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Posts Tagged ‘arctic canada

[LINK] “What’s in a name? A Chipewyan’s battle over her native tongue”

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Rachel Browne of MacLean’s reports on the inability of a Chipewyan woman in the Northwest Territories to give her child a name in her (endangered) language.

Every March, Aboriginal Languages Month is celebrated across the Northwest Territories with book launches, workshops and traditional drumming ceremonies. Created by the Assembly of First Nations in 1993, it’s a month meant to recognize and promote the rich heritage of Aboriginal languages and cultures. It’s especially meaningful for the territory, which has the highest number of official languages in Canada: nine Aboriginal languages on top of English and French.

But this time of year can also serve as a reminder of their uncertain future. “Some of our Aboriginal languages are struggling, not because we are not doing enough to support them, but because the challenges they face are complex,” the territory’s minister of official languages, Jackson Lafferty, said in the territory’s legislative assembly on March 4.

One of the big challenges, it turns out, is the government itself. Last week, Shene Catholique-Valpy, an Aboriginal woman born and raised in the Northwest Territories, spoke out publicly about her year-long fight to have the the traditional Chipewyan spelling of her daughter’s name, Sahaiʔa May Talbot, on her birth certificate. Sahaiʔa roughly translates to: “As the sun breaks through the clouds or over the horizon.” And the symbol, which resembles a question mark without the dot, called a glottal stop, indicates the correct pronunciation and meaning; without it, the name is incorrect.

The Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction in Canada that officially recognizes the Chipewyan language. Yet one month after Catholique-Valpy, whose mother happens to be the territory’s official languages commissioner, gave birth last February and filed the paperwork for Sahaiʔa’s birth certificate, she got a call from the vital statistics department, which said it couldn’t accept the name due to the glottal stop. The department said it has to adhere to the Vital Statistics Act, which recognizes only names that use letters from the Roman alphabet. Having symbols like the glottal stop on birth certificates would also interfere with obtaining passports and other documents issued by the federal government, according to an email from a department spokesperson. (Citizenship and Immigration Canada could not confirm by press time if this indeed the case.)

Written by Randy McDonald

March 25, 2015 at 10:56 pm

[LINK] “Northerners debate uranium mine and caribou effects”

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Bob Weber’s Canadian Press article is almost stereotypically sad and depressing and entirely believable in its depiction of the treatment of the North and its people.

Hilu Tagoona was just a girl the first time uranium miners proposed to develop a massive deposit of the radioactive metal near her home town of Baker Lake, Nunavut.

“I was about 11,” she says. “I spent many an hour listening to (presentations), spending time at the hearings.”

Now, at 37, she’s about to relive her childhood as final hearings begin Monday before the Nunavut Impact Review Board on a second proposal to eventually build a mine on the tundra. As a spokeswoman for the anti-uranium group Makitagunarningit, her opinion on it hasn’t changed.

“Our big concern is the caribou and their calving grounds.”

French nuclear giant Areva is proposing to build one underground and four open-pit mines just west of Baker Lake, on the edge of the calving grounds of one of the North’s great caribou herds and near the largest and most remote wildlife sanctuary on the continent.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 7, 2015 at 3:59 am

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO notes the end of long-running Toronto literary journal Descant.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the Russian acquisition of another SSBN.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money links to a Los Angeles Times article examining child labour on Mexican farms.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper examining surnames in Catalonia for mobility.
  • Livejournaler moiraj mocks, with facts, the predictions of Canadian conservative journalist Diane Francis.
  • The New APPS Blog considers the biopolitics of inexpensive medical tests.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw started a discussion about the attractiveness or not of villains, even before the Sydney tragedy.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes how Mexico City made construction issues for its subway Line 12 into a net positive.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog debunks a myth about Russian premature mortality for the 1923 cohort that still tells of terrible things.
  • Strange Maps notes the significant problems of explorers trying to map northeastern, Arctic, Canada.
  • Torontoist notes Toronto’s Black Lives Matter march while Towleroad notes the lack of a GLBT-black coalition.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russian economic problems are worsening the government’s relations with republics like Tatarstan, wonders how long Kadyrov will stay in power in Chechnya, and suggests Belarusian bases might be used to threaten Ukraine.

