Inuk elder feels forgotten in English-only Nunavut hamlet election
Despite English-only ballots, Coral Harbour’s election results will stand
In hamlet elections across the territory on Monday, Nunavut's languages commissioner heard more than one community ran English-only elections.
While commissioner Helen Klengenberg was able to stop Kugluktuk's election because she received the complaint in advance, in Coral Harbour she said she didn't hear until the day after voting occurred that it was English-only, so the results will stand.
In Coral Harbour, 70-year-old Natuk Paniyuk told CBC she wasn't sure who to vote for because none of the campaign materials were in Inuktitut. On voting day ballots were English-only, and she said she wasn't sure she picked the right names on the ballot.
"This needs to be taken seriously. It feels as if people are saying 'forget the elders, they don't understand us, they don't understand English.' That's how you feel as an elder — you overthink. Are people thinking we don't need elders anymore?" Paniyuk said in Inuktitut.
Paniyuk says important public issues should be conducted in both English and Inuktitut — never just one.
"If it was someone who didn't understand Inuktitut they would be disappointed too. They would find it pointless and not important."
"When you don't understand, it does not mean anything to you," she said.
Under recent legislation hamlet elections — now run by the hamlets themselves — will fall under Elections Nunavut control by 2019.
Klengenberg says she's committed to working with both the municipalities and Elections Nunavut to ensure elections are run in all regionally-relevant official languages.
Kugluktuk is rescheduling its election, but Pihoak Robert Ayalik, who made the complaint that stopped the election, says that's not enough.
He says the hamlet should run a completely new election starting with nominations, in case an elder, who does not speak English, wanted to run and did not understand the process the first time.
"Everything should go through the whole process again, not just the vote. That is so wrong, it's just like trying to resuscitate something that should be dead, should be discarded," Ayalik said.
With files from Jordan Konek