cronin."
But Cronin is not the only one — Tookoome alleged that some of his other supervisors at Qulliq Energy were irritated when he raised questions related to the Nunavut land claim and talked about his Inuit culture.
Less than four months after he was hired, Tookoome said he was told he did not fit in at the utility.
Gets $13K severance package
"They paid me a lot of money to walk away — $13,000 — and I consulted a lawyer after that and he said it's a really unusual benefit package," he said.
"When a person is usually dismissed, or when they're given a severance package, usually a person gets one month's salary per year … . I was given three months' salary."
Meanwhile, two former Qulliq Energy employees who are not Inuit are suing the utility, seeking a total of $1.4 million in compensation and damages for alleged mismanagement, breach of contract and constructive dismissal.
Both ex-employees told CBC News last month that their job descriptions had been significantly changed without their consent. They alleged they were marginalized by Qulliq Energy management when they voiced their concerns.
The former employees have also alleged discriminatory behaviour and derogatory comments toward Inuit employees.
A Qulliq Energy spokesperson said its president, Peter Mackey, was travelling and is not available for comment.