FEATURES: Iqaluit June 01, 2012 - 5:11 am

Iqaluit: In dreams begin responsibility

A town plans a future


A power black-out has cut power inside Iqaluit’s Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.

It’s dark, but people have stopped by anyway, and they gather around a table in the corner, talking and looking at old photographs of Iqaluit from the time before any infrastructure existed. 

When the power comes back on, there are a few cheers and sighs of relief.

A youth-produced video of the bowhead whale hunt is projected on to a screen in another corner, and lights pointed at the banners pinned on the wall reveal four headings: discover, dream, design and deliver.

Under these headings, people have written suggestions for Iqaluit’s future in colourful markers including world youth volunteer groups, recycling programs to reduce waste, an addictions treatment centre, and improved access to post-secondary education.

This interactive exhibit is part of Sustainable Iqaluit, a city project that wants to gather stories from people, by recording how they feel about the past and what they want in the future.

It ran May 22, 23, 24 at the museum and May 26 at Nanook School in Apex and will continue through next week with public working groups.

Over the four-day period last month, over 300 Iqalummiut came out to the exhibit.

The feed-back from the exhibit will lead to Iqaluit’s first sustainable five-year action plan — and produce a 50-year vision.

That plan, fueled by a grant in 2010 handed out though the Green Municipal Fund by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, will then guide other city plans.

The first draft will be released this fall.

Work on the plan started in 2006, when the City of Iqaluit became a member of the Sustainable Cities PLUS Network and committed to develop a long-term plan.

Then, in March 2006 and 2007, employees of the International Centre for Sustainable Cities came to Iqaluit to meet councillors and residents to discuss sustainability planning.

Robyn Campbell, the sustainability co-ordinator, who works under the Department of Engineering and Sustainability, arrived in 2011 to take on the project,

By the end of last month’s exhibit,  people had filled 12, three-by-six foot banners with ideas.

“For an over-consulted community, people responded to us,” Campbell said.

That was “partly because we responded to them,” she said, by using previous meetings and consultations to create the “what we heard” and “what we have” documents to hand out.

The “what we have” document – about 16 pages – outlined three Iqalummiut relationships: with the environment, family and society.

Within these themes, issues were outlined, such as the need to protect berry-picking areas, protect the tundra during development, build a deep water port for increased safety, improve the waterfront, improve sewage treatment and piped services for water, and build new infrastructure that responds to climate change.

These, among others, were outlined in the environment section.

“What we heard” recognized that residents want to support the mining industry and encourage new services which would see more activities for youth, affordable housing, better public housing, and more country food available on a regular basis.

The social well-being “what we heard” stated that Iqaluit needs to stop ignoring sexual abuse, addictions and suicide. It also called for a wider range of counselling, treatment centres for anger, alcohol and drug abuse, and more mental health services.

Leah Inutiq, who worked as an interpreter with Andrew Dialla on the project, said she ended up doing a lot more than interpreting, and found herself engaged with the project. She saw people prioritizing the needs on the lists, reading through the information carefully. 

“That really, really surprised me,” she said. “The elders said ‘we’ve talked about it before so why talk about it again,’ [Then] Their eyes just popped like, ‘wow we could do this.” 

So will the five-year plan actually help? “Oh yes, definitely,” Inutiq says. “I already see the brightness.”

The Sustainable Iqaluit working groups will continue on June 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14.

People who want to participate can contact Robyn Campbell at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

And to learn more about the schedule, go here.