Nunavut Sivuniksavut gets big new home
“It’s a place we can grow in the ways we want to”
Nunavut Sivuniksavut, the Ottawa-based college program for Inuit youth, has spacious new digs: two floors in an office building at 450 Rideau St. in Ottawa.
The move, which took place during the first week of December, marks the beginning of a “new era” for NS, said Brenda Jancke, chairperson of its board of directors.
The purchase of the two-storey condominium is a major step towards enabling NS to increase its enrolment, says coordinator Morley Hanson.
NS generally turns away about 15 qualified candidates each year due to a lack of space.
“If we can find more money, we can now have two first-year programs running and expand the second-year program,” Hanson said.
More money, added to the extra space, would also allow NS to accept more students from other Inuit regions.
And, if NS can current its first year student body size from 20, then attendance in the program’s second year will also grow, Hanson said.
Since NS added a second year, the program hasn’t always had enough students to fully operate.
“If we had a larger first year cohort, say 36 students, then we undoubtedly get a dozen into a second year. Our experience shows us that a lot of our second year students go on with their studies,” he said.
The presence of more second-year students at NS could also lay the groundwork for a full university-level program, Hanson said.
If that sounds like “pie in the sky,” he said — so did acquiring a building for NS when the idea was first raised.
Encouragement to expand NS first came up after federal conciliator, Thomas Berger, recommended that NS be provided with adequate resources in his 2006 report on Nunavut land claims implementation in 2006.
Two years later the NS board of directors adopted a five-year plan for the program’s expansion and established a building fund.
Late last year, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the three regional Inuit associations, announced they would give $1 million over five years to the building fund.
Then in May, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada said it was ready to give $2.5 million for the purchase of a facility, with the requirement that a property be identified and purchased within the current fiscal year.
The new location — which was not the first NS looked at seriously — offers lots of possibilities, Hanson sad.
Built in 1977, the concrete-clad building started its career as a bank.
The first floor, one of two bought by NS, spreads over 6,800 square feet.
“you need an imagination because it was a bank, and it’s all big open spaces with high ceilings, lots of good light,” Hanson said.
But this space offers NS lots of possibilities, Hanson said, for a performance area, or even for a coffee shop or store.
At 5,500 square feet, the second floor is so large that for now NS has been able to rent out a portion to another organization, he said.
“It’s a place we can grow in the ways we want to,” Hanson said of 450 Rideau St..
But the same couldn’t be said for NS’s former cramped quarters on Dalhousie St. in the middle of an increasingly seedy part of town.
NS outgrew this space as the number of students and staff grew from 23 in 1997 to 37 in 2009.
At the same time, NS expanded its mandate.
The Tungavik Federation of Nunavut, forerunner to today’s NTI, started NS back in 1985 to help young Inuit understand the land claims process.
But since then, NS has developed a much wider focus to help students prepare for a higher education or employment.
Of NS former students, eight in 10 have gone on to higher studies or work, with nearly 40 per cent ending up in jobs with the Government of Nunavut.
But the most critical problem faced by NS was — until recently — a lack of space.
This has now been solved by the purchase of the two-storey condo.
Its actual purchase was made possible with the cooperation of Atuqtuarvik Corp., which provided a bridge financing loan to NS.
“We could not have done this without the help and assistance of many people and organizations,” Jancke said in a Dec. 7 news release.
“Board members and students, past and present, continually promoted the idea and the undying support of NTI, along with Kitikmeot, Kivalliq and Qikiqtani Inuit Associations, kept our goal alive. We asked them for assistance with a building, and they went above and beyond our expectations.”