Canada’s Shame: Nunavut

Canada’s northernmost territory of Nunavut, meaning our land in the Inuktitut is home to the country’s Inuit and Yupik peoples. The territory was officially incorporated as part of Canada as of 1991. Canada’s history of cultural genocide in Nunavut is tragic, the Inuit people attended residential schools where they were beaten for speaking their native tongue, the children were horribly neglected: There were countless casualties in these schools. The Inuit people were evicted from their traditional settlements and forced to move in parts of the region such as Iqaluit (Nunavut’s capital) and Gjoa Haven. But Canada has changed it ways, and ended the era of cultural genocide and made an official apology to the aboriginal peoples of the country as of 2008. So, everything has changed, the territory no longer suffers the way it used to, right? Well, no, not at all.

Canada’s arctic is rich in natural resources ranging from minerals to oil, and Canada’s capitalist, neo-colonial government is taking advantage of this. In addition to the exploitation of natural resources, Arctic cruise ships are present in Nunavut’s waters. This not only harms the environment, but the migratory path of maritime animals such as seals, Greenland sharks and many varieties of fish. The lack of sea creatures in the Arctic, has harmed the existence of the Inuit, since the Paleo Eskimo diet consists almost entirely of seafood. The most logical solution would be to go to the local grocery store, but the only problem is that there are only twelve in the whole territory, the territory of 33,000 people. And that’s not all; considering that the territory has absolutely no roads connected to mainland Canada, all food is flown from mainland Canada or shipped from as far away as Europe, Iceland and the United States, this of course has made the prices of food just ridiculous. The average person, much less the impoverished Inuit cannot afford to buy food to nourish their families.

As a result malnutrition has become a major problem for the growing population of Nunavut. Healthcare in the territory is also miserable, and the language barrier of English speaking doctors from the mainland and the Inuktitut speaking patients is very much a problem. The same language issue exists in schools, mainland teachers attempting to communicate to the children, who have difficulties to speak or understand English are a main cause of high school and middle school dropouts.

Alcohol is prohibited in 95% of the territory, because of the negative effect on it has on the people, and in fact, the Inuktitut word for alcohol literally translates to bad water or poison water. There are a few ports such as Iqaluit where alcohol is legal, and the partial legality of alcohol is the main problem with Nunavut’s prohibition. These cities have become main bootlegging cities for the entirety of the territory, which, is perhaps one of the main reasons why Nunavut’s crime rate is ten times higher the the rest of Canada! Canada’s very reasonable gun control laws have failed to make it to Nunavut. So if you add alcoholism, bootlegging and guns to the problem, you have the perfect recipe for disaster.

If you are citizen of Canada or Nunavut, you have a great chance of making change in your country, and to improve the lives of the Inuit people. Many petitions are offered online, organisations you may donate to, and protests all over Canada you may join.