Thursday, January 23, 2014

Canada and Nunavut

This week Canada's National Newspaper has had a special focus on the North - and that is a good thing.

The main story clearly tried to understand Nunavut and put it in context - but it is striking that in so doing the very distance between (the rest of) Canada and Nunavut became obvious. And I don't mean physical distance only.

The story was of an adventurer in a strange land far from home -- and it is very true that most Canadians haven't the faintest idea about the North. The writer was clearly a visitor who would go home and stay there. The sense of Nunavut being Canada, the way, say Nova Scotia is, was utterly lacking.

Even the size of the North comes as a surprise. Fly three hours north from Ottawa and you are in Iqaluit and Iqaluit, while above the tree line, is in the southern arctic. The flight to Resolute requires a further three and three quarter hours flight north from Iq.

The fact that Inuktitut is a living language of daily life is a surprise.

The same newspaper had a story from another writer who took a cruise to Nunavut and Greenland in August. Apparently he stopped in Iq and Pangnirtung. First he was surprised at the temperature - above freezing. Second, after brief stops, he compared both towns to logging camps (despite both towns being well above the treeline) with ugly building for marginal people.

Granted in August a building from the South would be fine in Pang. But come the winter a Southern building would not work -- there is a reason buildings in Nunavut are built the way they are.

And calling Nunavutmiat marginal is colonial in the worst way. To survive on the land is no small challenge. And Inuit traditional knowledge is ignored at great peril in the Arctic.

1 comment:

The Mound of Sound said...

James, I thought of you when I stumbled across this YouTube clip