A university for the Far North?

The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation has formed an advisory committee on the creation of a university in Canada’s Far North.

Now you can tell it’s backers what you think: Fill out this online questionnaire.

Posted in Alaska, Arctic, Canada, circumpolar world, Education, News, policy, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Telegraph: Russia nervous about China’s Arctic ambitions

Russia will increase naval patrols in the Arctic Ocean to defend its interests against nations such as China seeking a share of the area’s mineral wealth, the navy commander was quoted as saying on Monday.

The entire story here:

Russian navy chief warns of China’s race for Arctic – Telegraph.

Posted in Arctic, circumpolar world, News, Politics, World | Tagged , , , , ,

Climate change? Bring it on, Greenlanders say

“We are probably one of the very few countries in the world that can say not only that climate change is not to our detriment, but that it has positive results – it makes it easier for us to have oil drilling offshore, more than ever before, because icebergs are smaller and less of a danger to rigs.”

That’s Aleqa Hammond, the Greenland parliament’s opposition leader and ex-cabinet minister, as quoted by the Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders in his column of Oct. 2, “Inuit of Greenland have weather on their side.”

Read the entire column here.

Posted in Arctic, circumpolar world, Greenland, News, Nuuk | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Modern films for a new nation

This may not be news to you but clued out as I often am, it’s news to me.

The producers of Nuummioq, billed as “the first international feature to ever come out of Greenland,” are still exhibiting their film at festivals throughout North America, including last January’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won adoring reviews.

If you live in Toronto, you can attend a screening of Nuummioq scheduled for Oct. 21, 7:00 p.m., at the Al Green Theatre, which is part of the Jewish Community Centre at Bloor and Spadina. The screening, billed as the film’s Canadian premiere, is part of the ImagineNative film festival.

Here’s the trailer:

This amusing little two-part documentary on the making of Nuummioq, produced by Al Jazeera English, likely explains why so few people have ever heard of it. It reveals that the producer, Mikisoq H. Lynge, was barely able to scrounge enough money even to make the movie, let alone promote it:

More recently, a French company claims in its promotional material that their new film Inuk is “the first film ever about modern Greenland.”

Whatever the case, Inuk just won the Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography at the Woodstock Film Festival, according to their Facebook page.

Here’s the trailer:

Posted in Arctic, circumpolar world, culture, Greenland, News | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Time for another mental health break

Just another excuse to watch the two guys dance at the 1:52 mark.

Or watch Muddy dance with James Cotton at 7:01.

And to once again marvel at the drumming of Francis Clay and gaze at the immortal Otis Spann on piano:

Posted in blues, music | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Once again, Nunavut Tunngavik shits the bed

This is one of many goofy grip-and-grin photos that your humble content provider has been obliged to take wth his old Nikon Coolpix 8800 digital camera. Here, NTI president Paul Kaludjak and Nunavut's one-time housing minister, Peter Kilabuk, show off the Inuit housing plan that eventually found its way into the Kelowna accord and then into a $200-milllion social housing handout that the Conservative government announced in 2006. (ARCHIVE PHOTO)

It’s not often you’ll find a reckless distortion of truth and a big whopping post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy packed into three mendacious little sentences.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. managed to accomplish this feat in a press release issued Sept. 24 and which I’ve embedded at the bottom of this post. It’s their reaction to the boondoggle that the Nunavut Housing Corp. produced when they attempted to build badly-needed public housing within two big construction programs financed by the federal government.

The housing corporation’s financial blunders mean, in effect, that Nunavut has committed itself to spending $110 million it doesn’t have. That’s equivalent to roughly 10 per cent of the territorial government’s annual budget, which now ranges beyond $1.1 billion a year.

The Nunavut government is effectively forbidden from borrowing money or selling bonds because of a federal law, called the Nunavut Act, that prohibits Nunavut from carrying long-term debt greater than $200 million. Since the GN already carries a long-term debt, mostly inherited from the Northwest Territories, of about $140 million, they can’t borrow their way out this crisis.

So the only way to find the $110 million they need to pay all the contractors who built public housing under the two botched housing schemes is to make cuts in numerous existing programs, many of which, arguably, are already underfunded.

