Another evening’s plans, wrecked by the lure of a book…

Im an agnostic when it comes to booksellers, online or otherwise, but the Chapters-Indigo price for this one beats Amazon by more than $10.

… because I downloaded this from Kobo: Wilfred Laurier by André Pratte.

And now I can’t stop reading.

“Even more than his predecessors, Laurier had to confront the demons of intolerance and prejudice that constantly threatened the work of the Fathers of Confederation and that still rear their heads today. And it was Laurier who, better than anyone before or since, showed Canadians the only path possible, that of compromise. Today, as in that time, it is also the most arduous path, and those who follow it have more enemies than admirers, especially in the linguistic, religious, ethnic or regional community they belong to, because they refuse to be confined by allegiance or to give in to emotion or narrow mindedness.”

The last sentence of that paragraph deserves to be set off by itself:

“If Canada still exists today, it is because there have always been Canadians who felt that Laurier was right, that compromise is not surrender or cowardice, but rather daring and courage.”

I got myself seduced into buying this book by way of two articles: this one — and this one.

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Be grateful for small mercies!/Paul_Okalik/status/58645678594854912

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What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

Offensive stereotype alert: This image may contain graphic depictions of drunken sailors.

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum. Earlier today, the organ I work for received this:

News Tip from Retired Sailor: April on the national news the leader of the Liberal party was commenting on the G20 spending. In that comment, he referred to the PC’s spending like a bunch of DRUNKEN SAILORS.There are a lot of sailors both serving and retired whom I am sure will not vote for the liberals for that reason, I think its is reprehensible for him to make such a comment when there are many serving members these days putting their lives on the line for this great country Canada. Sound like he really did just come back to Canada to have a shot at the PM’s chair.
Sent at: 2011 04 12

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Nunavut is not a “social experiment”

Iqaluit, Nunavut, April 1, 1999: Jean Chrétien, prime minister of the Liberal government that bungled the creation of Nunavut, doing what he does best. To be fair, though, the failed jurisdiction known as Nunavut may claim many fathers, most of whom reside in Nunavut. (AFP POOL PHOTO, COURTESY OF NUNATSIAQ NEWS)

This past Friday, Bernadette Calonego, a correspondent for Süeddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest circulation newspaper, interviewed me. She said she was working on a follow-up to the splendid long-form feature on crime in Nunavut that Patrick White wrote and the Globe and Mail published this past April 1.

She premised one of her questions with the phrase “social experiment.” On its face, this is unremarkable. In loose talk about Nunavut, people often refer to the new territory as an “experiment” or “social experiment,” as if Canada were using the eastern Arctic as a  laboratory for trying out new forms of government and social organization.

This time I challenged the unspoken assumption contained in that rather sloppy descriptor, an assumption used far too often by those who ought to know better.

The primary meaning of the word “experiment” is a scientific test performed to prove or disprove a theory. A secondary meaning is a course of action chosen by those who are unsure of its eventual outcome.

This implies that if an experiment turns out to be fruitless, you are free to choose another course of action. Such is not the case with the Nunavut project.

So I told her Nunavut’s no “experiment.” It’s not a try-out. It’s for keeps, I said. It’s a done deal and it can’t be undone. Its existence is embedded hopelessly within the Canadian constitution, on account of Article 4 of the Nunavut land claims agreement. Knowing what I know about Canadian law and Canadian politics, the odds of getting that unravelled are infinitesimally small.

Being a realist, I have no choice but to believe that the people of Nunavut and the government of Canada must somehow work with the mess that recent history has inflicted upon them, whether they like it or not, and that they must do their best to mitigate the damage it continues to inflict on the innocent.

April 1, 1999, Iqaluit, Nunavut: A young drum-dancing troupe, performing inside an air force hangar converted into a sound stage for the day, entertains a national audience on television. The couple who trained and inspired these dancers were driven out of Iqaluit some years later over a typical Nunavut identity politics grudge match, but that dreary subject is best deal with, likely, in a future post. (AFP POOL PHOTO, COURTESY OF NUNATSIAQ NEWS)

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Meanwhile, in my day job…

Your humble content provider today caused this to be published, on Nunavut’s troubled Family Abuse Intervention Act: Noble ends, bungled means

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Mirror in the mirror

I don’t know how it’s possible that I never heard of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt until about three weeks ago.

This is “Spiegel im Spiegel” (Mirror in a mirror.) It’s just about the most lovely thing you ever heard:

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The Globe got it right; but will Nunavut?

This time, the Globe and Mail got it right: The young are neglected in Nunavut.

Nunavut belongs to the young, and the young are neglected. The most neglected of all are the most vulnerable, those children who have been sexually or physically abused or whose basic needs have not been met, owing to the substance abuse of their parents. And the Nunavut government, which should be protecting these children, is heaping more neglect on them. It is sending the message that no one cares about them.

The editorial responds to news stories generated by the office of the Auditor General of Canada’s report on children’s, youth and family services in Nunavut. You can find a copy of it on the auditor general’s website.

The auditor general’s staff found Nunavut does a poor job protecting children and from abuse. Most informed people in Nunavut already know this, or at least ought to. And several months ago, Nunavut residents learned two sections of the Child and Family Services Act are unconstitutional, after the release of a judgment by the Nunavut court.

(To be fair, the performance of Nunavut’s child protection may be poor, but it’s not nearly as bad as Nunavik’s.)

