Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut January 17, 2017 - 4:00 pm

Nunavut Arctic College apologizes for last-minute course cancellation

“The college has a duty to support and facilitate the needs of students"

Inuit Studies students enjoy a country food meal in previous year of the program. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NAC)
Inuit Studies students enjoy a country food meal in previous year of the program. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NAC)

Nunavut Arctic College’s board of directors has apologized to students enrolled in the college’s Inuit Studies program, which was abruptly cancelled earlier this month after students returned for the winter semester.

College administrators cancelled the winter 2017 term of the Inuit Studies program on Jan. 7, due to low enrollment, NAC said in a Jan. 17 release.

The story came to light when CBC interviewed one of the program’s six students who had returned to Iqaluit’s Nunatta campus for the winter semester only to find out that her financial assistance was cut off and she was being evicted from student housing.

“The timing of the notification should have happened shortly after the term completed, and any future cancellations will ensure that this is done,” Elizabeth Ryan, chair of NAC’s board of directors, said in the release.

“We apologize to the students affected for the timing of the notification.”

Inuit Studies is a two-year diploma program which explores traditional and contemporary Inuit values, practices and knowledge.

Most of the courses are taught in Inuktitut and students are expected to graduate fully fluent and literate in Inuktitut, with syllabic keyboarding skills.

Now the college says the program will offered again in the fall of 2017.

“I have ensured that the two remaining students have been accommodated, and encourage those interested in this line of study to register for the fall 2017 program,” Ryan said.

But the last-minute cancellation has drawn criticism from many Nunavummiut.

Qanak Collective, a group of Inuit professionals in Iqaluit, called the move “heartbreakingly insensitive,” noting the systemic barriers to education which Nunavummiut already face.

In a Jan. 11 open letter to the college, the collective called on NAC to resume the program this winter, while pledging support to students who plan to appeal the college’s decision.

“Education is the fire that will lead Nunavut to a brighter future,” Qanak wrote in the open letter. “In a domain where the flame should brightest and be most tenderly cultivated, this decision causes havoc.

“While ‘just’ six students are directly affected, this decision puts a chill on everyone currently studying or considering studying or working at the college.”

Paul Quassa, Nunavut’s minister of education and minister responsible for NAC, called the cancellation, “unfortunate.”

“I have carefully evaluated the situation and have instructed the college to continue to follow the appropriate administrative process, as the well-being of our students is first and foremost the reason we provide these educational opportunities,” Quassa said in NAC’s Jan. 17 release.

“The college has a duty to support and facilitate the needs of students during the course of their studies.”

The NAC said it tries to offer programs “of the highest national standard” to Nunavummiut, while engaging its students through tutoring, counselling and other support services.

The college said it “openly invite[s] other organizations and groups to participate in the development of a dynamic, engaging and empowering learning community.”

In 2016, the Government of Nunavut took a step in its long-time efforts to build a university in Nunavut by entering in a joint venture partnership NAC and another established Canadian university (yet to be determined) to create a territorial university.

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