Letting their hair down
Nunavut MLAs get their locks lopped off at the hands of Arctic College’s first hairdressing graduates
“Hey Paul, I feel younger already,” barks Peter Kilabuk, the minister of education, to Premier Paul Okalik.
Okalik, who is seated on the far side of Arctic College’s hairdressing studio, responds by expressing his disappointment at the prospect of losing, not gaining, hair.
A handful of MLAs were recently invited to receive haircuts at the hands of eight students graduating from the college’s first certificate hairdressing program in April.
The complimentary coifs were an opportunity for students to demonstrate their acquired skills, skills they’ll take back to their home communities.
The invitation to have their locks lopped off was extended to all Nunavut MLAs. But only five politicians accepted the invitation.
The missing members didn’t have much to lose, Okalik jokes: “They don’t have enough hair.”
It’s been a long haul for the hairdressing students from Arviat, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Kimmirut and Iqaluit who have endured eight months of theory and hands-on training, all in English. At least one student dropped out after the demands of studying and raising five children proved too much.
For those who have toughed it out, the bright yellow studio at the North 40 campus residence has been their home away from home since September.
Collages of coquettish hair models stare down from the classroom’s walls. Many of the workstations have at least one family photo or personal keepsake pinned to it.
The mood the night the MLAs arrive is jovial. Students mill about, picking out CDs and practising last minute blow-drying techniques.
The relaxed atmosphere is a far cry from the legislative chambers where, hours earlier, the territory’s proposed education act was quashed.
With the day behind them, any discomfort the visiting politicians feel when stepping through the door is quickly eased by instructor Suzanne Laliberte.
Each MLA is matched with a student at Laliberte’s instructions. Jokes are flying. Nervous laughter fills the room.
The lively atmosphere generates a mixture of reactions.
Kilabuk, whose department funded the hairdressing program, eases into a padded hairdresser’s chair. A protective plastic cape is draped over his shoulders and the Pangnirtung MLAs happily accept an invitation to have his salt-and-pepper hair dyed black.
“Just in case my constituents in Pangnirtung do not recognize me with my new hairdo, I’m still the same person,” Kilabuk tells fellow MLAs the next day.
Jobie Nutarak, MLA for Tunnuniq, is ushered to a sink. The retractable chair slides toward the tap and his head is quickly engulfed in frothy shampoo.
Uqqummuit MLA David Iqaqrialu and Amittuq MLA Enoki Irqittuq lose themselves in hairstyling magazines.
When Irqittuq finds a photo of the hairstyle he likes, he shows student hairdresser Deliah Karetak and offers a mammoth smile.
The response in the legislative assembly the next day is favourable.
“I told Mr. Irqittuq I didn’t think he could look any better but he does look better after the haircut,” Okalik jokes.
Irqittuq commended the students for a job well done.
“I’m very proud of these students,” he says.
Funding permitting, the program will be offered again next year, said Cindy Cowan, director of community programs, academic studies and trades for the college.
“The first year has gone really well. The completion rate is indicative of the students commitment and desire to do well,” she said.