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Vandals strike twice
Thousands of dollars in damage to Pangnirtung cultural centre and bylaw vehicle

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 24, 2014

Vandals in Pangnirtung have caused thousands of dollars in damage to the community for a second weekend in a row.

NNSL photo/graphic

The windows were smashed and a roof-mounted beacon light was broken on the municipal bylaw officer's Ford Explorer in Pangnirtung on the night of Feb. 15. - photo courtesy of James Paris

On the night of Feb. 9, one of the hamlet's most beloved establishments, the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts, was broken into.

The facility showcases local artists and provides working spaces for residents, among other uses.

The following weekend, the vandals - it's still unknown whether it was one or many - targeted the municipal bylaw officer's vehicle, smashing its windows and breaking the roof-mounted beacon light, rendering the vehicle obsolete.

James Paris, general manager at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts, said he found out about the break-in as he was heading back to the community after a series of trade shows and meetings down south.

He said the news was "demoralizing."

"I've spoken to a contractor and he said the damage to the windows is between $10,000 and $15,000," said Paris.

"We're still in the process of evaluating the damage but there is probably between $7,000 and $8,000 worth of damage to small and large carvings."

Dozens of carvings, prints and sculptures were either destroyed or stolen and significant damage was also caused to shelves and office windows inside the building.

The break-in at the centre is a significant blow to Pangnirtung's local economy, while the facility is forced to close down and artists are temporarily no longer able to sell their crafts.

Paris, who has lived in the community for a year and a half, said it was the biggest break-in after a series of smaller ones. Ideally, he hopes he can limit the closure to three weeks.

"We have a lot of things on the go, such as the next print collection and hiring new weavers," he said.

"You have immediate damage but the loss of inventory means lost sales down the line.

"Because we have to focus all our efforts on containing the building and keeping it warm, right now we're on very limited operations."

The centre currently employs three active printmakers, three senior weavers and is a popular spot for elders to come in from time to time.

Paris said the vandals tried to get in through the front door, which had been reinforced since the last break-in, but gave up that option in favour of breaking a nearby window.

Pangnirtung's interim senior administrative officer, Ed Murphy, said the municipal bylaw officer's vehicle was likely vandalized during the night of Feb. 15, and doesn't know if the incidents are linked.

The vehicle was parked outside the hamlet's garage, located near the airport.

The incidents are reminiscent of vandalism caused at the Pangnirtung airport last July, when someone broke into a small aircraft and stole thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

Two weeks prior to the incident in July, an intoxicated man had thrown a large rock at a helicopter, destroying a window.

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