A Gjoa Haven company is accusing the hamlet’s administrator of blocking it from obtaining work and expanding in the community.
CAP Enterprises Ltd. manager Charlie Cahill said the situation escalated after his company sued the hamlet and its senior administrative officer last October for allegedly failing to follow the territory’s Hamlet’s Act.
“We’re trying to build a business and help the community, and they do support, but it doesn’t translate into any administrative co-operation,” Cahill told Nunavut News/North.
CAP Enterprises is an Inuit-owned business that was established in 2002. The company said over the past 18 months it has run into many problems and blames current SAO Shawn Stuckey.
Cahill said last year the hamlet was providing accommodation services and renting equipment to private southern company NDL Construction, contracted to work on a construction project in the hamlet.
He said this is against the Hamlet Act because Northern, Inuit-owned companies like CAP are supposed to be given priority over southern businesses like NDL.
By doing so, Cahill said the hamlet was in direct competition with both of CAP’s businesses – a construction company as well as a bed and breakfast.
Cahill said he initially told Stuckey this broke multiple laws, but he said he was rebuffed by the hamlet administrator.
“So I wrote letters to all these agencies, I went through the system, basically,” he said. “After three or four months, the government did nothing.”
By September, Cahill was fed up and spoke with his Inuit partners about the situation and how they would have no choice but to sue the hamlet to prevent the situation from dragging on.
In documents obtained by Nunavut News/North, the lawsuit by CAP Enterprises Ltd. accuses the actions of the hamlet caused Cahill’s businesses to suffer a total loss of profit of approximately $160,000.
At that point, the government did intervene and told the hamlet their actions were against the law.
But since the lawsuit was filed last fall, Cahill said his losses have grown substantially.
“The SAO is angry with us because he got a slap on the wrist,” he said. “Now, we won’t get our business licence renewed, won’t get our permits approved, anything we do that normally takes two days takes months.”
This blockade against any activity has also stalled the company’s growth and development. Last year, CAP borrowed $500,000 and brought in all the building material for a new office/garage while also applying to the hamlet for the land and a development permit. The new facility would help consolidate all of the company’s operations, equipment and sea cans (metal storage containers commonly moved on ships).
But with CAP’s inability to bid on hamlet construction contracts, the ongoing loan interest payments of $5,000 per month over the last year and the near-total lack of bookings at the bed and breakfast, Cahill estimated the company has suffered at least $300,000 to $500,000 in lost profits.
CAP said it hasn’t even been given the opportunity to bid on multiple recent projects, as the hamlet sole-sourced all of them without any public tenders.
Stuckey said it’s not true that CAP hasn’t worked for the hamlet as a result of the lawsuit filed last October.
“We do use CAP for repairs, we used them last summer for excavating work and backhoe work, stuff like that,” he said, acknowledging that he was served with the papers. “As far as I know, the development permit went to the next council meeting for council to vote on. I also believe CAP is scheduled as a delegate for the council meeting.”
When asked about why CAP hasn’t had its business licence renewed or been granted its development permit, Stuckey said it was because the company submitted one cheque for all of their payments instead of separate cheques.
“They’ll get their permit or licence as soon as they need it,” he said. “All I can say right now is I’ll look into it.”
“This is the first I’ve heard of any of this.”
But Cahill said he had been in business since 2002, and this additional step regarding cheques was just one way for Stuckey to continue to make things unnecessarily difficult.
“Like everything we do in the hamlet, it just get bottled up in administration,” he said. “It takes 10 or 15 minutes to make up a licence.”