3 candidates vie for Keith Peterson's former seat in Cambridge Bay
Pamela Gross and Jeannie Hakongak Ehaloak are first time candidates; Harry Maksagak ran and lost in 2004
Three candidates are competing to represent Cambridge Bay in Nunavut's fifth Legislative Assembly, after the most recent minister of finance and justice, Keith Peterson, said he would not be running again.
Peterson held the constituency for 13 years, starting in 2004.
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At the west end of the Northwest Passage, the transportation hub is struggling to revive the Inuinnaqtun language and attract mining investment.
However, the community recently saw the completion of the $142-million Canadian High Arctic Research Station, which is expected to officially open this fall.
For Pamela Gross, who speaks basic Inuinnaqtun, language revitalization is one of the larger issues in Cambridge Bay.
"Inuinnaqtun is a common language in our community, however we have challenges speaking our language to our elders."
As part of that, she says she would like to see a facility in the community to help heal intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools.
"We walk in two worlds. I'd like to see more programing allowing language revitalization and cultural learning," Gross said.
Gross was raised in Cambridge Bay and Hay River, N.W.T., received a certificate from Nunavut Sivuniksavut in Ottawa, a degree in Aboriginal studies from Carleton and a masters in Indigenous governance from the University of Winnipeg.
She is currently the executive director of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society. She has also served on Cambridge Bay's hamlet council, been a board member for the Inuit Heritage Trust and worked as an assistant technical advisor for the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
Programs targeting secondary school uptake and retention are important to her, as are programs that focus on housing people, in both public housing and private homes.
Improved infrastructure, including paving roads and the airport's runway, would also improve residents' health she says.
"It's very hard to manage the dust in our community and that has health implications for people."
Start with housing
Jeannie Hakongak Ehaloak agrees that infrastructure is important to the health of the community.
"I strongly believe that once we address the housing issues all the social issues will slowly subside," she said.
Ehaloak is currently juggling her third term as the hamlet's mayor — she's on leave until after the election — with her position as communications manager for the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
In the past she's served as the president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, the co-chair of Nunavut's infrastructure advisory committee and a chairperson for the Kitikmeot Board of Education.
After her years working with territorial and federal funding programs, Ehaloak says she wants to improve communication between municipalities and government and ensure Cambridge Bay gets quality programming funded.
"Food security is a big one in our communities. Let's balance between traditional harvesting and how we can help those with shopping in the stores," she said.
One way she says she would like to see this balance happen is to recruit the help of the hunters and trappers associations to organize country food for those who can't hunt.
This is all related to planning for the future, the Cambridge Bay resident says.
"We know climate change is happening so let's take the time to learn and understand the impacts."
'A frontline person'
Harry Maksagak ran for MLA in Yellowknife and MLA in Cambridge Bay in 2004, but lost to Keith Peterson — now he's trying again.
Taking a cue from Peterson, Maksagak says the roll-out of cannabis legalization will be an important issue for the next government.
The Cambridge Bay resident worked at Lupin Gold Mine, has been a special education teacher and worked in trucking. He also founded a men's group in the community.
He's currently on leave from his position as a community mining advisor with the government of Nunavut, until after the election.
"I'm a frontline person. I've always been engaged with many of the social situations that come up locally in the community, as well as Nunavut from a broad perspective," Maksagak said.
If elected, one of his main issues will be elder care.
"I've been a very strong advocate for ensuring that we are looking after our elders ... They are left alone and shunned and then when the old age pension comes in, the kids are back home demanding the money," he said.
He'd also advocate for sustainable development projects in mining and infrastructure. For now, he says he wants to see support for residents looking to take their education to the next level.
"We need to help and encourage our graduates to look beyond Cambridge for the moment. There's another world beyond Cambridge. There are other educational facilities outside."
With files from Michelle Pucci