As ArcticNet event ends, demands grow for Inuit Nunangat university

Inuit researchers honoured at ArcticNet gala

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s 2018 ArcticNet Inuit recognition award went to the Nunavik Research Institute’s Peter May of Kuujjuaq. (SCREEN SHOT)

By Jane George

OTTAWA—It’s time that Inuit become research leaders in Inuit Nunangat: that was the message from participants who attended a gala evening near the end of the ArcticNet annual science conference in Ottawa this week.

At its Thursday evening gala, Governor General Julie Payette encouraged young researchers to continue their work — but many are likely to remember the Inuit who received awards.

For example, Peter May of the Nunavik Research Institute in Kuujjuaq, well-known for his studies on geese, caribou and other Nunavik wildlife, received Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Inuit Recognition Award.

Peter May, centre, of Kuujjuaq’s Nunavik Research Institute receives his ITK Inuit Recognition Award at ArcticNet’s Dec. 13 gala. (SCREEN SHOT)

This award recognizes Inuit “who are making strong efforts towards meaningful Inuit involvement in Arctic research.”

Michelle Wood, a Nunatsiavut researcher, also received an ITK recognition award.

Also, the Nunavik Research Institute, where May works, was the 2018 recipient of the Northern Science Award from Polar Knowledge Canada.

This award is presented annually to an individual or a group making “a significant contribution to meritorious knowledge and understanding of the Canadian North.”

Enooyaq Sudlovenick of Iqaluit presents her research on pathogens and heavy metal content in ringed seals in Iqaluit at ArcticNet on Dec. 13. Her conclusions: that ringed seals in Frobisher Bay are healthy, hunters’ assessments are efficient and any risk assessment due to heavy metals or pathogens must weight the presence of contaminants versus the benefits of eating seal. Speaking in Inuktitut in a video that shown after a panel on women and diversity, later in the day, she said Arctic research needs more Inuit involved in research. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Enooyaq Sudlovenick of Iqaluit, who is a graduate student at the University of PEI, also received the top $1,000 award from ArcticNet for the presentation of her research on pathogens and heavy metal content in ringed seals in Iqaluit.

An Inuit Nunangat university?

Also on Thursday, the call for the establishment of an Inuit Nunangat university grew stronger at the conference’s Dec. 13 afternoon panel on women and diversity.

Carolyn Bennett, the minster of Crown-Indigenous Relations, offers opening remarks at ArcticNet’s Dec. 13 panel on women and diversity in northern science. During the panel, Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern, second from the left, talked about the need for more Inuit researchers and a university in the North. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine, one of the panellists, said Inuit, not southerners, should frame Arctic research.

But to do that, the North needs a university, she said.

”Imagine what Ontario would be like without a university?” she said.

An Inuit Nunangat university might not resemble universities in the South exactly, but would be shaped by the research carried out by its faculty and students, she said.

And that research would also guide programs and policies, Redfern said.

A northern university could also mean that Inuit would actually carry out the research and ask the questions.

Governance is the biggest barrier stopping a university from happening, Redfern said, because a university wouldn’t have to start as a large institution to succeed.

“I don’t think it’s money,” she said, calling the lack of investment in a northern university a “discrimination of low expectations,” revealing a prejudiced attitude towards Inuit.

“Reconciliation (with Inuit) should include post-secondary education,” Redfern said to the audience, which included Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.

Bennett had opened the panel by saying “we want to make sure that Arctic research is not just the land and ice, that it’s about the people, with Inuit and Indigenous knowledge.”

During the panel, Redfern suggested the mostly empty Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay could be used as a university campus.

CHARS cost $142.4 million to build, $46.2 million to ramp up, and now costs about $7.1 million a year to operate, though it hasn’t officially opened yet.

Redfern, who recently visited Cambridge Bay, said CHARS represents a “missed opportunity” and that its resources could be used for a northern university.

Post-secondary students talk about their challenges

A university in the North would see more students finishing their post-secondary studies, said Concordia University student Lucina Gordon of Kuujjuaq at a Dec. 13 panel at the ArcticNet conference on Inuit students’ post-secondary experiences. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The call for a northern university also came from another panel on Dec. 13, this one featuring post-secondary students from the four Inuit Nunangat regions who talked about the challenges they face.

These include being far from home, a lack of support from community and family, and the lack of role models to encourage them.

Lucina Gordon of Kuujjuaq, a graduate of John Abbott College, now a student at Concordia University in Montreal, said she thought a university in the North would solved many of the shared issues brought up by the panellists.

“A lot of people don’t want to leave their community and it’s a legitimate concern,” Gordon said.

Many of her peers from Nunavik quit their post-secondary studies before finishing, she said, and for her, pursuing post-secondary hasn’t been easy, either.

