2020 was a year of overcoming more obstacles than usual, but Nunavummiut proved strong as ever

The Issue: The year gone by
We Say: Lessons learned

This was a year like no other.

Most of us are breathing a sigh of relief, ready to start the next chapter of our lives in 2021 after the past year brought an onslaught of new challenges and regulations in the wake of a global pandemic.
Businesses, schools and recreation facilities were shuttered, mines closed to resident workers, trade shows and symposiums were cancelled and it felt as though the entire territory had ground to a halt nearly overnight.

It took most of the year to reach Nunavut’s safe harbour that had been maintained through the use of isolation hubs, social distancing, and increased public health measures, including mask-wearing and hand sanitation, but when Covid-19 did enter the territory Nunavummiut were ready for it.

Rapid response teams were deployed to all affected communities and the federal government added an injection of $19.4 million in funding to help with immediate needs.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the federal government has provided a total of $105 million in Covid-19 support to Nunavut’s communities.

Residents did right by each other, taking care to follow the guidelines set out by the Government of Nunavut (GN) and the chief public health officer, and Nunavut once again planked the curve of infection, with only three active cases remaining in the territory at the time of this writing.

That isn’t to say that we were untouched, with 266 confirmed cases reported and two Nunavummiut – one from Arviat and one from Rankin Inlet – succumbing to the disease.

The spotlight shone hotter and brighter than ever on the housing crisis facing the territory – a crisis that exacerbated the spread of the virus once it reached the territory. The issue was highlighted both by MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who is compiling a report on her experiences during a housing tour of the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions this summer, and through Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated’s infrastructure gap report, which laid out extensively all the areas requiring significant investment for Nunavut to thrive.

“I don’t think as Inuit, we can start to adjust things like violence, abuse, death, suicide until we start adjusting the housing crisis,” said Qaqqaq.

RCMP came under heavy scrutiny following two fatal encounters and another where a man was struck by a stopping vehicle’s door. Independent investigations followed and while officers were cleared of wrongdoing in two of those clearly high-stress situations, the public wanted more transparency and accountability from their police services. Body cameras were called for by many Nunavut politicians including Senator Dennis Patterson, and a national pilot project was launched Nov. 30 in Iqaluit. The RCMP is seeking feedback through a survey online or available at the detachment in Iqaluit.

Challenges came in spades, but so did answers, in the form of impromptu breakfast programs put together by caring volunteers at the start of lockdown, and food banks and soup kitchens working tirelessly to keep up with increased demand.

Essential workers, our health care teams and community volunteers were the true heroes of 2020.

The first doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Iqaluit Dec. 30, and with them some hope that travel – and life in general – may soon become safer again.

No matter what 2021 has in store for us, we know Nunavummiut will face it with as much compassion, kindness, and resilience as was shown over the past 12 months.

Best wishes for the new year ahead.

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