Community saves Pangnirtung daycare from $120K of CRA debt

It took two years, but the community of about 1,481 people raised more than $120,000 to save a local daycare from shutting down. And they celebrated with caribou meat for all.

'It was on the verge of closing down,' says Julia Tautuajuk, vice-chairperson for the daycare committee

The Attagoyuk Ilisavik Daycare in Pangnirtung was 'on the verge of closing down' because of a $120,000 debt owed to the Canada Revenue Agency. But the community of about 1,481 people didn't let that happen. (Attagoyuk Ilisavik Daycare)

It took two years, but the Baffin Island community of Pangnirtung, Nunavut saved a local daycare from closing its doors by tackling more than $120,000 of tax debt head on.

And they celebrated last week with caribou meat for every household in town.

"It was on the verge of closing down, to the point where we didn't have any more money to pay for the caregivers," said Julia Tautuajuk, vice-chairperson for the Attagoyuk Ilisavik Daycare committee.

The daycare, attached to the Attagoyuk High School, is one of two in town. Built into the school after a 1997 school fire, it prioritizes students with children to access its service.

Tautuajuk said the debt with the Canada Revenue Agency dates back to the beginning of the daycare's operation, due to mismanagement of funds and payroll issues by management at the time. She explained the daycare even closed its doors for two days a few years ago, because it had no money for insurance.

"They ended up blowing money," she said. And paying it back wasn't easy.

"There were times when we paid $10,000 a month, and you just wouldn't see the change because of the high interest rate."

Julia Tautuajuk is the vice-chairperson for the daycare's committee. 'We got out of debt even when we thought [we] will never pay it off,' she said. (Submitted by Julia Tautuajuk)

So the daycare's committee took on the challenge — they ran loonie-toonie drives, raffles and bingos several times a month.

With constant participation from residents, the daycare was declared debt-free in 2017.

"We got out of debt even when we thought [we] will never pay it off," wrote Tautuajuk in a celebratory Facebook post.

"We're able to function regularly now as a daycare without having to worry about where our next funds will be coming from." 

The community will continue to fundraise to keep the daycare running, she said.

Caribou meat for all

Last week, the daycare's committee celebrated the community's determination by distributing caribou meat to every household in the hamlet of about 1,481 people.

The daycare committee ordered 10 caribou from Rankin Inlet.

From the local hunters and trappers organization's freezer, volunteers handed out portions to a long line of residents on Jan. 22. For those who didn't show up, the meat was later delivered to their homes.

The community lined up on Jan. 22 for caribou meat. It was a gesture of gratitude from the daycare, which paid off its debt thanks to community participation in its fundraisers for two years. (Submitted by Sheena Machmer)

"[We] just wanted to thank the people of Pangnirtung — even though I'm pretty sure they got tired of us having loonie-toonie sales," said Tautuajuk.

"But they helped us, and they still help us up to date."

With files from Lissie Anaviapik