[BRIEF NOTE] On indigenous peoples and threatening geographic marginality in Canada and Australia

Royce Kurmelovs’ Al Jazeera article describing how changes in government funding to Aboriginal communities threaten to result in the shutdown of many of the more remote ones is quite alarming to me, not least because I can see certain parallels with many Canadian First Nations communities. Many of my recent posts about Arctic Canada have related to the high cost of living and various failing efforts to bring this down to southern standards, while other remote reserves face similar serious issues. I suspect that Canadian First Nations might be somewhat better off, if only because they have enjoyed for a very long while many of the attributes of sovereignty that Aboriginal groups seem to have enjoyed only recently, but still.

Comments? The question of cutbacks in our era of austerity is very real, and all the more threatened for their associations with ethnic biases by neglectful central governments.

The West Australian state government may bulldoze 150 remote indigenous communities that it says are too expensive to keep open under a new funding arrangement between federal and state authorities.

Canberra has offered each state a one-time, lump-sum payment to take over the responsibility of financing remote Aboriginal communities indefinitely.

In an ultimatum, Western Australia was offered $90m, enough to fund remote communities through to 2017.

But as of June 30, 2015, past federal funding agreements will end, effectively giving Western Australia authorities about seven months before they must start working out how to fund remote communities in the future – and which ones will have to close.

Similar arrangements have been made with South Australian, Queensland, Victorian and Tasmanian state governments.

All have so far remained silent on the details with the exception of South Australia, which rejected a $10m payment on the basis that it was not enough for the obligation being created.

South Australia’s Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Ian Hunter warned if his government was forced to accept the new arrangement, 60 remote communities – home to 4,000 people – would have to close.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 10, 2014 at 8:55 pm

[LINK] “Aglukkaq reads newspaper while Nunavut food debate flares around her”

I mentioned last month problems living in the Canadian North with its increased costs of transportation and decreased opportunities. One of these problems involved the very high cost of food, and the failure of a Canadian government subsidy program intended to make it affordable. Just two days ago, the Aboriginal People’s Television Network–a Canadian First Nations-run network that has done its share of breaking news stories relevant to the North and First Nations–broke the story that Leona Aglukkaq, Environment Minister and Nunavut MP, was reading a newspaper as a debate on the food subsidy program and her personal reactions to the crisis.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq was caught on camera reading the newspaper while debate raged around her in Question Period Monday about a food crisis in Nunavut.

Aglukkaq has said she is considering legal action against Rankin Inlet’s deputy mayor Sam Tutanuak who claimed the minister tried to extract an apology during a phone conversation with the Nunavut hamlet’s senior administrative officer.

Aglukkaq has flatly denied she tried to get an apology for Tutanuak’s comments to APTN Investigates that high grocery prices in the community had forced people to scavenge for food at the local dump.

Aglukkaq’s office also denied claims from five different MPs that she yelled ‘that’s not true’ during Question Period last week when the NDP brought up the issue of Inuit searching for food in the dump.

The Auditor General of Canada released a scathing report last Monday on the management of the Harper government’s food subsidy Nutrition North program. Auditor General Michael Ferguson said Ottawa had no idea whether the program was working or if Northern grocery retailers were passing on the government subsidy for perishable foods like vegetables.

She has later apologized for reading the newspaper–APTN has a screen capture–but has defended her government’s actions otherwise.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 5, 2014 at 2:04 am

[LINK] Two links on the costs of living in Nunavut

In recent days, two different stories have really brought home to me the problems of life in modern Nunavut.

I was first struck by Andrea Woo’s article in The Globe and Mail, “Critics slam Canada’s northern food program”. Food is expensive and hard to come by, owing to transportation and production issues, and federal subsidies aren’t helping enough.

For Jerry Natanine, grocery shopping is an exercise in strategy: To feed his family of five, the mayor and resident of Clyde River, Nunavut, needs to look for the most economically priced goods – usually those that are frozen and come in larger quantities.

With frozen chicken strips priced at $32, bacon $19 and a three- or four-pound frozen pork roast more than $30, it’s typical for the Natanines to spend upward of $600 a week on groceries. Shopping around isn’t an option because the northern store is the only grocery retailer in the small town of about 1,000.

It has long been a challenge to access healthy and affordable food in Canada’s remote northern communities, but a new federal program introduced three years ago was suppose to lessen some of the burden. It hasn’t. An article in the latest Canadian Journal of Public Health says the program’s flawed reporting structure means there is no meaningful way to gauge its effectiveness or hold it to account; meanwhile, locals say food prices are climbing.

