EDITORIAL: Government’s engagement efforts missing the target

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Considering the long-term rewards possible with a good education – a good job, stable income, sense of purpose, and others come to mind – we like to think education is a pretty important issue of concern to all Nunavummiut.

The last government’s efforts to eliminate a deadline for a bilingual education including Inuktitut for all high school students should be a concern, in our view. The new proposed deadline is a generation away – 2039 for Inuktitut and 2037 for Inuinnaqtun.

The government noted that it brought education reform consultations to all 25 Nunavut communities, and engaged with 829 residents. This is better than some government consultations we’ve attended – some in the capital city have drawn zero attendees other than media – but brings the total proportion of those engaged at just over two per cent.

We’ve found many of our readers are not engaging with the news of the policy changes. The state of education being what it is, and the amount of controversy generated by the Government of Nunavut’s failed attempts to bring in changes that would have diluted Inuktitut language requirements for high school graduates, it’s surprising to see the lack of interest evident in the results of a government territorial tour and on our own Facebook and website statistics.

As with the government consultations, it’s easy to look at the statistics and believe that there’s no interest in these important developments.

We can look to our own industry as an example of where the government, and perhaps we, are approaching the situation in the wrong way. The New York Times performed a review of their own news products, and found that stories their journalists considered important were going unnoticed and yet usually required a greater investment of time and money. In response, depending on the story, they either stopped pursuing those types of stories, or shifted the way they present them to better meet the needs of their readers.

We’re ready to adjust our approach. The New York Times kept pursuing important stories, but started doing it in a way that was more engaging, and hit their intended audience in a more effective way.

The Government of Nunavut could learn a thing or two, too. Perhaps town halls – which on average attract too many Qallunaat and not enough Inuit – are not the way to properly reach the Inuit audience where they are.

The inclusion of territorial media is a start. Nunavut News reaches thousands of Nunavummiut across the territory each week in print and online, and we have about the same number of Facebook followers as the territorial government. Awareness campaigns need to involve promotion, but also engagement. Our Facebook page, for example, gets 40 times the attention the government’s page does.

In the modern era, it’s time for the government to rethink the way it engages with the people it claims to serve. Comments on our Facebook page are proof that Nunavummiut want to be involved in government decisions.

It’s time for the government to stop relying only on outdated methods, and meet the people where they are.