Meanwhile, in one of Nunavut’s most under-reported events last year, the Government of Nunavut set out in the fall of 2010 to re-make its Child and Family Services Act and the way it offers social services to residents who need them.

To get that going, between Dec. 15 and Dec. 17, 2009 they had organized a three-day talk session in Iqaluit they grandly entitled “Knowledge Sharing Forum: A Review of Child Welfare Practices in Nunavut.” You can download the document by following the link posted in the paragraph above.

Naturally, the document says much about the identity insecurities of Inuit adults — and very little about the actual safety and well-being of children.

And, of course, you’ll find the usual gushing about elders.

Traditional Responses to Abuse

“Participants shared their thoughts and experience about how Inuit families traditionally responded to abuse and how they supported people who were fighting or had problems with one another. It was noted that these matters were dealt with by the community and within the community. Traditionally, community members took an active role in dealing with abuse. Elders spoke with the victim and the abuser.”


“There was a couple that got together and the father came and picked up his daughter. The father said he would not return his daughter unless the husband was good to her. Our elders know that the whole family is involved in a relationship. These unwritten rules are not documented but this is the Inuit culture. We must be clear on this. We need a clear mind on sensitive issues.”

Okay. That was life in the Garden of Eden.

Based on these kinds of beliefs, before the creation of the new territory many people in Nunavut proposed that elders and their purported wisdom be used to fix all manner of problems — including those created by wife-beaters and child abusers.

In the real Nunavut, however, where real people bleed and suffer, no one really believes this.

Here are a couple of passage lifted from an evaluation of Nunavut’s Family Abuse Intervention Act, which was tabled quietly on March 10, the last day of the recent legislative assembly sitting. I can’t give you a link, because no digital copy seems to exist yet. The evaluation was done by the Genesis Group of Yellowknife, a firm that’s partly owned by Nunasi Corp.

The act authorizes the use of “traditional Inuit counselors,” a legal euphemism for “elders.” It turns out that nobody wants anything to with them.

We discovered little if any support from the public for this [elders] counselling and applicants do not want to be referred to it. Such counsellors as there are, typically in Community Justice Committees, tell us that they want nothing to do with family issues. Some attempts have been made, but the results have been poor.


Placing the onerous duty of counselling on local people is very problematic. The information on this issue from our informants can be summaried in two points: 1) no one wants to be involved in family abuse issues; and 2) the referral of multifaceted relationship issues to a traditional Inuit counselor may not be acceptable to the public.

I’d say Nunavut has big problem on its hands. But if the Nunavut government employs sentimental myth-making as a substitute for rational policy in its attempt to fix its Child and Family Services Act, that problem will become yet another made-in-Nunavut fiasco.

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Iqaluit’s market based solution

Eeta Nuqinaq offers polar bear meat for sale. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

David Alexander selling some big beautiful Arctic char. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

Based on my inexpert count, this event, a country food market, drew well over 100 people to a downtown square in Iqaluit, despite a windchill that sank below -40 and froze my bared fingers down to the bone.

Food producers, mostly hunters, used the event to sell country foods that until now have been distributed throughout communities by way of informal sharing networks, especially within extended families.

I saw seal, polar bear and caribou meat for sale in generous quantities, as well as Arctic char and bannock. If you want protein, vitamins and minerals, this is just about the best food you can eat.

This isn’t the first time that country food has been offered for sale in Nunavut from a central location. The Amarok Hunters and Trapper Association’s country food store, whose aging building still sits at Iqaluit’s Four Corners, used to sell frozen country food in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Nunavut Department of Economic Development and Transportation provided money to pay some of the market’s expenses — how much, I don’t know. The department plans to spend more money in Nunavut this year on the promotion of country food distribution, including a revival of community freezers.

I’m sceptical, however, that this kind of scheme will reduce hunger and malnutrition in Nunavut. It takes cash to buy country food at such markets and it’s a lack of cash that prevents many Nunavut residents from feeding themselves properly. I suspect the erratic management of money and a lack of knowledge about how to buy and cook nutritional foods are also big reasons.

And Iqaluit, despite the presence of a large underclass who live in grim, desperate circumstances, is not a cash-poor community. Iqaluit’s median income stands at around $50,000 a year. So I wasn’t surprised to see many well-paid government and quasi-government workers showing up to buy country food. It remains to be seen if this approach can work in the territory’s cash-poor have-not communities, where median incomes range from $10,000 to $20,000 a year.

But at the same time, such markets likely give harvesters a chance to receive some compensation in exchange for the food they produce. You can’t expect to producers to increase production for free — not when the cost of gasoline, ammunition, snowmobiles and outboard motors is rising dramatically.

Alacie Joamie of Iqaluit puts her fresh bannock out for sale at the Iqaluit country food market held March 12, 2011. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

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Report: A Uniform Policy to Regulate Shipping in the Arctic Region (via CWO Journal)

Sovereign states, international governmental organizations and the maritime industry should help prepare a uniform policy to regulate shipping in the Arctic region and engage with native populations while doing so, according to a report released by the University of Alaska Fairbanks in collaboration with Dartmouth and the University of the Arctic’s Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy … Read More

via CWO Journal

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Two degrees of escalation

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy predicts how  two degrees of global warming might affect Canada, including the Far North.

Many links, graphics and the report itself available here:

Climate Prosperity – National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

I haven’t had time to read any of it yet, but the underlying tone of its attached promotional material suggests that Canadian government policy on climate change is likely to focus almost entirely on adaptation, not mitigation.

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