North's only senator promises 'extraordinary' effort to hear from Nunavummiut

Nunavut is the only northern jurisdiction with representation in Canada’s Senate at the moment, after three senators have resigned in the past year.

Dennis Patterson says he will visit all 25 Nunavut communities this year

In 2009, Dennis Patterson was appointed to represent Nunavut in the Senate of Canada. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

Senator Dennis Patterson said he wants to make sure the concerns of the Nunavummiut are heard in Ottawa this year. 

Currently, Nunavut is the only northern jurisdiction with representation in Canada's Senate, because three northern senators resigned in the past year.

Senator Charlie Watt is in the process of resigning his Senate seat. 

Watt was outspoken on issues affecting Nunavik in Northern Quebec. Last week, he was elected president of Nunavik's Inuit advocacy group, the Makivik Corportation, and won't serve in both roles.

The Senate seats in Yukon and the Northwest Territories have been vacant since August and September respectively.

The Senate exists to give regions and minorities in Canada a voice in Parliament.- Senator Dennis Patterson

Conservative Dennis Patterson says the Senate's special committee on the Arctic will have to be rejigged now that Watt is gone. He was selected to chair the committee. 

Patterson said the committee, which met in December for the first time, will continue. 
Sen. Charlie Watt, who was outspoken on issues affecting Nunavik in Northern Quebec is in the process of resigning his Senate seat. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

Senator says he will visit 25 communities  

Patterson said he plans to put in "extraordinary effort" this year to visit all 25 Nunavut communities to hear from residents. 

"I hope to give Nunavummiut value for money [on this trip], by making sure their voice is heard in Ottawa," he said. 

"The Senate exists to give regions and minorities in Canada a voice in Parliament."

He will begin by visiting the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut on February 9.

According to Patterson, the visits will take up the majority of his breaks from Senate for the year.  

In addition to the community outreach, he has also posted an online survey so Nunavummiut can share their concerns on his website.

Patterson said the idea came to him when he attended a Nunavut Association of Municipalities meeting late last year. 

Mayors cite lack of consultation

That's where he heard Nunavut's mayors say they felt they hadn't been consulted in upcoming federal decisions, such as marijuana legalization, the new Arctic Policy Framework and carbon pricing.

In regards to marijuana, he said the mayors expressed a desire for drug and alcohol treatment facilities. They were also worried about work and school attendance, and the effect on youth.

Patterson said other senators have also expressed concern about the marijuana legislation. He said they have the opportunity to make amendments to legislation and grill the ministers on issues that arise in the region.

He also people are concerned with how carbon pricing will change the cost of living in Nunavut. 

"It will make the cost of living higher in an already very high cost of living jurisdiction," he said.

"What I'm hearing is Nunavut should be exempted from the carbon price, until the federal government assists Nunavut to develop serious alternate energy sources."

With files from Michelle Pucci