Police released a video June 7 in the hopes the public can help with the investigation into the Nanook School tupiq fire, which took place May 24.
“Iqaluit RCMP is asking for the public to help identify a person of interest,” stated Cpl. Jamie Savikataaq in a news release.
“The video footage provided shows an individual near the Nanook School tupiq during the night of the incident.”
View the security footage released by RCMP:
The public is asked to contact RCMP at 867-979-0123 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 with information or knowledge of the identity of the individual in the video.
“Iqaluit RCMP also believe that a vehicle drove by the area and may have been in contact with the person of interest. RCMP would like to contact the occupant(s) of that vehicle as potential witnesses,” stated Savikataaq.
Meanwhile, at Nanook School, every experience is an opportunity for learning, even a sad event such as the loss of the school’s tupiq to arson.
Principal Mathew Knickelbein found out about the fire at 5:30 a.m. Friday morning on social media.
“That was devastating for myself, obviously,” said Knickelbein.
He sent messages to his staff so they wouldn’t be shocked on arrival. Come the start of the school day, students, staff and parents held an outdoor assembly.
“People were obviously upset. We talked about what had happened. It was an upsetting day all around. It was sad,” Knickelbein said.
“We explained to everybody that it wasn’t the end of our program. We’ll rebuild it.”
Knickelbein says the youngest students had the most questions: What happened? Why did somebody do that?
“One of our kindergarten students, she piped up and said, ‘Excuse me but I’d like to say that it seems as though somebody made some bad decisions last night.’ No truer words spoken.”
Support immediately came from parents, the Apex District Education Authority, the community, past students, the business community, and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern.
“It’s been overwhelmingly positive and supportive, and we’re very, very thankful for that,” said Knickelbein.
“Credit where credit is due. Our mayor is phenomenal at bringing our community together. She doesn’t get credit for the mastery that she has, and her network, and bringing people together in times of need. She’s a real force and we thank her. She got the word out right away.”
Knickelbein says the business community has flooded the school with support, financial, material, and labour donations. Via social media, people from all over the world have reached out. Knickelbein started a GoFundMe page, which so far has raised $4,424 of a $30,000 goal.
“I had a look at the donations and they are predominantly from Canada, with a few donors in the US. In Canada, donations came in from across the country with donors generously giving from Nunavut, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, British Columbia and Newfoundland,” said GoFundMe’s Rachel Hollis by e-mail.
Students at Joamie School even pitched in with a lemonade stand last week, raising a couple of thousand dollars to contribute to rebuilding efforts.
“Every bit of positivity helps,” said Knickelbein.
The Nuna School program is more than a tupiq, though it served as an outdoor classroom, along with the land, and as a symbol. The students welcomed guests in the tupiq. It contained many treasures, also lost in the fire.
All told, about $40,000 worth of education materials were lost, including furniture, heaters, foamies, books, about 20 tanned seal skins, five custom-made qulliqs from Jerry Ell, pots and pans, dishes and cutlery, and outdoor gear.
“We immediately voiced the opportunity to turn this around, to not approach it in a defeatist way. We took the negative out of it. As we do, we talked about facing hurdles, overcoming challenges, being resilient, moving forward, putting our best foot forward, planning ahead, positive opportunities that these negative circumstances bring,” said Knickelbein.
Knickelbein speaks of the importance of the theme, for Nunavut youth, of overcoming adversity and hardship, and persevering and being resilient.
“That’s the lesson we’ve been focusing on. Considering the heartbreak, we’ve moved forward as a team, as a school. There’s a lot of positivity around where we’re going with our Nuna School. That’s very important. That’s a beautiful story.”