20 juillet 2010

There are very few opportunities for higher education in the north. Other than a few vocational programs, institutions like Nunavut Arctic College and Nunavimmi Pigiursavik, there are virtually no academic opportunities for people who want to pursue non-vocational education in their home regions. This is especially true of Nunavik. There are a bunch of reasons why this is, be it low graduation rate, isolation from the rest of the country and some would say lack of human resources.

The programs we have now have been fairly successful. I think if it were going to be even more successful, a university in the arctic would need to be on an arctic clock, rather than a conventional western clock. By that, I mean follow seasons in a way that Inuit would follow the seasons. Build semesters around a cultural schedule, like for example, a conventional winter semester starts in mid January, then there’s a break around March before ending in early may. Inuit in post secondary get a break to go home in the coldest month where there aren’t a lot of hunting opportunities, but they miss the goose hunting season in April/May. What if the winter semester started in late October, then instead of spring break, it’s Christmas break, after Christmas, people would finish around March and be free just in time for ice fishing and goose hunting. I don’t know, maybe it’s not possible, but something tells me conventional semesters in the north wouldn’t work all that well in the long run (I mean, unless loss of traditional activities and intense assimilation was a long term goal)...

Then there’s concept of intensive semesters. You know, instead of four months of study, make it two. People in the north are most successful when they don’t have to waste so much time in the process. Most people have children; most people suffer from high cost of living. Working for four months while doing full time studies and raising children at the same time in the midst of a housing crisis isn’t very appealing to a lot of Inuit (Or anyone for that matter).

Or maybe something like shift work, shift work has been proven one of the best ways to have employee efficiency among Inuit staff. People work for two or three solid weeks then go hunting for the next two solid weeks. It’s perfect for people that would rather be on the land, but still have bills to pay. A lot of Inuit don’t go to school because that’s too much time not being on the land. Two weeks on, two weeks off might be difficult administratively, but that’s something that can be dealt with. Just to make it even clearer, imagine having two sections of a class in a four month intensive semester. The first section would do 2 weeks, then they would get their break while the next section did their two weeks. It’s repetitive for teachers but hey, they could be on shifts too, just so that they can keep some continuity and flow with their class. Students could use this time to work, go hunting, even sit in on the other sections classes if they miss anything or want to understand more deeply.

There are a whole bunch of other ways this could be done, these are just some things i was thinking of.. We have the chance to create something completely new and different from systems that have been proven ineffective up north. Why don’t we try to be more innovative? We’re starting from scratch here.. let’s not F**k up like they have in the past. JCG

16 juin 2010

I watched CBC News North for the first time in a long time yesterday. I saw a lot of things that bothered me, not in terms of actual content, like headlines and stories, but things like: the reporters, the people they chose to interview and also the fact that it was all in English. I know! I know! We have CBC News Igalaaq, but that’s entirely in Inuktitut. A lot of Inuit, younger Inuit especially do not speak Inuktitut well enough to really understand the program and it delivers news from a purely inuit point of view –not that there is anything wrong with that, but CBC News North is more rounded in the kinds of stories it tells, it’s like, a more holistic approach to informing northerners. I know, translating CBC News North into Inuktitut would mean having to translate it into other northern indigenous languages.. I am fairly ethnocentric though, I mean.. I can only write from my own perspective right? I’ve only known life as an Inuk. But that’s not the point of the post. Just a little tidbit that I thought should be mentioned.. Anyway.. back to main points.

One of the reporters they have in Iqaluit, says IKALUIT. That, to me, is unacceptable. People say it wrong already, we don’t need the media to be pushing the wrong pronunciation just because it’s easier. Way not cool CBC. Enough people in Canada (and probably within your staff) are able to say it properly, get someone who does.

And the last thing: CBC News North did the story on the changes to the Food Mail Program. Northern retailers can now benefit from the program directly, rather than going through Canada Post. Yes! Hooray! I’m all about eliminating the unnecessary middle-man, but that does give an unfair advantage to larger retailers. Smaller, locally owned business do not order the same kinds of quantities as larger chain retailers do, giving them the shorter end of the food mail stick. It’s going to cost them more to compete with NorthMart and Coops and such. They interviewed three Iqaluit business owners who would be hit hardest by this change in policy. Now here’s what i really wanted to talk about.. the three people they interviewed were *drum roll please* all Qallunaaq. They painted a media picture of Iqaluit as a place where the only shop owners are Qallunaat; as if Inuit were not going to benefit or not from this policy change. I mean, I know Iqaluit has a LOT of Qallunaat, but seriously. If you look at the media attention that Inuit get, it’s usually because they are outstanding at something or complete failures. An amazing artist, for example get’s a lot of media. The statistics on suicide and infant mortality get a lot of media. The regular person, the shop owner, the beneficiary of the food mail program does not get any media attention.

