Sheila Nasogaluak hopes to become the next MLA for Nunakput.
Having worked at municipal level for Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok, then at the NWT government and as a constituency assistant to former Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Floyd Roland, Nasogaluak said having the lived experience of being from a small community and overcoming barriers in her own life is important.
Nasogaluak said the district faces three major challenges: health, housing, and education. If elected, she is calling for a review of how rental rates in public housing are calculated, saying seasonal high-paying work is common and the current method of rent calculation doesn’t work for the district.
Information flow from the NWT government to the communities needs to be improved, Nasogaluak said, in terms of the programs and services available. “Use your social media, speak in the language, write in the language of the community,” she said.
For a new polytechnic university, Nasogaluak said a structure similar to Aurora College’s satellite learning centres could work for the region. She stressed bandwidth would need to be improved and programs would need to be targeted to the needs of the people in the region.
Residents are already responding to climate change, which is acutely felt in her district, Nasogaluak said. “As a people we’re flexible, we’re adaptable, we’ve recognized it and we’ve taken it into consideration when we go on our annual spring hunts, winter hunts.”
If elected, Nasogaluak said she would review existing work by the government on climate action and proceed with long-term policy-making based on science.
Below, find a transcript of the full interview.
Listen to the full interview by downloading or streaming Cabin Radio’s Lunchtime News podcast. Nasogaluak’s interview air date is September 25.
More interviews: Browse our 2019 NWT election coverage so far
This interview was recorded on September 9, 2019. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Emelie Peacock: Tell me about yourself and why you decided to run for MLA in Nunakput.
Sheila Nasogaluak: I’m originally from Sachs Harbour, which is the smallest community in the riding. And my reason for running is that I feel that in the lived experience when you’re from a small community, there are many hurdles. There’s the high cost of living, there are barriers to accessing health services, to education, to getting programs put into in the community by the college where you have to have a minimum number.
I worked through those barriers. I was a junior high dropout. I went back to what was then Arctic College, now Aurora College in Inuvik, had to do the upgrading in Grades 8 to 10 modules, and then the 10 to 12. On successful completion of those, I took the business admin certificate. I was successful in that and went on to take the diploma program. That was back in 1995-96. And I completed, successfully, the diploma program.
With that diploma in hand, it opened many doors. It opened doors that I never thought were attainable for me, working in government, in the private sector and with the land claim groups.
Why put your name forward this year?
There are many reasons, not one specific reason. The one reason I put my name forward is not because I know a lot of people in the region. It’s because I know that I am qualified, committed and able to fulfill the tasks of MLA. And that’s not to say that the previous MLA was not doing the task as per the constituents. Like a job competition, you know, may the best person come forward.
And it’s going to be the people, and the people base that on who they know as a person, how they have worked, what they’ve overcome, the stability. And this year, I have no home commitments. Next year, no home childcare, not that that should be an issue. But I have confidence in getting and seeing issues dealt with, whether they be difficult issues or not.
You mentioned several difficulties that you’ve overcome living in Sachs Harbour, being from a small community. In your opinion, could you sum up what you see as the three most pressing issues in the Nunakput region? And if elected, what would you like done on these issues?
The most pressing issues, there’s always the big three and they still are. That’s health, housing, education.
If elected, on the housing issue I would like to see a review, definitely, on the verification of income from previous years which bases to your current year’s rent. As we all know, work is seasonal, oftentimes high-paid and you’re OK for the term of the project. However long that may be. When the project is done, going into 2019, based on last year’s income, your rent is at $1,145, $1,650 or whatever, based on your number of bedrooms that you have. Where’s the justification in that? It’s a process that has to be looked at.
I understand that housing is in partnership through CMHC and they’re the ones that define the guidelines and the programs and how money and rent are collected. Does it work up here on the verification of income? If there was steady income, yes. Then there’s a threshold you reach, where you’re above that and you look for private housing. How does that affect those in the communities that are above that threshold and there is no private housing available? If elected as MLA, I would look into the policy of the verification of income based on prior year earnings.
You mentioned health is one of the big three for you and Nunakput communities are in need of improved health services, including mental health services. Do you think the GNWT is handling health in your region adequately? What more would you like to see done?
GNWT is handling health as adequately as they can within the policy framework. How health delivery service goes in the communities is sometimes a different side to how delivery of health is… When there is an issue, a matter of health, sometimes with the shortage of nursing, just filling in those gaps to get a body into a nursing station.
