|LEARNERS IN ACTION||October 2000|
"My Northern Experience"
A Southern Learner's Perspective
by Gordon A. DeWolfe
My heartfelt thanks go out to the Toronto Adult Student Association (TASA) for inviting me to participate as part of the learner delegation in the "Nunavut Conversation" held in Iqaluit.
The conference was entitled Living the Dream: Affirming Ourselves in the Millennium. Its aim was to inform and stimulate discussion between the North and the South regarding the land claims issues of Nunavut, how Nunavut came to be, and the problems and challenges facing them over the next decade. It was hoped that relationships would be fostered between northern and southern participants that would continue long after the conference was over.
Conference: Day One
After the opening ceremonies, it was time to participate in workshops. I chose "How Justice is Delivered in Nunavut". It was very fascinating to learn some alternative measures that are used in Nunavut (as opposed to placing people in jail.) Statistics show that these are extremely successful and that the number of persons who re-offend is diminished greatly as opposed to those who are placed in prison. It was also interesting to learn how the justice system had been started in the North and how it evolved to its current state.
My next workshop was "Building Capacity: Successes and Challenges". It offered a broad view of current and upcoming employment problems being faced in Nunavut. While it is the goal of the Nunavut government to have Inuit occupying jobs at all levels: private, corporate, or government, the number of Inuit with the education and/or skills necessary to be effective in such positions is exceedingly low. While education and training is clearly the next step, it then becomes a question of how much time it would take to educate and train enough people to fill the void.
The evening featured some northern entertainment for the pleasure of the conference participants. We were all enthralled with the magical and energizing passion presented by members of the Nunavut youth dance troupe called "Sekulik". They danced, played sealskin drums, all with enormous energy and spirit. My heart was pounding quite hard in my chest by the end of it all. As well, the female members of "Sekulik" treated everyone to some traditional Inuit songs using the craft of throat-singing.
Another entertainer provided us all with lots of laughs and merriment throughout the evening. Nunavut's own, "Charlie Panagonia" not only played the guitar, but he also played an electric organ with his toes at the same time. That's right, with his toes. What an act!