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Hunters and trappers get funding boost

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 10, 2007

NUNAVUT - A major funding boost for Nunavut's hunters and trappers organizations (HTOs) was welcome news to managers who say they have been struggling to keep up with rapidly increasing workloads.

Retroactive to April 1, 2007, the federal government is increasing HTO budgets to $120,000 annually - enabling them to pay a full-time wage to one employee.

"It's better than what we had before ... maybe they're finally recognizing all the HTOs, all the work we do for the federal government," said Nancy Amarualik, manager of the Resolute Bay HTO.

Up until now, most HTO managers have been working full-time hours for a part-time wage, she said.

"We're the bottom of the ladder - we're the poorest, we don't have our own office, we're the lowest paid and everyone uses us," she said.

As a local liaison for federal, territorial and scientific interests, the demands on her group have increased every year since she started in 1997, she said.

"The workload really rose with this International Polar Year," she said. "But even before IPY, they started talking about climate change, and people wanted to start studying the land."

This year, Resolute received more than 40 research applications, compared with fewer than 20 in 2000.

Each application must be reviewed and then examined with the board, which is not easy given the scientific terms most contain, she said.

"Some of the words they use are not easy to understand, and not easily translated into Inuktitut," she said. "Resolute and Grise Fiord have the largest land of the other communities to monitor, and we get the most research applications in all of Nunavut, I would guess. It takes up most evenings, most of the meetings."

Grise Fiord HTO manager Lydia Noah said she also found herself working longer hours to juggle the various tasks delegated to her group, all of which are done out of an office in a dilapidated government building, shared by a local economic development officer and social worker.

"There's no running water, the furniture is breaking down, the light's dim. It's been condemned for years," she said.

Many of the changes prompting the increase in scientific interest in the North are affecting the HTOs as well.

Kugaaruk HTO manager Ema Qaggutaq said his group is currently waiting on funding to conduct a caribou hunt further afield this year, because caribou have grown too scarce around the community.

"We have had to travel further out onto the land to find it. We recently did harvest a few about 20 miles out, but it's not going to last," he said. "It's happening more often, it's becoming an annual thing.

"I think they used to get pretty scarce back in the 70s or 80s, but they used to be a lot closer 10 to 15 years ago.

After that they started going further south for some reason."

The decision to increase funding overall by $2.35 million to Institutions of Public Government (IPGs) - which include the Nunavut Water Board, Nunavut Planning Commission, Nunavut Impact Review Board, and the Wildlife Management Board - was reached in January 2006 between the federal and territorial governments and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI).

The decision was made in line with a report by appointed conciliator Thomas Berger, who recommended the federal government increase its funding to the IPGs according to its responsibilities under the land claims agreement.

NTI has requested that the funding be made further retroactive, to January 2006.