Wednesday, October 06, 2010


By now I'm sure it's painfully obvious that keeping up with this blog has become increasingly difficult do to time constraints and increasing family obligations. During the time of this blog, and indeed the entire time (6 years) I resided in Nunavut, I was blessed with many experiences, trials and tribulations. I was fortunate to see and experience a part of Canada that few people are able to. By Nunavut standards I am now a southerner of sorts, here in Fort McMurray, Alberta enjoying our first house with a loving fiancee and a growing (and busy) family.

I've said a lot and have had a lot said in return on this blog in the form of the many comments I've received over the years. I was pleasantly surprised to see that some posts, written as much as two years ago, still generate commentary. Who knew? I've also had the odd interview and published article along the way.

In six years, I lived in a couple different communities and saw a good deal of Baffin Island, or at least as much as is possible to see from a plane, a snowmobile or a pair of size 10 Sorels. I witnessed some fantastic views, ate some unique foods, went on the odd rant, jumped in the ocean and struck gold.

To finish off I'd like to thank and wish best wishes to everyone I encountered along my Nunavut journey. It was a fantastic 6 years of my life encompassing over half my professional career. I recall my first day, back in July 2003 as my jet was landing in Iqaluit. The aircraft had to declare a missed approach as circle around again for a second landing attempt. A someone who had flown quite a bit in many types of aircraft and flying conditions, I was a little taken aback. I remember asking myself just what I thought I was getting into. Six plus years years later, I can answer that question: I was about to embark on a most wonderful adventure full of unique and wonderful experience I have never regretted, and something I always look back upon with a good deal of pride.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bans, Wasps and Apologies

Anyone whose followed this blog for any length of time will know that I whole-heartedly welcome this news regarding a proposed EU seal ban. Of course they will say that it isn't directed specifically at Inuit but at the end of the day a ban would definitely affect them. I'm sure this news has brought some gritting of teeth and hand ringing to some people, but then I see stories of some Europeans deliberately running with bulls and well...if your silly enough to do that I suppose a ban somehow makes some sort of sense.....

Seeing wasps in the High Arctic caught my attention though its something I've been aware of for the past 2 or 3 years, having seen them myself as well as some interesting pictures of them on a couple other northern blobs I frequent.

I also note with interest the federal government's apology for the forced relocation of Inuit families back in the 1950's. For me this wasn't just something I read about in history books. I got some sense of it all from my time spent in Arctic Bay, one of the communities affected by this bureaucratic decision. For anyone interested in more information, I highly recommend the book Tammarniit (Mistakes).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Close Encounters

While I had a few close encounters with polar bears when I lived in Nunavut, I have to admit none of the were quite like this. It bears pointing out(sorry for the pun)that generally bears will take great pains to avoid human contact and that most encounters occur when we as humans encroach on their territory. The only serious attack I heard about during the time I lived up there occurred in 2003 when an Inuk guide was attacked in his tent at night while leading a hunting expedition. The man did survive, but needed a couple hundred stitches and staples to close to wounds to his scalp.

I recall coming across a black bear in Fort Smith 10 years ago, but fortunately for me, the bear showed much more interest in the berries it was eating than in me and I was able to beat a hasty retreat with nothing more than an elevated heart rate and a good northern tale.

While polar bears make for iconic northern photos, you always have to use your head. It's good to hear this encounter turned out safely for both human and bear.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New Blog

Its been quite a while since I've added a new blog to the sidebar. Courtesy of Bonnieupnorth (another Alberta/Nunavut blog by the way), I give you The Amazing Tails of Jasper and Jack, Alaskan bloggers, who if I've got it correctly are friends of Bonnie's daughter.

While I have to admit I'm not as familiar with Alaskan blogs as the ones from Canada's 3 northern territories, I do have to admit a certain captivation with the state. It is high up on my list of places to see and I've bounced the idea of taking an Alaskan cruise of my fiancee. And to my delight, she is just as enthusiastic about it as I am. At any rate, be sure to check out this new Alaskan addition to the sidebar if you have the opportunity.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I've been having a pretty busy summer and haven't been following much in the way of news as much as I usually would. News about the recent discovery of the HMS Investigator has caught my attention, history buff and northern enthusiast that I am. There's more happening in our Arctic than most people would realize from reading the mainstream media. It's refreshing to see a story that isn't about social or government issues or Parliamentary rows over arctic sovereignty issues.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This is actually a post I had been playing around with in my head for some time now but never seemed to find the time to put down on paper, or the screen as it were. Having followed the Nunavut blogging scene from its infancy 5 years ago up to now, I've seen a lot of changes as people have come and gone or even moved to different communities within the territory. Perhaps the most entertaining blog I've followed was Jen of Nunavut. If you're not familiar with it, I highly recommend stopping by for the photography and wit. Jen has since moved on to Ontario but still writes warmly about Nunavut on her new blog. Anyhow, I was reminded about getting on about doing this post after seeing the first two photos of this post here as well as reading up on Jaime's blog as she prepares for her move south. And, since I'm doing up more links than a German sausage I highly recommend this very thorough and well-written post if you're curious about making the move up to Nunavut.

