Canadian High Arctic Research Station needs link with traditional knowledge: CamBay consultation
“The research station should be a two-way bridge, not a one-way bridge”
People in Cambridge Bay got a chance to become personally involved in the Canadian High Arctic Research Station this past week.
At a Sept. 26 public meeting, a small group of local residents told the CHARS team, which included federal government bureaucrats, a scientist, an architect and two engineers, how they think the new $142.5 million research facility should be built and operated.
Speaking at a public meeting, Richard Ekpakohak said he wants to make sure CHARS, slated to open in July 2017, pays more than lip service to Inuit.
Ekpakohak said the research station should bridge western science and Inuit knowledge.
“The research station should be a two-way bridge, not a one-way bridge,” Ekpakohak said.
For too long, everything that Qallunaat bring in goes in one direction, he said, like a one-way bridge. CHARS needs two lanes, he said, integrating the two approaches to knowledge.
“That will be very important to us,” Ekpakohak said.
CHARS will be guided by the principles of Inuit Qaujimatuqaangit, Nick Xenos, the director of Arctic Science Policy Integration at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, assured Ekpakohak.
But “we will need to define how we will do it,” he added.
Hamlet councillor Sarah Jancke encouraged the CHARS team to collaborate closely with Cambridge Bay residents.
Architect Alain Fournier promised her that involvement, noting CHARS will reflect an integrated design — based on the input of everyone in the community every step of the way — that’s “rare” in similar large-scale construction projects.
Other suggestions raised at the public meeting included a call to use wind and solar energy in the research station, which the CHARS team said was in the works for the “green” construction of the future research station, along with finding ways to conserve water use.
Those at the meeting also said they wanted CHARS to include outreach programs for local schools and even for visitors on cruise ships.
The goal of CHARS, responded Donald McLennan, head of monitoring science on the project, is to get the community into the facility and researchers out into the community.
But there was also concern from some at the meeting about community access to jobs and housing for the estimated 35 to 50 people who will work at CHARS.
Housing for local hires could be an additional incentive for local youth to continue their education, Jancke suggested.
As for the five sites now under consideration for CHARS, along the Airport Rd., Mitik St., Water Lake Rd, the dock and the Plateau, Chris Arko, who works in the lands department at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., cautioned the CHARS team that Airport Rd. and to a lesser extent Mitik St. can flood during storms.
The CHARS team returns in late November or early December with more developed design ideas and site selections to show to people in the community.
In addition to the Sept. 26 public meeting, its members also met with many other groups in Cambridge Bay, including the local CHARS committee, elders, Nunavut Arctic College and high school students.