Kivallirmiut concerned about who can run and vote in Inuit Association election

Nunavut’s premier, many university and college students and those away from the Kivalliq region for long-term medical treatment are finding out they can’t vote in the upcoming election for the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA). 

Changes made to the Inuit organization’s election policy in October 2017 require Kivallirmiut to have been “physically and actually resident” in the region for a full year before the election date in order to vote. 

The election is Dec. 9, so anyone who hasn’t lived in the Kivalliq for a chunk of time since Dec.9, 2018 can’t vote. 

This includes Premier Joe Savikataaq who is ineligible to vote in the election, because his job requires him to live in Iqaluit. 

“I am disappointed, and I hope that KIA looks at their bylaws as soon as possible, to ensure all Kivalliq residents travelling for work, school or medical will have the opportunity to vote in future elections,” Savikataaq said in an emailed statement. 

Nancy Karetak-Lindell is the chief returning officer, when she accepted the contract to organize the election she said she looked through the election policy and what she saw “threw [her] off”. 

Nancy Karetak-Lindell is the chief returning officer in charge of organizing the Kivalliq Inuit Association’s Dec. 9 election. (CBC News)

“[We] found a section on eligibility of voters that looked very different than any other that I’ve ever worked with,” Karetak-Lindell said, referring to the physically resident section. 

“I had to get a legal clarification of what that meant. And once receiving that we realized that we had to make adjustments to the voter’s list.” 

She clarified that the restrictions don’t bar those who spend a few weeks away for medical reasons and then return home from voting, but do prohibit those who need to move to receive treatments like dialysis or have moved to an elders facility. 

People who maintain second residences for work or school are also disenfranchised from KIA elections. 

The updated voters lists are now on KIA’s website, Karetak-Lindell said. 

Tagalik Eccles found out she can’t vote because she is attending Nunavut Arctic College’s law program, which is only offered in Iqaluit. 

“It doesn’t make me feel very good because I am still a resident of the Kivalliq. I will be returning to the Kivalliq when I’m done my studies,” Eccles said. 

She said she’s also ineligible to vote in the Qikiqtani Inuit Association elections because she’s not from the region it represents. 

She also pointed out that she’s receiving scholarship money from KIA, so one part of the organization considers her from the Kivalliq. 

“[The voting policy] is concerning because if we want to continue our education oftentimes we have to leave our region,” Eccles said. 

Tagalik Eccles will not be able to vote in the upcoming elections for the Kivalliq Inuit Association because she is currently going to Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Who can be a candidate?

But Eccles was concerned about more than just who can vote, but also who can run in the election. 

“The amount of people who are running is already a small number but it’s concerning because that number gets smaller as more of these provisions are created,” Eccles said. 

To run for KIA president, candidates must have lived “physically and actually” in the Kivalliq for at least four years. 

Any candidate for a position on the board of directors, which includes the positions of president, vice-president, secretary-treasurer and a representative from each of the communities, must meet several requirements: 

  • Fluency in Inuktitut. 
  • Must be at least 19 years of age by on election day.
  • Must be a beneficiary of the Nunavut Agreement.
  • Must have been physically and actually resident in the Kivalliq at least a year.
  • Must not be an elected official at the municipal, territorial or federal level.
  • Must not have been fired with cause from an Inuit organization within the last three years.
  • Must not have a relationship with “any contractor, subcontractor, lessee, licensee or permittee which does business with KIA whereby the candidate or the business for which the candidate works earns any form of remuneration.”
  • Must not be a member of the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the Surface Rights Tribunal or the Nunavut Water Board. 

Anyone who is already in a director position and wants to run for another before their term is over, must resign from their current position. 

“One of the main issues that I had with this is that nobody was made aware of it up until a month before the election, so nobody was able to say anything,” Eccles said. 

“I want to ask the board members why was this passed without a message sent to the community.” 

KIA did not respond to CBC’s request for comment.

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