Food insecurity exists across all provinces and territories, but is particularly pronounced in Nunavut, where the rate of food insecurity is the highest in Canada and among the highest in the world for an indigenous population in a developed country.

About 13 per cent of Canadian households – that’s about four million people, including 1.15 million children – experienced some level of food insecurity in 2012, according to a 2014 report by PROOF, an interdisciplinary team of researchers focused on issues of food insecurity. In Nunavut, the figure was 45.2 per cent.

Amber Hildebrandt’s CBC investigation, meanwhile, notes that owing to extreme difficulties in recruiting health personnel the Nunavut government has been turning a blind eye to incompetence.

Home to only 36,000 inhabitants, mostly Inuit, the territory of Nunavut is spread over an area equal to a fifth of Canada’s land mass.

There are no roads. Flights connect each of Nunavut’s communities. Cape Dorset — known locally as Kingnait, which is Inuktitut for “high mountains” — only links up to Baffin Island during low tide, when land bridges give hunters access.

Nunavut’s health-care system faces unique challenges. There’s one hospital in the capital, Iqaluit, but many patients get flown to southern provinces for surgeries and visits with specialists. Outside of the capital, each of the 24 hamlets is served by a health centre, with many staffed by one to eight nurses.

[. . .]

Due in part to its remoteness, Nunavut has extremely high nurse vacancy rates. As of August, 99 of the territory’s 281 full-time nursing posts — around 35 per cent — were not filled. Costly temporary workers fill the void, circling in and out of communities on months-long contracts.

In the last fiscal year, Nunavut spent $26 million on casual and agency nurses, nearly half its budget for all nursing posts.

Nunavut’s department of health says the territory is “facing the same qualified nursing and other health-care professional shortage challenges being felt across the country and internationally.” For the past few years, the government’s had a strategy to try to retain nurses that involves recruitment and retention bonuses. For example, those who make the 30-month mark get $10,000.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 7, 2014 at 3:26 am

[LINK] “Pride party fills to capacity in Iqaluit, Nunavut”

Gloria Song, writing for Daily Xtra, writes about the vagaries of GLBT identity and history in Nunavut.

Somehow, out of the controversy over a flag came the idea for a party.

It began when the city of Iqaluit raised a rainbow flag at city hall to protest anti-gay laws in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics, at the initiative of city Councillor Kenny Bell and Iqaluit resident Anubha Momin. Councillor Simon Nattaq argued that the decision had not been approved by council, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc president Cathy Towtongie commended Nattaq for speaking out. These events sparked lively discussion among the residents of Nunavut about same-sex issues, including whether it’s within Inuit custom to be gay.

In the midst of this discussion, the idea for a party emerged, specifically, an Iqaluit Pride party, the first of its kind in the capital city of Nunavut.

The woman behind the party is Michelle Zakrison, a newcomer to Iqaluit. “I just moved here in May and started Iqaluit Pride,” she says. “I’ve volunteered with a lot of Prides, and I’ve been in student politics and that kind of stuff for a long time. I thought if I came up, I’d like to support whoever’s doing that, organizing that up here. After I talked to a bunch of people, nothing seemed to be going on. I thought, Well, I’ll create this Twitter [@Iqaluit Pride].”

[. . .]

Maureen Doherty first moved up north in 1983 and later came out as a lesbian at the age of 50. Along with Peter Workman and Allison Brewer, she has been actively involved in the same-sex-rights movement for more than a decade in Iqaluit.

“It started off with a small picnic, and then it grew,” Doherty recounts over the phone. “That particular summer of 2004 or 2005, we had huge Pride picnics. In fact, if politicians weren’t there, they came up to you and explained why they weren’t there, lest it be construed they might be homophobic. It was really quite exciting.”

These events unfolded around the same time that the Nunavut Human Rights Act was passed into law in 2003. During this time, there was much debate about whether sexual orientation should be included as a prohibited ground of discrimination. As a member of the steering committee for the legislation, Doherty recalls the discussions: “As well as there being a lot of support for the LGBT community, there was also a lot of concern and a lot of fear and homophobia. But the good thing is that it came out, because there was discussion all across Nunavut about this act and what it would mean and what human rights are. It was actually heartwarming to hear some of the things people had to say, about how historically there had been a place of acceptance in the Inuit culture.”

Written by Randy McDonald

October 10, 2014 at 10:01 pm


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