Gordon said when she arrived at John Abbott College, most of her classmates seemed to know exactly what they were doing in school— but she had no idea.

There were also pressures from her family back in Kuujjuaq and southern instructors who  caused additional stress due to their lack of awareness and sensitivity about the North and its social problems.


Share This Story

(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Tsa on

    First reveal the problem and start from there.

    • Posted by DONAT SAVOIE on

      Congratulations to Nunavik Research Centre, organization of Makivik Corporation. It was a well-kept secret for too long. I was very pleased to prepare the nomination of the Centre for the Northern Science annual Award given by Polar Knowledge Canada. As far as I know it is the only research centre in Northern Canada that was created by Inuit some 40 years ago, run by Inuit for Inuit. DONAT SAVOIE, National Order of Quebec, 2016 Recipient of Polar Medal of the Governor General of Canada.

  2. Posted by Counter Clockwise on

    During the panel, Redfern suggested the mostly empty Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay could be used as a university campus.

    Comments like this really make you wonder why the mayor’s opinion is being offered, it’s so far out of touch with reality it’s laughable.

    Also, one of the panelists says that ““A lot of people don’t want to leave their community and it’s a legitimate concern.”

    1st, consider that there are nearly 500,000 international students in Canadian universities today. If a person is unable to handle being away from home I don’t think they are mature enough for university level study.

  3. Posted by all in on

    how about getting Inuit graduates through high school with diplomas and education that equal those across Canada, and then, when there are students ready to pursue Masters and PhD studies, we think about an Arctic University where Inuit frame the research being conducted? There’s a reason it’s southern based, and that reason is not based on race. We need major changes at the most basic levels here before we can start achieving these lofty goals. Otherwise an Arctic University will be mostly a nice place for southern researchers to do placement work from the north, while Inuit continue to hold administrative jobs at that very same facility. Time to change the tune. Graduates, education, poverty reduction, mental health assessment and treatment. #goals.

  4. Posted by Bob Mesher on

    “A lot of people don’t want to leave their community…” (and another said) “Imagine what Ontario would be like without a university?” Meanwhile, Inuit Nunangat is comprised of the lands, waters and ice of Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. Such a university would require more than one brick and mortar facility as well as Internet.

    • Posted by David on

      Brick and mortar facilities during a time when post secondary education is moving in the direction of distance learning and web based classes. That’s what I find so interesting about this, Nunavut wants to move in the exact opposite direction that the rest of Canada is going. When distance learning seems to be the perfect answer and so much groundwork has already been done for them by other provinces.

      Begs the question: Is this about quality education or….. we want what everyone else has?

      • Posted by Double Degreed on

        I don’t think it’s accurate to say the direction of post secondary education in general is towards distance learning, period. Distance learning is becoming more prominent but it will never fully replace classroom learning and nor should it. In my experience distance learning is convenient but offers a far lower quality learning experience.

        • Posted by David MacDougall on

          It most certainly is in the north.

          It’s amazing what is available today and how much easier it is to access post secondary for northern students, and the quality will continue to get better. While there are some sketchier colleges offering programs, I admit, quality post secondary programs exist.

          University of Calgary is now offering a BEd program where students need only spend 2 weeks a year in Calgary. U of C is not a Mickey Mouse institution.

          • Posted by Double Degreed on

            Well David, I have earned degrees both ways from reputable Canadian Universities, and in my experience there is a huge disparity in the quality of classroom versus distance learning.

            Maybe your experience has been different? I’d be interested to hear more about it.

  5. Posted by Gobble Gobble on

    Oh my. Where to start?

    Well, maybe with the feasibility study that was done (that we all knew from the beginning was a waste of money in the first place) that concluded it would take at least 50 years, likely over 100 years for enrollment to reach 500 students? Which is a requirement of a university as set out by Universities Canada. Other criteria include highly qualified academic staff holding PhDs; undergraduate degree programs characterized by breadth and depth in the traditional areas of the liberal arts and/or sciences; first degrees of a professional nature – such as medicine, law, teacher education, engineering; access to appropriate learning resources. Can’t just have some researchers up here and call it a university.

    Can we all acknowledge Madeleine Redfern is ridiculous? Imagine Ontario without a university? Ontario has over 14 million people. Inuit Nunangat has what? … 60,000? Ontario has a population 230 times that of Inuit Nunangat, yet about 21 universities. One for every 700,000 people.

    “A lot of people don’t want to leave their community”. Well, there’s around 50 communities in Inuit Nunangat, so if they turn CHARS into a university, like Redfern suggests, chances are that most of the students aren’t going to come from Cambridge Bay’s 1800 people.

    This is such an absurd concept at this point in time. Focus on primary/secondary education, focus on NAC, and you can continue partnering with universities to get degrees.

Comments are closed.