Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nunavut: true North strong and ...?

“The promise and the perils.”

A front-page headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, April 5, 2011 and written by a Joe Friesen.

This article was part II in a three part series on The Trials of Nunavut.

 Most of you know, Nunavut in the Inuktitut language means, “our land.” In the quest for autonomy when Nunavut was established in 1999, the Inuit likely didn’t bank on “promises” evolving into “perils.”  Nunavut is now plagued with low high-school-completion rates and high violent-crimes. Not a good equation. Add to it another extreme, Nunavut’s population is extremely young: one third of the Nunavutmiut are under 15. The younger population will only get younger. Lord have mercy, you can bet the majority of those 15 year olds will each have at least two kids by the time they’re twenty. I know…it’s a cultural thing.

“Houston, we have a problem?”

The article goes on to ask, “Can Nunavut’s youth build the North’s growing industries, or are they too alienated?” It’s ironic that alienation is now considered and is seen to perhaps likely to perpetuate the state of affairs. After all, it was the very isolation of the Inuit that once kept them intact as a culture. One can only see the many documentaries both in film and photographs and see how healthy they once were.

Fast forward to today: Nunavut woes are huge, “the homicide rate among young people are 10 times higher than in the rest of Canada. Rates of violent crime, from domestic abuse to sexual assault and robbery, are also disproportionately high. While crime rates in the south have declined, they’ve jumped in Nunavut.” For a fulfilled existence, all human beings including the Inuit require a sense of significance and a sense of security. Something they had intact prior to colonization. Instead, within every Inuit community, you find the majority of its population in a zombie-like trance neither working or in school; feeling unworthy with no confidence.  No wonder crime is high. So, where are the Inuit leaders?

Enter Mary Simon, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami., the national political organization representing all Inuit within Canada. She asks, “How can we renew confidence and hope in our Inuit youth?"

She says:

“For the next generation of Inuit, hope lies in education.”
So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL, April 6, 2011.

Hope is the feeling of what is wanted can be had.  Since 1999, broken dreams of Nunavut have them still hoping. For many Inuit though, hope was lost and has resulted in the highest rate of suicide in Canada.

Like the Inuit of old, the Inuit need to regain their sense of significance and security. Unlike the old days though, it’s more of a challenge.  Like all Canadians, education is available to all Inuit but hope should lie in changing the “attitude” towards the value of education.

Mary goes on to  say, “ We need confident parents to raise confident children.” True?

With the high number of teen pregnancies in Nunavut, how much confidence does a teenager have in raising a child? Perhaps, Inuit leaders should consider social education as a precedent to academic education. “But that discussion hasn’t taken hold at any senior policy or political level. “ says a Natan Obed, Director of the department of social and cultural development at Nunavut Tunngavik.

I think that kind of discussion needs to occur first, that’s my hope.