Community members ask Cambridge Bay council to explain appointment of new mayor

·3 min read
Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell, left, and newly appointed Cambridge Bay Mayor Angulalik Pedersen speak in November to members of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities during their annual general meeting in Iqaluit. Cambridge Bay residents say they're concerned by Angulalik's appointment. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)
Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell, left, and newly appointed Cambridge Bay Mayor Angulalik Pedersen speak in November to members of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities during their annual general meeting in Iqaluit. Cambridge Bay residents say they're concerned by Angulalik's appointment. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)

Community members in Cambridge Bay are calling on the hamlet to be transparent about its process of appointing a new mayor.

Angulalik Pedersen was appointed Cambridge Bay's new mayor on Nov. 4, following the former mayor Pamela Gross' election as a member of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in the territorial election on Oct. 25.

Residents like Peter Ohokak and Charles Zikalala said the hamlet has not been transparent about Pedersen's appointment process. They said Pedersen was appointed in a special meeting over lunch hour without public consultation, and that the community was informed of the decision only through a social media post.

Elections Nunavut
Elections Nunavut

According to Ohokak and Zikalala, residents were surprised by the announcement and are seeking answers. It's why Ohokak and Zikalala have created a petition, which has been signed by community members who share their concern.

"We're wondering why the hamlet municipality of Cambridge Bay, the council members — why did they decide to appoint a mayor for Cambridge Bay for two years, even though we've had tremendous voter turnout in the territory?" Ohokak said.

"And for them to do it in a way that is a bit underhanded and, in our opinion, very snide and sneaky — the way that they informed the community was not acceptable to any red-blooded Canadian who believes in democracy."

Residents decry lack of communication

In addition to calls for transparency, Zikalala said much of the conversation has become heated on social media, with some hamlet employees taking down posts put forth by concerned community members.

Along with challenging the democratic right of residents, Zikalala said the lack of communication is affecting freedom of speech in the community.

"For them to take down posts — it is unethical and it also further silences the voices of the community, especially on such an important topic," he said. "This is a public platform for people to voice their concerns, especially something of this magnitude."

Jane George/CBC News
Jane George/CBC News

According to Pedersen, the hamlet decided to appoint the new mayor instead of holding a byelection because of Elections Nunavut's capacity to support the hamlet.

"The issue that council had with the byelection was that Elections Nunavut was and currently still is busy with the previous territorial election and they had notified the municipality that if we were to go the route of byelection — the mayoral election would not be possible until the new year into 2022," he said.

Mayor addresses communication concerns

Pedersen also said the hamlet does not communicate via social media outside of announcements. He said this has made it difficult for the hamlet to respond to residents' concerns, since many of them have been sharing their thoughts online.

"It's very difficult — impossible really — for the municipalities to conduct business over Facebook and that's where a lot of these issues have been coming up," he said. "We have been very vocal about this … and I have provided my mayor email out as well. If people have concerns, I'm very happy to take them and bring them forward to council."

Pedersen said the hamlet has not received Ohokak and Zikalala's petition but is willing to listen to the community's concerns should they come forth with them. Meanwhile, Ohokak and Zikalala said they are calling on the mayor and council to address the community in a town hall meeting.

Ohokak said he will be presenting the community petition to the mayor on Dec. 6.

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