Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna waits to begin the morning session of the Western Premiers conference Thursday July 10, 2014 in Ottawa. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)"I will certainly verify if it was in the agreement," said the minister responsible, adding that it sounded serious and if the government had neglected to include it they'd remedy the situation as soon as possible.
'It's quite different'"Every elected MLA has the opportunity to participate in (forming) the government's mandate. That's probably the most unique thing." Beyond its legislative assembly's congenial nature, Canada's most northerly capital building stands out in Confederation for its fusion of Western and Inuk cultural traditions. That should come as no surprise, given that the creation of the territory came out of an enormous and lengthy aboriginal land-claims agreement and that nearly 84 per cent of the territory's 37,000 people are Inuit. Nunavut means "our land" in the Inuk language of Inuktitut.
The floor of the Nunavut Legislature is shown in Iqaluit on June 1, 2016. (Photo: Geordon Omand/CP)Within the legislature's assembly hall, which can be toured if the legislature isn't sitting, 22 seal skin-lined seats face each other around a ring from which legislators address one another using both English and Inuktitut. This circular orientation is another symbolic departure from parliamentary tradition, where the usual distance of two sword lengths between opposing rows of parallel benches was meant historically as a safeguard against the possibility of violence. Curved wooden beams form an igloo-shaped dome around the assembly, while the centre of the circle plays host to a soapstone figure of an Inuk drum dancer caught in mid-sway. Behind him lies a full-size, rope-lashed sled carrying a variety of traditional Inuk hunting implements. The legislative assembly is located in the territorial capital of Iqaluit, population 6,700, and has governed over one-fifth of Canada's territory since Nunavut came into being on April 1, 1999. This makes it one of the largest and most sparsely populated regions in the world.
Mace has local flairConstruction delays marred the capital building's opening, leading the territory's inaugural assembly to meet for a short time in the gymnasium of a nearby high school. Throughout the three-storey structure of glass and wood are gifts of welcome for Canada's youngest political jurisdiction, given from Canada's various provinces and territories, as well as from Greenland, indicative of the close cultural links between the two regions. On the wall behind the Speaker's chair hangs Alberta's offering: an elaborate wooden carving of Nunavut's coat of arms. Flanked by a caribou and a narwhal, the carving's central shield depicts several of Nunavut's most prominent symbols, including the iconic Inukshuk stone wayfinder, the qulliq blubber lamp, a stylized trajectory of the midnight sun and Niqirtsuituq, the North Star. Even the legislature's mace — a timeless symbol of the supremacy of parliament — has a local flair, crafted from the tusk of a narwhal. After depositing the mace before the Speaker of the house to mark the start of the day's proceedings, the sergeant-at-arms recites the Lord's Prayer in Inuktitut. The remoteness of Nunavut's legislature often puts it out of sight for everyday Canadians. But its unique blend of Western and Inuk traditions offers a homegrown alternative to the antagonism that is often equated with conventional Canadian politics.
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