Two former MLAs face off in Nunavut's Aivilik constituency

In 2013, Jack Anawak and Patterk Netser both ran for MLA in constituencies in Iqaluit — neither won. Now both are back in their respective home communities of Naujaat and Coral Harbour to try again.

Jack Anawak was an MLA in 1999, Patterk Netser was elected in 2004

Patterk Netser (left) and Jack Anawak (right) are the two candidates in the Aivilik constituency. (Photo illustration by Alex Brockman/CBC)

In 2013, Jack Anawak and Patterk Netser both ran for MLA in constituencies in Iqaluit — neither won. Now both are back in their respective home communities to try again.

Anawak is from Naujaat, while Netser is from Coral Harbour. The two communities make up the constituency of Aivilik, in the dead centre of Nunavut, on the Arctic Circle.

Aivilik was a new constituency in 2008 and in the fourth Legislative Assembly was represented by Steve Mapsalak, one of four MLAs from the current assembly to announce he would not be running again.

Hunting and housing

Patterk Netser returned to live in Coral Harbour three years ago and for the last 7 months has been working as a maintainer for the hamlet. (Submitted by Patterk Netser)

Netser returned to live in Coral Harbour three years ago. For the last seven months he has been working in maintenance for the hamlet.

This job has given him a first-hand look at the housing and infrastructure problems his community is facing, he said.

"The buildings that I look after — I'm 58 years old now and they were built when I was a child. I remember them. We have a real serious deficiency in hamlet infrastructure."

He also says the buildings the hamlet does have could be used more efficiently.

"Our arenas are only used in the winter," he said. "If we put artificial turf in them we could keep kids out of trouble by giving them something to do in the summer months."

Netser never finished high school, but says he doesn't let that stop him.

He ran a gravel company in Coral Harbour for 13 years, worked as power plant operator and a labourer. When he last held elected office, he served as the minister for several territorial departments including the Environment Department, the Housing Department and the Economic Development and Transportation Department.

Netser was MLA for the old constituency of Nanulik, which included Coral Harbour and Chesterfield Inlet, from 2004 to 2008.

If he's elected on Oct. 30, he would like to revisit the memorandum of understanding that dictates the number of polar bears that can be hunted in Nunavut. He says he would like to see the number of tags increased for female polar bears.

Nunavut back on track

One of Jack Anawak's main issues at a territorial level is preserving Inuktitut. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Anawak was MLA for Rankin Inlet North in 1999 in the first Legislative Assembly. Before that he was Nunavut's MP with the federal Liberal Party from 1988 to 1997. He ran in 2015 as the NDP candidate, but lost to Liberal Party candidate Hunter Tootoo.

He tried to run for MLA in 2008, but was denied because it was determined he hadn't been a resident of Nunavut for the previous 12 months, a decision he challenged in court. 

He's also served as the vice president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the country's Circumpolar Affairs Ambassador. Currently he runs his own company, Kivalliq Consulting. He lives in Iqaluit.

"Over the last number of years I have been shouting from the sidelines for the need for Nunavut to get back on track for why it was created in the first place: to ensure that Inuit benefited from the creation of Nunavut."

He says the government bureaucracy needs more Inuit within its ranks and needs to be guided more directly by the elected assembly.

"It's time for strong decisive leadership to say, 'this is where we're going to go, this is how we're going to do it'," Anawak said.

One of his main issues at a territorial level is promoting Inuit traditional knowledge and preserving Inuktitut.

"Nunavut doesn't have a strong enough language policy. We still see English-only signs … or people who answer the phones at some of the government offices only in English," Anawak said. 

Regionally, he wants to see more economic development. He mentioned the possibility of diamond exploration near Naujaat and for Coral Harbour. He says he would advocate for a longer runway, so the community could serve as a search and rescue hub because of its central location.

Anawak is currently facing two counts of impaired driving with his next court appearance scheduled for Nov. 9, after the election. When he appeared in court earlier this month, the case was adjourned to give the lawyers more time to work out a deal.

Anawak wants to see Inuit traditional knowledge play a role in the justice, family services and health departments in particular.

"I was involved as the creation of Nunavut as a member of parliament at the time … June 4, 1993 … Today Nunavut looks different than what we had envisioned. I want to play a big role in getting it back on track."


Sara Frizzell

News producer

Sara Frizzell is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. Previously, she worked as the news producer at CBC Nunavut. She's worked in radio, podcasting and longform journalism since graduating from Carleton University's journalism program in 2013. Contact her at

With files from Michelle Pucci