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Canada Picks New Territory’s Govt.

February 16, 1999

IQALUIT, Northwest Territories (AP) _ Across a frigid region bigger than Alaska, residents in some of Canada’s most remote villages voted Monday in a historic election for the first government of Nunavut, a new territory to be created April 1.

About 80 percent of Nunavut’s 25,000 people are Inuit, and the new government is expected to be the first in Canada _ except for tribal councils _ controlled by an aboriginal people.

A total of 71 candidates were competing for 19 seats in the legislature of Nunavut, which is being carved out of the eastern portion of the existing Northwest Territories.

The new territory spans three time zones, and final results of the election were not expected until Tuesday.

Candidates, who had been campaigning in minus 20-degree temperatures, said voter interest was high.

``People are finally starting to realize that with this election comes the start of a long-awaited dream,″ said Goo Arlooktoo, running in a district on Baffin Island.

Jack Anawak, a contender to be Nunavut’s first premier, said the election should be a positive example for aboriginals elsewhere in Canada and abroad.

``This will showcase to the world that we as Inuit can run a public government focusing on our own issues without forgetting others as well,″ he said.

Nunavut faces serious challenges. One-third of its residents receive welfare, and the unemployment rate is 22 percent.

Though Nunavut doesn’t formally exist until April 1, the new legislature will begin work immediately. Its first order of business will be deciding how to choose a premier and Cabinet.

With no political parties, the election has been a low-key affair fought largely on local issues and the personal reputation of the candidates. Campaigns featured little advertising and depended largely on house-to-house handshaking.

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