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Nunavut Votes 2004
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  Main > Commentary > The Public Life in Nunavut Voting Day February 16, 2004   
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Jack Anawak
Jack Anawak

The Public Life in Nunavut
Jack Anawak | CBC Online News | Jan. 21


Jack Anawak was born in Repulse Bay, then part of the Northwest Territories, in 1950. He entered politics in 1973 as a member of the settlement council, then becoming a member of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada land claim negotiating team. He ran for federal politics in 1988, winning the Nunatsiaq seat.. He entered territorial politics in 1999, winning the seat for Rankin Inlet North. He is leaving Nunavut politics to become the new Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs. Here he offers his thoughts on what makes campaigning in Nunavut unique, and some advice to would-be candidates.


When deciding to run in a riding for the Nunavut legislature, you come across several interesting challenges and scenarios.

"In one election, my natural sister was also the sister by adoption of one of the other candidates and the sister-in-law of another one."

First of all, if you are an Inuk and more than one similar person is running in the riding you are going to come up with some personal conflicts. We live in close-knit communities. We are inter-related. We have extended families and a strong kinship system. We have time-honoured social rules on how we relate to others. He/she may be a relative (direct or by marriage, through the namesake system or extended family).

In one election, my natural sister was also the sister by adoption of one of the other candidates and the sister-in-law of another one. Potentially, she could have found herself (along with each of us) in a awkward position during that campaign. One of the candidates was also one of my nephews, my first cousin's son, so it becomes a bit of a challenge. However, our values and beliefs concerning respect get us through these situations far better than any political strategy can.

You have to be sensitive to local issues. In one campaign, a number of people were missing out on the land and the community's attention was therefore focused elsewhere so we never really campaigned and instead, joined the search.

"... a number of people were missing... so we never really campaigned and instead, joined the search."

Today, some feel it is mandatory to go door to door, but you know most of the people, especially the older people who you would be visiting anyway if you have already been an involved and supportive person.

 

In the past, a leader was a leader by the simple fact that he or she was already recognized as being the best at many things, not necessarily only the best speaker or visitor at election time or being self-proclaimed.

Issues are obvious to leaders. They keep their ear to the ground, keep their circle broad and open and observe and listen on many levels. Often newer people, who may not have been highly interested or involved previously, but want to run for office now, must do a lot of catch-up.

There is a need to keep the big picture in mind, even while taking care of local needs and providing services to those who need your help. An able political representative will realize there is a need to balance the needs of today with what must be put in place for tomorrow and for the future that will be of the biggest assistance to people.

"People who want to run and to serve should have a vision they are confident to speak about and to defend. "

The hours can be long, the travel means a lot of time away from family routines and activities that you love or are used to doing. Your time was your time before, and it is sometimes a very difficult adjustment for newcomers who quickly see that their personal and leisure time will often be determined by the agendas of others.

This can be hard on spouses and children if they are not aware of this. Unlike nine-to-five jobs, this one takes whatever time it takes. This is a big adjustment for other family members who could become resentful and feel abandoned. They must become more independent and learn to function differently, especially when the missing person is away or occupied by the pressing issues and timeframes of others.

People who want to run and to serve should have a vision they are confident to speak about and to defend. Not everyone takes the time to decide within themselves just what they believe and why that matters. This is most important to do - so people can see your thought process, how you prioritize and identify what is needed and how you plan to achieve it.

The issues in any election are very large and inter-connected. They cannot be dealt with separately by narrow thinkers or considered without creativity and innovation when they are linked together.

"the bar is simply set higher for those who wish to serve others and it should be."

Public service must seek and hold people to the highest standards. They must be prepared to be monitored by the public at all times. They must "walk their talk" in all areas of their life.

Public figures are on display for the scrutiny and judgment of the public wherever they are. Word travels fast if you are not living up to that standard.

People dislike seeing their representatives engaging in behaviour that diminishes them. Constituents do not like seeing their represent making inappropriate remarks, choosing a questionable lifestyle, acting carelessly or embarrassing their riding in any way.

In other words, the bar is simply set higher for those who wish to serve others and it should be. The question is, is the person who considers running aware of it and able to meet those expectations? If they are selected are they willing to consistently honour their obligations?

The public are smart. They have a good nose for who is who. A position of trust is indeed a unique and precious relationship.

While I love politics and everything that goes with it, others might see it as a job and consequently get disillusioned.

Politics to me is a chance to help the people I represent have a better life. The rewards could seem very small, but the most satisfying thing is when people come up to you to say "thank you". You carry that with you for a long time because it means that there are people out there who appreciate what you are trying to do.




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The Speaker of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly


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