The residency requirement for Nunavut elections fails to recognize the territory's unique situation, with its mainly Inuit population, a court heard Tuesday.

Jack Anawak is challenging the constitutionality of the territory's Elections Act after he was denied the right to run in the Oct. 27 election because he did not meet the 12-month residency requirement.

The 58-year-old former MP and MLA left the territory when he was appointed ambassador of circumpolar affairs in 2004 and then stayed away to go to school.

His lawyer, Steven Cooper, argued Anawak considers himself a Nunavut resident, and should not be penalized for leaving the territory for work and school.

"Bottom line is that if an Inuk, who is born and bred and raised on the land, goes away for some time and comes back, is not entitled to vote, then something is wrong with the system, the whole concept of Nunavut is lost," said Cooper.

Even Nunavut prisoners who are serving sentences elsewhere are allowed to vote in territorial elections, he pointed out.

The lawyer for Nunavut's election office, Patrick Orr, argued the territory has a public government, not an aboriginal government. 

Anawak was Nunavut MLA when the Elections Act was first passed. He hopes the court defers its decision to the legislative assembly, where MLAs can revisit the residency question.

The election in the riding of Akulliq, where Anawak had wanted to run, has been postponed until the dispute can be resolved.

Nunavut Justice Earl Johnson did not indicate when he would release his decision.