Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Arctic Communities, Arctic Reserves?

“Military cash could fix crumbling Arctic infrastructure, Ottawa told.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities issues northern strategy in wake of PM’s tour of region.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated August 31, 2010 and written by a Steve Rennie.

Ever watch the nightly news, whether on Global TV or CBC TV?  Ever wonder too, when it comes to forecasting the “national” weather, the weather person mentions nothing of weather reports in Canada’s Arctic. When will the Arctic ever get daily attention like southern Canadian regions? For Prime Minister Harper, at least, he has been making annual visits: this time he can add Inuvialuit (Inuit) dancing to his performing arts resume too.

The above noted article though points to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recommending the injection of cash to fix the Arctic’s crumbling infrastructure. For those of us who are from the Arctic or those of you who have been lucky enough to visit will likely agree the Arctic’s infrastructure mirrors the conditions of the First Nations reserves in southern Canada. In fact, many will agree the Arctic communities are just that: Arctic reserves with gravel roads, no running water (sub-standard quality at best), and decrepit weathered buildings combined with incredible remoteness. While it is important to assert sovereignty with a stronger military presence, money should also be spent in “building healthier communities, protecting the environment and diversifying the regional economy” as outlined in the federal government’s 2007 northern strategy.

While some may agree, there is no money in “world peace” but it is wars and rumors of wars that fuel the world’s economy, let’s therefore use some of that money Canada has promised and inject or stimulate the Arctic economy so that the Inuit can feel some sense of significance: fixing its current infrastructure could be a start. With more attention paid to the Arctic: perhaps Global TV and CBC TV may finally broadcast the weather in Canada’s Arctic in their “national” forecast. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An apology for the Inuit five decades in the making

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published August 19, 2010 written by a Bill Curry.

Late in 2009, I had written the following excerpt from a previous blog.

“Seems as the 2010 Olympic flame criss-crosses Aboriginal communities, issues such as environmental, social conditions, and past experiences are exposed. The latest headline read, “The flame arrives, but Inuit still await an apology,” outlined in the Nov. 10, 2009 issue of the GLOBE AND MAIL.”

Guess what happened today? While in Inukjuak, Quebec, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister, John Duncan said,

“The government of Canada deeply regrets the mistakes and broken promises of this dark chapter of our history and apologizes for the High Arctic relocation having taken place.

The purpose of the relocation of the Inuit to high arctic desolate locations has always been in question, even today.

“While the relocations are often described as an attempt by the government to assert Canada’s sovereignty in the uninhabited Arctic islands, the official government line has insisted that the moves were undertaken with humane intentions.
Mr. Duncan said after the formal apology that Ottawa has “no way to determine” what the true reasons for the relocation were at the time.” In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples “found government documents from the 1930s that show concern about mineral claims in the High Arctic contributed to the relocation discussion. “In addition to placing the Eskimos in new regions where game is more abundant and work more regular, there is the angle of occupation of the country,” states a federal press release found by the commission. “To forestall any such future claims, the Dominion is occupying the Arctic island to within nearly 700 miles of the North Pole.”
Unless embarrassed to do so, the government will never admit the truth.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Talk to the people."

“Talk to the people.”

So read the headline in the Comment section in the GLOBE AND MAIL published August 11, 2010.

As one who has experience on the consultation issue with oil and gas and electrical companies as well as with the National Energy Board (NEB), there is a saying, “If you don’t hear the people, you should fear the people.”

Regulatory organizations like the NEB and even the Government of Alberta have consultation guidelines when it comes to land and resource development that require companies to submit a report on consultations with the general public and Aboriginal people. Apparently, consultations with the public can affect resource and/or land development projects. The NEB, for once in its history, said no a number of years ago to the proposed Sumas electrical project in southern British Columbia: of course, much to the dismay of the proponent.

In this case in the Arctic, a court ruling called for a halt on a proposed seismic testing project in the Lancaster Sound in Nunavut.  Apparently, the Canadian government says the proposed project “will add to the understanding of the geology of the North.” “Geology” likely meaning oil and gas reserves. Kudos to the court ruling though that took into account the consultation and words from the Inuit, “the research project it argued would harm the marine life - narwhal, beluga whales, seals, polar bears and walruses on which traditional life and culture depend in five Arctic communities.” Furthermore, the potential loss of all this marine life as Madam Judge Sue Cooper says, “that the irreparable loss would outweigh the costs to the country of delaying the project. “The loss extends not just to the loss of a food source, but to a loss of culture.” She wrote. “No amount of money can compensate for such a loss.”

“Talking to the people” too should have been a guiding principle when the federal government established the former residential school system. Now, they’re having to compensate all Aboriginal people affected by the legacy of physical and sexual abuses experienced. Yes, no amount of money can compensate for my loss of language and culture.

Let’s hope talking to the people will continue to be a guiding principle as this practise can and should affect proposed development projects.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Call of the Wild

Canada’s North tries to make the world feel the call of the wild.
Attracting visitors from China, India and Brazil seen as a future growth area for the territory ‘s tourism industry.

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published August 3, 2010 and written by a Josh Wingrove.

“Explore Canada’s Arctic!”

That was and perhaps still is the Northwest Territories (NWT) Government’s slogan in marketing its area in Canada’s Western Arctic: full of wildlife, wild spaces, Aboriginal people, and a place where one can still experience a sense of adventure.

As most may know, Canada’s Arctic is a huge part of Canada’s image with iconic images of polar bears, caribou herds, icebergs, Inukshuks, northern lights, igloos, cabins, camping, dog teams, arctic char, rivers, and the midnight sun. Still, very few people including Canadians have experienced Canada’s North.

As an Inuvialuit (Inuit) who grew up in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, all the above images were an everyday experience and a way of life. And, as one who now lives in the Southern Canada, I do miss the “call of the wild.”

“There’s’ a lot of potential up here,” said Lisa Tesar, who runs a campground and organizes a summer festival in Yellowknife.”

Potential is one thing but reality is another.  Reality in experiencing the North has many challenges. Transportation costs are enormous: a return flight only from Calgary to Inuvik is in the neighborhood of $1800. The only ones benefiting in experiencing the Arctic are those employees who are on company expense thanks to Shell, ConocoPhillips, Imperial Oil, MGM Energy Corp and a few others. These companies and staff see oil and gas as the attraction while seeing dog-teams, northern lights, and caribou are residual effects. Those “outsiders” are the lucky ones: in the right place at the right time.

Right now, the NWT Legislature will consider “Tourism 2015, “ a marketing scheme that will hopefully boost the tourism industry targeting China, India, and Brazil.

“Getting the world to experience the North is, frankly, more lucrative, and probably in the long run a more sustainable model because that’s where the growth lines are,” says David Goldstein, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.”

Growing up as a kid in the North, traveling by dog-team, seeing the northern lights, seeing polar bears, eating Arctic char, seeing thousands of caribou, building igloos, paddling the rivers, and experiencing the midnight sun was a way of life.  I guess I was living the "call of the wild." I did not have to pay a cent.

Still, as David Goldman says, “Tourism is a great opportunity, just because of where we are. It’s untouched, and people want to come here.”