This likely explains why this fiasco has sent some observers into quasi-menopausal fits of hysteria, as is evidenced by this quotation from the aforementioned Nunavut Tunngavik press release.

Immediately after securing $200 million for public housing in 2006, the NHC walked away from its housing partnership with NTI, as defined by the 2004 GN/NTI 10 Year Inuit Housing Action Plan. The government chose instead, in defiance of Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Article 32, to develop and implement the Nunavut Housing Trust initiative without Inuit participation. The results are disastrous and have far reaching effects beyond the monetary loss.

Being a 30-year Nunavut resident, your humble content provider watched this story develop in 2006 with an interest that was as much personal as professional.

And during the year 2006, not once do I recall NTI ever complain that the housing corporation “walked away” from its “partnership” on public housing. Not once in the year 2006 did I hear NTI ever allege the GN, or anyone else, acted “in defiance” of the Nunavut land claims agreement. Why were NTI’s lawyers, the people who really run the organization, so silent then and so vocal now?

I do recall that the national Inuit syndicate, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which NTI partly controls through it’s one-fourth ownership of ITK’s board, spent much of 2006 heaping praise upon itself for having lobbied successfully for the $200 million federal contribution, a Kelowna accord commitment that the Conservative government actually carried out.

I also recall ITK, with no objections from NTI, urging in 2006 that housing construction materials be shipped on that year’s Nunavut sealift, long after the Nunavut Housing Corp. could have done any rational logistical planning.

I’m still convinced that the housing corporation made a big mistake when they caved in to ITK’s childish political posturing that year. By rushing their implementation of the public housing construction program that year, under pressure from ITK, the housing corporation likely produced the inaccurate per-unit cost figures that led to the current crisis.

The press release also contains the usual nonsense alleging breaches of the Nunavut land claims agreement, in this case, Article 32, which obliges government to “consult” Inuit when designing new social programs that affect Inuit.

But in the case of public housing, I rather think that historical evidence reveals that on the housing issue, governments have likely consulted every animate being they could find in Nunavut. Does the Nunavut Ten Year Housing Plan not provide fulsome evidence of such consultation?

And nowhere in Article 32 do I find words that say Nunavut Tunngavik must help run such programs. Maybe their copy of the land claims agreement contains different words than mine?

The most absurd part of the press release, however, is the part that says the housing corporation’s financial blunders occurred because the GN did not include Nunavut Tunngavik in the design and implementation of its social housing construction programs: a  classic example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc error, also known as the rooster syndrome.

Nowhere does Nunavut Tunngavik ever express any sympathy, or even knowledge, of the Nunavut government’s core problem: it’s shortage of qualified staff, especially financial experts.

But that avoidance of the importance of financial management, I suppose, is to be expected from a organization whose president can’t even handle the possession of a corporate credit card.

Finally, in a manufactured press release type of quote, Nunavut Tungavik’s “acting” president, James Eetoolook says the housing corporation ‘is not meeting the needs of Inuit.”

The facts, however, show that the housing corporation, in spite of its cost overruns, will build 1,011 new public housing units in Nunavut, the number they were supposed to build.

So on yet another serious public policy issue in Nunavut, NTI once again manages to shit the bed.

Posted in Arctic, Inuit, News, Northwest Territories, Nunavut | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Inukshukification for the nation

I never believed until now that inanimate rocks were capable of reproduction:

“The Inukshukification of Highway 69.”

In addition, I’ve found some strange ones myself:

I found this one on Rue Chambord in Montreal, just around the corner from where I'm staying at the moment. Observe the kakivak — someone obviously put a lot of work into this wee chap. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

And this one I found on the grounds of the Walbridge estate's famous 12-sided barn in the aptly named village of Mystic, Quebec. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

Posted in Arctic, Canada, culture, Humour | Tagged , , , ,

Whither Baffinland?

In a hostile takeover bid announced Sept. 22, a private equity firm based in Texas called Energy and Minerals Group is making financing a big move on the Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., owner of the immense Mary River iron property on north Baffin Island.

