50 people out of work at boarding home, lawyer believes Nunavut gov't played a part

The lawyer for the Pairijait Tigumivik Society, which ran Iqaluit’s medical boarding home until Thursday, says she believes the Government of Nunavut forced the end of the society’s contract, which put 50 Iqalummiut out of work.

Pairijait Tigumivik Society ran medical boarding home in Iqaluit until contract abruptly ended Thursday

The lawyer for the Pairijait Tigumivik Society, which ran Iqaluit’s medical boarding home until Thursday, says she believes the Government of Nunavut forced the end of the society’s contract, which put 50 Iqalummiut out of work. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

The lawyer for the Pairijait Tigumivik Society, which ran Iqaluit's medical boarding home until Thursday, says she believes the government of Nunavut forced Nova Group to end the society's contract.

Lawyer Anne Crawford said ending the contract put 50 Iqalummiut out of work.  

"I believe they did that because the Department of Health, the minister of health gave [Nova Group] an ultimatum that said close down that operation or we're going to take away your contract," Crawford said.

The elders' society has had the contract to run the boarding home in Iqaluit for 22 years, Crawford said.

The Department of Health declined CBC's interview requests, but emailed a statement Thursday saying it was informed by the Nova Group that the company had ended its contract with the society. 

Originally, the health department contracted the society directly to run the old boarding home, but when patient numbers outgrew the site, the government hired Nova Group to build the current Tammaativvik boarding home.

The elders' society lawyer Anne Crawford said that all employees will get at least two more paycheques while the society works to figure out severance. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Nova Group, in turn, contracted Pairjiait Tigumivik to run day-to-day operations — almost like a landlord-tenant contract. That arrangement has stood since the new building opened eight years ago.  

The contract funds the society to provide services to 70 beds, though the facility was built to house 90.

On Thursday, Nova Group said nothing has changed for patients, but details are still being worked out and more information will be provided in a few days. Crawford noted that the society's relationship with Nova Group has always been a good one.

Imperfect operation

However, Crawford says Tammaativvik regularly has upwards of 200 patients and escorts slotted to spend the night.

In response, the society bought extra mattresses, and patients often slept in the television rooms or other non-bedrooms at the home.

"That's not where people should be sleeping, that's not what the society wants to provide, but as long as the government will not commit to rooms and space, there won't be investment and we will be stuck."

I don't believe that without any notice or without trying to work through those complaints they were entitled to kick us out.- Anne Crawford, lawyer

She said the society gets little to no advance notice of how many people will need a bed and food, and often has to scramble to make things work. 

Asked for the reason why the contract was terminated, Crawford said,"We all know that the operations haven't been perfect and probably will never be perfect." But she said the government never reached out to find another way to solve the problems.

"I don't believe that without any notice or without trying to work through those complaints they were entitled to kick us out, but our first priority is the patients and the staff who work for us," Crawford said.

The society still has not been given an official reason why the contract was ended, and Crawford said the society will be pursuing their costs, possibly with legal action. 

50 Iqalummiut out of a job

The society is currently providing kitchen staff until another arrangement is made, but 50 people are now out of a job.

Crawford said all employees will get at least two more paycheques while the society works to figure out severance.

Other services the society provides will stay in operation, including the handi-van services, its toonie elder lunches, and the residential services. 

Boarding home services will continue as usual, managed by Nova Group.

With files from Jordan Konek

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