Governor general, federal science minister make quick trip to Nunavut
"Through such first-hand experiences, we can better understand the issues faced by Inuit communities and northern residents"
(Updated, 4:15 p.m.)
On their brief, 36-hour visit to Nunavut over this past weekend, Governor General Julie Payette, Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s chief science advisor, and Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of science and sport, were on a mission.
That, according to a release from Payette’s office, was to see how the Arctic is warming up “a lot faster than the southern latitudes.”
But they also heard about the many social issues that face Nunavut communities, like Pangnirtung, the sole community stop on the trip.
In Pangnirtung, the three were welcomed at the community’s airport by a handful of people late on Thursday afternoon.
Mayor Stevie Komoartok, along with councillor Markus Wilcke, who spoke up earlier this year about Pangnirtung’s ongoing struggle with suicide and alcohol-related violence, were among those there to greet Payette, who also later attended a feast attended by about 60 people.
— GGJuliePayette (@GGJuliePayette) August 31, 2018
Among the issues raised by councillors during their meeting with Payette: the high rate of suicide, especially among youth, the need for a healing centre, high rates of poverty and
unemployment; food insecurity, the tuberculosis epidemic, poor education and the challenges for graduates to obtain a post-secondary education, the Hamlet of Pangnirtung said in a Sept. 4 release.
Payette said these issues are both complex and interrelated, “which requires addressing issues such as housing, poverty and TB together,” its release said.
Komoartok said Pangnirtung’s council would welcome an opportunity to create a group which could work more closely with federal government to find solutions to the many social, health, environmental and economic issues which Pangnirtung and all Arctic communities face.
“Such a team between Pangnirtung and Ottawa could be a model for the Arctic,” Komoartok said.
After the visit to Pangnirtung, Payette, Nemer and Duncan hopped on board the Amundsen, the Canadian Coast Guard’s research icebreaker, for a glimpse of Arctic research.
“Through such first-hand experiences, we can better understand the issues faced by Inuit communities and northern residents, and we will continue encouraging stronger partnerships that help bridge the gap between Indigenous knowledge and research,” Duncan said in a release after her return to Ottawa.
Their visit to the Amundsen, whose Quebec-based research organization, ArcticNet, is celebrating its 15 anniversary this year, was meant to “underscore the importance of scientific study and data collection in understanding Arctic issues and trends,” according to the release.
Duncan said they also wanted “to highlight collaboration by recognizing the knowledge of Inuit and northerners who are at the forefront of the changes taking place in the Arctic.”
On their short voyage, they participated in some marine-based research outside Qikiqtarjuaq on an ice island, where Payette helped out with hands-on ice sampling.
— GGJuliePayette (@GGJuliePayette) September 2, 2018
The visit wrapped up on Saturday.
Payette previously came to Nunavut last April, to Iqaluit, where she participated in Toonik Tyme and accepted the role of “Honorary Toonik” during the spring festival’s opening ceremony.