(Update Sept. 23) There’s a better news story here. EMG is providing Nunavut Iron Ore Acquisition Inc., wholly owned by Iron Ore Holdings Inc. of Australia, with the cash required to complete the takeover bid. The new company includes Bruce Walter, a former president of Sherritt International, which owns oil, gas, nickel and power generation interests in Cuba.

Baffinland has responded with a press release announcing they’ve formed a committee to study the offer and make recommendations to shareholders. Your humble content provider’s gut intuition says Baffinland’s board is likely attempting to buy enough time to encourage an even better offer for their company’s undervalued shares.

The market value of Baffinland shares has jumped by about two-thirds on news of the offer.

I can’t help but wonder what Gordon McCreary, the former CEO of Baffinland, a man who’s dreamed for more than 30 years about developing this resource, must be thinking today. And the cynical conspiracy theorist that lurks inside the darkest corners of my brain also wonders if McCreary’s departure from the company earlier this year is related to issues concerning who should own the firm and best finance the Mary River project in the future.

I’m also surprised that this takeover bid should come from an Australian company, rather than some entity based in China.

Posted in Arctic, Canada, News, Nunavut | Tagged , , , , ,

The virtuous enjoy their day

Caroline Novalinga and her cousin, Alasie Sivuarapik, bask in the attention of a receptive audience Sept. 18, when they performed at Villeray Park in northeast Montreal. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

Here are some Villeray residents who supported the development of an Inuit patient hostel in their neighbourhood. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

Your humble content provider — still on holiday in Montreal — had this stuff ready to post this past Saturday night but decided to let his employer get the first crack at publishing it.

I’m sharing this with you now because, well, it was a wonderful day that at least partially restored my jaundiced view of human nature.

In my line of work, you take mendacity, hypocrisy, greed and bigotry for granted. That’s what you expect to find in people and that’s usually what you get.

But on Sept. 18, 2010, I also learned to remember there’s a side of human nature that strives for the good and seeks to understand that which is virtuous. The people of Villeray who I met that day reminded me of this and for that I’m thankful.

In the video below, you will hear excerpts of remarks from Andrés Fontecilla, a member of the committee that some Villeray residents formed to support the idea of a locating an Inuit patient home in their district.

Fontecilla happens to be a member of the Québec solidaire political party, which is a coalition comprising members of the Quebec NDP, the Communist Party of Canada, the International Socialists, various other anti-capitalist groups and a big feminist coalition led by Françoise David.

It’s unlikely, for reasons I don’t wish to go into right now, that I could ever cast a vote for such a party. But I respect the position that Québec solidaire took on the Villeray Inuit patient home issue, expressed in this press release of Sept. 9.

Except for Papineau MP Justin Trudeau and a few others, elected officials from Montreal’s two largest municipal parties, Vision Montreal and Projet Montreal, did not denounce the malignant racism that inspired those who opposed the relocation of the Nunavik House patient home to Villeray. But Québec solidaire stood shoulder to shoulder with the Inuit.

Blaise Rémillard, the interim spokesperson for the Québec solidaire in the Laurier-Dorion riding, posted a comment on my employer’s website pointing out that Fontecilla was not speaking on behalf of Québec solidaire that afternoon, but on behalf of Solidarités Villeray. Merci, Blaise, j’ai noté votre clarification.

By the way, the throat song that Caroline and Alasie perform in this video is very close to a piece that I first heard in the early 1980s, sung by the renowned Cape Dorset throat singers Timagiak Petalaussie and Haunak Mikigak. I digitized the clip below from a much-treasured vinyl LP that CBC North issued in 1986:

Posted in Arctic, Canada, Inuit, News, Nunavik, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Foxes have holes, birds have their nests

As promised here, I headed downtown again to look for Thomas and Jimmy. After much searching, yesterday I found Thomas, this time at a different corner.

There’s much I learned, or rather, re-learned, yesterday, and I’m still digesting it.

As for Thomas, I hope one day he finds a way to replace his ID papers and so he can get on a plane for Kuujjuarapik.

Posted in Arctic, circumpolar world, homelessness, Inuit, News, Nunavik, social issues | Tagged , , , , , , ,