Nunavut Tunngavik President Cathy Towtongie today expressed serious concern over the continuous pattern of discriminatory employment practices specifically targeted against a growing number of Inuit employees at the Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC).
Since June, 2010, at least seven Inuit QEC employees have filed union grievances or wrongful termination lawsuits or reported to NTI unfair treatment of Inuit employees by QEC management. Most disturbingly, it is alleged that Inuit employees have been disciplined for raising Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Article 23 issues, which contain provisions related to the obligations of the Government of Nunavut and its agencies to create a representative workforce.
“These cases are not isolated incidents or random acts unrelated to each other. These events show a consistent pattern of discriminatory practices by some senior QEC managers toward Inuit employees,” said Towtongie. “NTI sent several letters to QEC Minister Lorne Kusugak and QEC President Peter Mackey requesting that the discriminatory practices be addressed and NLCA Article 23 be fully implemented and respected at QEC. In the responding letters, Minister Kusugak and Mr. Mackey defended QEC employment practices, denied discrimination and maintained that employee discipline are internal matters not open for discussion with NTI,” said Towtongie.
Minister Kusugak also rejected NTI’s repeated requests for QEC to conduct independent reviews of employment practices, and also rejected NTI’s proposal for a joint Inuit employment committee.
Towtongie said that QEC, as a crown corporation, has a legal obligation to implement NLCA Article 23. NTI, as the organization representing the rights and interests of Inuit under the NLCA, has responsibility to ensure QEC respects both the letter and spirit of Article 23.
“QEC cannot hide behind a curtain of confidentiality or self-serving processes that attempt to hide discrimination by concocting workplace offenses that allow for the unfair punishment of Inuit who speak up for their rights. Nor can the management of QEC hide behind its overall Inuit employment percentage while systematically denying Inuit employees the opportunity to advance to supervisory and managerial positions by imposing professional qualifications that are artificial and unnecessary and tolerating or encouraging discriminatory practices against Inuit employees,” said Towtongie.
NTI demands that the QEC respect Inuit rights in the NLCA, and that the GN take immediate actions to ensure that QEC respects and values Inuit employment at every level.