Why don’t Inuit leaders wake up?

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Inuit in the South don’t seem to commit suicide, nor do those in the North who work in satisfying jobs. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that Inuit youth should be demanding the means to get the education and skills to become the qualified managers, professionals and skilled workers in their own land.

In his recent report on Nunavut, Thomas Berger was right to say that education is in crisis.

But where was he 30 years ago when his report on the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline purported to examine the social issues in the North? All he really said then was that there should be preferential hiring of the unqualified, and that people should concentrate on the resources of the land – mainly on a fur trade that he failed to notice was on its deathbed.

However, a decade earlier, in 1967, the Carrothers Royal Commission had said: “[T]his country must see to it that there is a satisfactory union of educational and economic opportunity in the North without delay.”

That same year, the Indian chief Dan George said: “I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success, his education, his skills, and with these tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society. So shall I shatter the barriers of our isolation.”

Berger’s narrow focus on Inuit bilingualism is inadequate when you consider that many people grow up in bilingual societies as a matter of course, as in Scandinavia and India.

Bilingualism is barely a start, although a good one. Inuit also need the skills to function effectively in the modern economy. But he doesn’t say that.

Nor does he say that to make changes that work, you have to find societies that have overcome similar challenges, and implement what they have done. In effect, he said he would leave the details of what must done to those who are part of the current problem.

Why did he not cite such obvious examples of education that has worked, in rural Ireland and in South Korea, the work done by Maria Montessori in Naples in the 1890s and, in Canada, the school at Pointe St. Charles in Montreal?

Inuit leaders have a sickening compulsion to romanticize a traditional stereotype which has passed as surely as has the southern Canadian lifestyle of Upper Canada Village.

Consider, however, the fact that Nunavik has an even higher suicide rate than Nunavut.

The Makivik Corp. “owns” 2,000 jobs, including 1,000 at First Air, which they bought in 1990. Why are Inuit youth not being educated and trained to be the pilots, engineers, accountants and managers in their own company?

Why don’t the so-called leaders wake up and see the big dots before their eyes, and then connect them?

Colin Alexander
Ottawa

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