There’s no such thing as neutral Inuit in the broader Canadian context. We’re either exotic and mysterious or disgusting and unworthy. It’s all people want to hear. We’re like the pride and joy of Canada because of our beautiful mysterious cultural differences, but at the same time it’s like, Inuit are still wards of the state and no one will let us forget that. What about regular people? You know, your cousin that works at Quickstop, or your ex-boyfriend’s sister in law with the really cute kid. People can’t comprehend the notion that we are just people, living our lives. I know this seems pretty far removed from the food mail program, but CBC’s interpretation of it ties it all together perfectly. Does Canada want regular Inuit? Or does Canada feed on the age old image of smiling exotic Eskimos? (and what can we do to change that?)....

3 juin 2010

Inuit mothers are amazing. These days, it seems like so many Inuit women and girls are raising children completely on their own. Traditionally, this was very rare, but in this day and age, it’s all too common. What went wrong here? Why is it that so many Inuit men are just not taking responsibility for their own children? Often, they’ll go as far as recognizing that a child is theirs, but it ends there. No financial, parental or even emotional support is given to the mothers who struggle to maintain their sanity and financial wellbeing. Although Inuit women do generally get support from extended family -parents, siblings, aunts or cousins- that doesn’t equal the presence of a father in a child’s life.

Too many of the women I’m close to are in this very situation, which has prompted me to start asking these questions.

A lot of the time, people are simply separated by distance. The communities are spread so far apart that the cost of travel can be financially crippling to say the least, especially from one coast to the other. When a couple does choose to stay together for the sake of the child, it’s usually (not always!) but usually the mother who moves away from home, which makes her more vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment from her boyfriend/husband and even in a few cases, his family. The prospect of being abused and socially unaccepted in an unfamiliar community is more daunting than singlehandedly raising children.

In cases where people want to stay in their home communities, child support is an option, but (surprise!) many men just don’t pay. I mean, it is difficult to survive up here with such an incredibly high cost of living, but that’s absolutely no excuse to make a woman shoulder the entire burden of financially supporting a child or children. Take into account the cost of daycare (which I believe is subsidized in Nunavik, as we are part of Quebec. . but still, 7$ a day could buy –what? a litre of milk? Real orange juice? Maybe some broccoli?), diapers, milk, food, clothing and everything else it requires to raise a child, a woman is left with a HUGE responsibility. Many women are unable to work because they either cannot find or afford babysitters when daycares are full or not functional (which is the case in some communities).

In a culture where family values are of utmost importance, what does it mean to have almost an entire generation of kids who grew up without the presence of a father? All of those Inuit sons with no one to teach them to hunt, to build igloos and butcher meat.. no one to show them what it means to be an Inuk man; all of those beautiful Inuit daughters with no male presence to show them that they are valuable and worthy of love and respect.

Not only does it take a community to raise a child, it takes a father.

3 juin 2010

Hi, welcome to my blog. I was asked to be part of the Avataq team as a blogger because I’m a passionate writer. I believe that knowledge is power and I believe that my purpose is to help others gain knowledge. It seems as though the people of Nunavik have very few resources in terms of dependable, unbiased media. I want to give you my promise as a writer that I will only speak the truth and I will not be intimidated by anyone. That is one of our biggest problems in Nunavik… people don’t always say what they think because there’s always someone to shut them down; always. But I promise you, my reader, that I will not be shut down. I will say what I think should be said.

Do not take it personally if I disagree with you or your opinions. Just know that I have a voice and I am well prepared to use it. I will be the voice of reason in a region where people sometimes feel censored. We live in a democracy; it’s the least I can do to do my part.

Anyway, enough about that. I’ll just introduce myself quickly:

I’m a young person who grew up in one of the smallest communities. I’ve seen and known more than people might think. I’ve lived up north and down south, in small, medium and large communities, I’ve lived in cities and near farms. I’ve attended university and travelled the world. I still have lots of schooling to do and lots of traveling to do as well. I take pride in who I am and where I come from. This amazing place in Arctic Canada that nobody knows about is my home, you are my people and I want nothing more than a secure future for all of us. I want us to keep Inuktitut alive, not just the language but the culture. Inuuvugut, uqausivullu ilurrusivullu kamatsiarialivut. Without us, it could all disappear. That’s an unacceptable fate for such a strong, beautiful, unique culture. We were born survivors, we were born to withstand hardships, we have the capacity to successfully create a better world for ourselves. We’re rich with the knowledge of our elders and the energy of our youth. We are lucky to have this place to ourselves! This virtually untouched, pristine arctic paradise is our home. We are the keepers of this land and we hold the keys to our future. I want you to understand that and be proud of it!

So that, ladies and gentlemen is my introductory blog post. Please stay tuned for more. I welcome criticism and debate, please let me know what you think and how you feel about my thoughts, questions and big ideas!