Nunavut politicians want more Inuktitut translators to assist Statistics Canada enumerators as they go door to door asking unilingual residents to fill out the long-form census.

MLAs Isaac Shooyook, David Joanasie and Paul Okalik raised the issue with the premier during a rare Saturday sitting at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.

Peter Taptuna was being questioned as Minister of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs on a number of topics as the committee of the whole continues to review the budget of each territorial department. 

"It's absolutely critical that Nunavummiut participate in this census gathering by Canada and we'll certainly have that discussion to find out how we could ensure that Statistics Canada get bilingual Inuktitut speaking census takers when they're up North here in Nunavut," he said.

Taptuna said Saturday Statistics Canada advertised for translators but believed no one applied.

The premier said he plans to bring the issue up with Nunavut's Member of Parliament, Hunter Tootoo.

Statistics Canada said it had hired Inuktitut speaking workers to deliver the long form census in five hamlets: Clyde River, Gjoa Haven, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet and Whale Cove.

In other communities it says it relies on guides or interpreters referred by hamlet offices.

"StatCan has been working closely with two departments in the Government of Nunavut to facilitate early enumerationm," read a statement by Lorne Anderson, Statistics Canada's director of the Western Region and Northern Territories.

"When we have a request for an interview in a local language in a community where we are relying on the services of a guide, we are very much dependent on the schedule and availability of our guide(s) and turnaround times may be variable," Anderson said.

Anderson points out the Census has been translated into 11 Aboriginal languages, including Inuktitut.

‚ÄčAudit results coming

This week, the premier plans to table the results of an independent audit looking into hundreds of government of Nunavut programs.

The audit was requested by the caucus and with consultation with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. to find out how the programs are benefiting the territory.

"To put it in short, it's the best bang for the buck that we invest in and to ensure the Nunavummiut benefit from these programs," Taptuna said.

The audit will look at more than 300 programs offered by the government and arms-length organizations. The second phase of the audit is scheduled to be completed later this year.

Senior services

The government of Nunavut is looking to make it easier for seniors to access services. 

The premier said work is underway to try and co-ordinate services offered to elders by different departments and come up with one standardized age when the programs can be accessed.

"There are many different ages that are considered seniors or elders and there's many, many different programs that have different age categorizations so we're working to ensure it's harmonized," he said.

French and Inuktitut?

MLA Pat Angnaka wants to know why the territory's only French school does not teach Inuktitut. She posed the question to the minister of education on Friday. Paul Quassa said the department provides funding to the French school board for a part-time Inuktitut teacher at l'√©cole des Trois-Soleils in Iqaluit, however the position has not been filled.

"I have emphasized to the chairman of [La Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut] that we're in Nunavut and this is something CSFN has to carry forth within their school," Quassa said.

The education minister said the language rights of Nunavut's French minority are protected through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, exempting the school from teaching Inuktitut .

Social Promotion

MLA Paul Okalik wants to know when the education department will end the practice of "social passing" in schools. Social passing is the practice of graduating a student to a higher grade before they master the skills of the previous one. The minister denies the department uses social promotion.

Instead, Paul Quassa says the department believes in continuous education.

"We make sure we know where that student's level is and we have a school team that looks at where a student is, what areas we need to work on and that's why we ensure that each student has the capability of doing that certain grade," he said.

Last year, when Nunavut's Education Act was being reviewed, concerns were raised about students passing to the next grade without earning it.

Quassa says the department is working towards ensuring students graduate at the same level as any other Canadian student across the country.

New fire trucks

Rankin Inlet and Cape Dorset will each be getting a new fire truck this summer. The minister for Community and Government Services confirmed the news Friday. Joe Savikataaq said the trucks will arrive on the sealift this year. He said they will have a 20-year life span.

Meat testing

A Nunavut MLA wants a faster process to test if country food could be contaminated. The territory currently sends meat to Northern Quebec to be tested for diseases like trichinella. Tom Sammurtok says by the time a sample has been sent and tested, it often goes bad.

"When meat is sent out for testing out of territory, by the time the results come back, the meat is no longer fresh," he said.

Sammurtok would like to see a meat testing facility in Iqaluit at the Nunavut Research Institute lab.