Government has a commitment to fill positions and provide a service, that is clearly outlined. And they are doing due diligence when they do that. But the delivery of service on the HR side… it’s not just a service, it’s a human connection with the people. Is there adequate time for that staff person to take in the cross-cultural training? Is there adequate time for them to get to know that the demands of that station will be high at peak times? That they’re going to enter a community is isolated? Which does add pressure to a staff person in the health field.
What are some things that the GNWT and yourself, if elected as an MLA, could do to support these workers? It sounds like you would also like to educate these workers or prepare them for these postings.
Government could put all the information up front. Just like running for this MLA, we know it was going to take a lot of time commitment, planning, and financial resources. Do all of us have that in place? There may be areas that are missing, but put all the information in front of us. So we’ve taken that into consideration and put our names forward.
That same process and information sharing with possible candidates, they could self-screen themselves out and ask themselves, “Am I ready to live in an isolated community even though I’ll be making $75 an hour and stay there? Am I going to give my best?” That up-front information with the possible candidates that will be selected to go into these remote stations clearly has to be identified to them.
You mentioned education is a big priority. How would you like to see a future NWT polytechnic university work for your region?
With today’s technology, education can be delivered anywhere. Is the internet bandwidth sufficient? Probably not. If there is a delivery of those services, base it on where the needs of the people will be. Ease of accessibility. Does the government want one big centre or do they want two, or maybe three satellites centres that are delivering the same programs? Aurora College has satellite learning and I would look at that model, the delivery of the program that’s in place. Why reinvent the wheel if something is working? Look at it, tailor it to the needs of the region and the people, test it out and go from there.
Switching gears a bit, I would like to speak about infrastructure. The road to Tuk opened in 2017. What other infrastructure projects would you want to see the GNWT move on, over the next four years?
Definitely the marine. That one was a big scare, you know, and a big learning curve for Nunakput. The Marine Transportation Services. We want, every year, reliable cargo transportation to our communities.
Internal services, yes, of course, we want smaller government buildings and maintenance to be up to par and those to be checked, reviewed. See what climate change is doing. It’s going to affect a lot of the buildings in place.
I’m pleased with driver and vehicle services, you can register online. Previously, you would have to come to a regional centre. Now that department goes out to the communities, they do the pictures and photo ID, which is excellent for our Elders and the people that have to travel out of the Northwest Territories.
Under infrastructure, they have this community access program and it’s available to all communities. Do we all know about it? I don’t know how the information flow is going but it provides access roads to hunting, fishing, and with harvesting and community recreational areas, that’s direct off the website. Like trails connecting to the community for walking, hiking – those things that are actually available there to the community. I would encourage all the communities in Nunakput to access those.
I feel that, this is my personal opinion, information flow of what is out there for communities and residents to access is not readily available.
What are some ways that the GNWT could reach these communities better with regards to information flow?
Use your social media, speak in the language, write in the language of the community.
I always use the joint review panel example of the Parsons Lake footprint. They said the footprint of Parsons Lake will be the size of two football fields. Is there a football field in Tuk, in Ulukhaktok, Sachs, or Paulatuk? No, we don’t know what’s the size of a football field unless we’re a sports jock.
So that type of information should flow down to the community in the language that they understand. And in regards to forms, next steps and actual samples of forms, how to be filled out.
Climate change impacts your region more than any other in the NWT given that you’re the northernmost. What are some thoughts you have on this issue and how the government can tackle it?
Climate change is happening worldwide. It’s impacting the world, it’s impacting their governments, it’s impacting our government. Climate change, there is no one solution. Being in the northernmost region and the Arctic as a whole, we are affected most. Science definitely has to be part of the policymaking.
As a people, we’re flexible, we’re adaptable, we’ve recognized it and we’ve taken it into consideration when we go on our annual spring hunts, winter hunts. And we take those into consideration. We’ve acknowledged that things aren’t what they used to be, what our parents taught us about certain areas, times of the year. Those are not the same any more. That’s climate change.
It’s happening, it’s a fact of life. Work with it, get to know it, understand it and involve science in policy and the community.
And are there specific measures that you would want to implement or push for on climate action for your district?
I would review measures in place. I would educate myself as to what is there. What plans are out there? Which ones are the long-term, which ones are the short-term? Which ones are applicable? Consult always with the governments that are in place and have a long-term strategy built.
Why should the residents of Nunakput vote for you on October 1?
They should vote for me because I’m hardworking, I’m committed. I’ve taken the time to get to know a lot of you personally. I’ve worked in your community and for the next four years, I will be that voice in the legislature.