Local 793 met with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) at the OETIO Morrisburg campus on Monday, February 10th, 2020.
Business manager Mike Gallagher sat down with PJ Akeeagok, the president of the QIA, to speak on shared interests, and establish an amicable relationship going forward.
The meeting, organized by Carla St. Louis the Director of Marketing and Indigenous Affairs, had been long in coming. Prior to his visit, president Akeeagok was attending the Northern Lights Conference in Ottawa and recognized a good opportunity to tack on a site visit to Morrisburg while eleven QIA students were there.
The Morrisburg campus is currently hosting and training these students in the 6-week Q-STEP heavy equipment program which consists of loader, haul truck and skid steer.
Also in attendance from the QIA was Q-Step Program Manager Romeyn Stevenson, and Director of Communication Sima Sahar Zerehi.
Additional members of Local 793 present at the meeting included Executive Director of OETIO and Vice President of IUOE Local 793 – Joe Dowdall, and Assistant Executive Director of OETIO and Area Supervisor of IUOE Local 793 Eastern Ontario – Rick Kerr.
Seen here from L to R wearing new OETIO hats is Romeyn Stevenson, PJ Akeeagok, Mike Gallagher, Joe Dowdall, and Rick Kerr.
The QIA is the Regional Inuit Association for the Qikiqtani Region of Nunavut and represents 51 percent of Inuit living in the territory located in the Canadian Arctic. They are committed to advancing the rights and benefits of Qikiqtani Inuit through protecting and promoting their social, political, economic and cultural interests.
“It’s our job to take the holistic approach” said president Akeeagok. “We need to balance our economic goals with our environmental ones”.
Proper environmental assessments prior to any proposed projects are an important measure to ensure environmental sustainability. The QIA is committed to ensuring no commitments or decisions are made regarding the Qikiqtani region without conducting studies to evaluate the environmental impact and mitigate negative effects of potential projects.
Gallagher could empathize with the environmental concerns of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
“I’m not going to lie to you, we always like to see work go forward because it benefits our members.” He confessed. “But not without taking proper measures to preserve the natural environment. Sustainability holds importance to each of us”.
The QIA recently received $20 million in program funding from the federal government in atonement for systematic efforts to colonize Inuit of the Qikiqtaaluk region.
Akeeagok was eager to see the training facility in person as it serves an example of what can be accomplished with the appropriate allocation of government funding.
“We are really impressed with the facility and continue to receive great feedback from our youth about their time here” said Akeeagok.
Since the QIA youth joined the OETIO, ‘country food’ – a term for Inuktitut cultural meals – began being shipped to the facility on a regular basis, given that it is an important part of their diet.
“It is the little things you do for our youth that make all the difference in their time here” complimented Akeeagok.
Here’s a view of the snow covered training yard from the facility’s dining hall.
After a site tour led by Director of Marketing and Indigenous Affairs Carla St. Louis, Local 793 and the QIA had an opportunity to sit down with the eleven students as they shared about the communities they were from and their positive experience at OETIO.
“These are the times of my life that are the most memorable” remarked Patrick, one of the students, before looking over his shoulder at his fellow trainees.
Before leaving he scrawled the word ‘Tapiriit’ in pen on a napkin for Gallagher, which expresses the concept of ‘united’ in Inuktitut.
Local 793 was happy for this opportunity to connect with the QIA and learn a bit about their culture.
“I think it’s important we maintain communication like we are doing here today” said Gallagher.
In 2014, Local 793’s charter was expanded to include the entire Territory of Nunavut, as well as Baffin Island in Northern Canada. Local 793 and the OETIO have been training Inuit people from the Territory for several years now.
Pictured below is the eleven QIA students currently training in the Q-STEP heavy equipment program.