Nunavut’s original party planner recalls April 1, 1999

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Bert Rose remembers April 1, 1999 rather vividly because he spent more than a year preparing for it.

Bert Rose just spent his 53rd winter in the North. He retired in Iqaluit, where his children and grandchildren live. He considers Nunavut a success, but thinks guaranteed annual incomes might be an idea worth pursuing. photo courtesy of Bert Rose

While working for the Nunavut Implementation Commission, John Amagoalik and Simon Awa approached him and asked if he’d organize events for the day Nunavut would be recognized as an independent territory.

“I spent the next 15 months doing nothing except planning a party,” says Rose, with a chuckle.

When April 1 arrived, he got right down to business at midnight, taking part in the appointment of a judge so Nunavut had an official legal structure.

After a short sleep, Rose was us up and off to Iqaluit’s Forward Operating Location, which became a bustling hub that day.

One of the six hangars hosted Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Gov.-Gen. Romeo LeBlanc. Another one was transformed into a theatre and television studio. A traditional dance was held in another, a modern dance in yet another.

“The whole hangar was devoted to events of the day,” recalls Rose. “I was just one jump ahead of each activity as it was coming up on the calendar.”

The party lasted until about 2:30 a.m. the following morning.

Rose says creating a new territory within the Canadian federation was no small feat.
“I believe they have done so successfully,” he says, acknowledging that shortfalls are still being addressed, such as fully implementing the land claim and filling vacant positions within government, particularly with a greater ratio Inuit employees.

“When I look around and try and take a bigger picture overview, I see nothing but success,” says Rose, formerly a longtime teacher in the North.

Now retired in Iqaluit, where his children and grandchildren live, he says broadening Nunavut’s economy so there isn’t too much reliance on government is a pressing matter.

However, he’s skeptical that enough jobs can be created to accommodate the territory’s young population. Therefore he’s leaning towards introducing guaranteed annual incomes for Nunavummiut.

“We’ve got to find a different social structure to ensure people are healthy and they have the funds that they need to have a good living,” he says, adding he recently read a report on the subject.

“Some people say if there’s a guaranteed annual income then people won’t want to work. Well, it turns out that’s not quite correct. People do want to work.”