Nunavut is a land of opportunity

by Editorial Board- October 15, 2017

The most popular story on our new website, nunavutnews.com, has so far been last week’s profile on Anu Boucher, the young environmental technology student who has a dream of launching her own outfitting business back home in Rankin Inlet.

Hers is a dream that brings together youthful hopes with the vision of a business opportunity in a location that has promise. She has a real shot at this. Much as fashion designer Victoria Kakuktinniq, also of Rankin Inlet, has grown her business from sales on Facebook into a shop in Iqaluit. A mix of skill, tenacity, and demand for her product have brought her dream to life.

Nunavummiut face so many barriers in pursuing their dreams. Burdened with the effects of colonialism, Nunavummiut make due with less infrastructure, as well as fewer education, health and business supports.

And yet, Nunavummiut dream.

Whether it’s the dream of a young woman hoping to start a business, or the dream of Bart Hanna-Kappianaq, who last month headed out on the land hoping to catch some caribou to feed his family and community, we need to understand that opportunity comes with risk, much of which can be mitigated through the development of skill and resilience.

We learned from Hanna-Kappianaq, who survived seven days alone after getting lost, that a lifetime of experience can give us the tools to make it through. He was not perfectly prepared – he says he’ll take an emergency communications device next time – but you can bet he’ll be return to the hunt again soon.

In Nunavut, people dream because there are signs of hope for the future. Witness the fact that Nunavut’s economy is one of Canada’s strongest, and the major employers are intent on passing that fortune back to Inuit. The mines in western Nunavut come to mind.

Especially in business, but also in education, Nunavummiut with a vision have access to funds and opportunities that are more difficult to access in the south. We share the stories of students travelling around the world from their communities, fulfilling their dreams despite the extreme cost.

But too many of our neighbours will go through life with great barriers to fulfilling their dreams. Hobbled by a dearth of supports for mental health in our territory, many will see dreams lost as they cope with the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome (FASD), addiction and despair.

Those who are able to overcome these barriers will need people they can lean on. At the moment, it seems the only support they will get comes from the right mix of family and grassroots supports, such as youth groups and charities.

The government, rather than providing supports, seems content to let the wheels of bureaucracy spin. Where are our trauma and addictions treatment facilities, always promised but never delivered? How are prisoners at Baffin Correctional Centre able to destroy half the place, and what drives them to do so in the first place? Where are the supports for the children – and adults – living with FASD, who would have access to similar supports if they lived down south?

The territory can, and must do better. The Nunavut government needs a dream of its own, and needs its employees and other stakeholders to remain focused on the effort required to fulfil that dream.

This election month, it’s the right time to pick MLAs who share your dream for this territory. That requires the skill of marking an X and the resilience to believe that your vote can make a difference.

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