Thinking back now to July 21, 2003, when I first moved to Nunavut I find it funny that at the time I spent a great deal of time pondering all the changes and adjustments I would have to make. (I had made my career to this point in several small northern communities across Canada, but Nunavut was something else entirely.) What I never really thought about was all the changes and adjustments I would have to make once I left Nunavut. Perhaps this is understandable after all since when I landed in Iqaluit on that fateful July day I had no idea I would spend the next 6 years of my life on Baffin Island. At the time, I was thinking within the confines of a 2-year time frame.

Perhaps changes are pretty obvious of course like climate and lack of 24-daylight (and darkness) so I don't need to elaborate. Other things might come across as a bit strange and may only be fully understood by someone who has spent a portion of their life north of that magical line known as the Arctic Circle. So here, in no particular order are some of the things I've had to adjust to over the past year.

1)Anonymity - Sometimes I like this and sometimes I don't. I don't really pay much attention to this anymore but initially I found it a bit strange that I could spend the better part of a day downtown or in some of the other civic places where people tend to gather and (aside from my family) not recognize or be acknowledged by a single person.

2)Cell phones - Yes, I'll admit straight off that I can be a bit of a Luddite. Cell phones confused the hell out of me at first. I only got one because my fiancee and I had a heck of a time getting our land line set up when we moved to northern Alberta and needed a phone of some sort to help us out in the interim. I suppose I can be forgiven a little since while I lived in Nunavut, there was no cell phone service available outside of the capital of Iqaluit. AND I know for a fact that I annoyed the heck out of my fiancee with all my cell phone questions and the pushing of wrong buttons. But I started sending my own text messages a couple weeks ago and for those who know my level of technology skills, that's real progress.

3)Access to goods and services - Fort McMurray isn't Edmonton when it comes to selection and shopping options but it is a significant change from living in places with only two stores. I now live within walking distance of 2 major grocery stores, 3 gas stations, 3 liquor stores, 4 schools and an insane number of dentist offices. As a result of all this, I've had to re-learn how to bargain shop....and this leads nicely into the next item....

4)Re-learning about money - Okay maybe not totally re-learning but as I mentioned earlier I became accustomed to dealing with 2 stores, though occasionally I did order online. Having accepted high prices as normal everyday thing, I had to be careful moving to a community of 80,000. Prices here are a tad high by Alberta standards but from my perspective there were many times I thought I was getting a great deal when I really wasn't. Thankfully I have my wonderful fiancee to help me out with this.

5)Busy busy - This place is on the go 24/7. You know you've been ruralized when you secretly congratulate yourself on successfully crossing 6 lanes of Fort McMurray traffic without getting squashed one of those big Diversified buses that are seemingly everywhere transporting people to and from all the big oil sands projects. Speaking of buses....

6) Negotiating bus routes - Lisa does the driving and I last dealt with city buses while attending university. Windsor, Ontario is good in that much of downtown and commercial areas are laid out in a grid system. Here, its a bit more confusing with a lot of twisty roads and routes that wrap around each other, like an unruly ball of yarn. A couple of times I've misread route maps but I've managed to catch my mistakes before winding up too far from my intended destination.

7) You lived where?! - Isn't so much of an adjustment as an observation. I always get a kick out of people when I try to describe to them where I used to live. At times, this has led to a bit of "He-man" complex on my part. We hit a patch of -40C weather last December and I'm sure I smile smugly at a few people who commented about how cold the weather felt to them. "Oh, -40 is nothing. Trust me. This one time in Nunavut....."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wish I Was There

I know I'm a little late off the draw with this but as a former Windsorite I have to wish a hearty congratulations to the Windsor Spitfires on their back-to-back Memorial Cup wins (can you say DYNASTY?!) It's been a few years since I've been back to the Windsor area and this story makes me wish I was there for tomorrow's Canada Day parade (though I'm sure it will be a good show here in Fort McMurray).

The Stanley Cup and the Memorial Cup together for the first time in the same parade is pretty cool you have to admit. Plus, it wasn't won by Detroit for a nice change. (I have to admit I never really liked the team, plus, all the media coverage coming from across the Detroit River did little to endear me to them.) I also like that Chicago coach (and former Windsor Spitfire coach) Joel Quenneville is a Windsor boy and that he happens to share his surname with a certain lovely fiancee of mine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Congrats Robbie!

On a more uplifting note, it is with a great amount of pride that I congratulate Robbie Qammanirq on his recent graduation from Trent University. I never had the opportunity to meet Robbie while I lived in Arctic Bay but being such a small place I met plenty family members and friends and certainly heard much about the young man and the challenges he had to overcome. Coming from such a small place and adjusting to life in a large urban centre is no small barrier to overcome. Speaking from my own experience, after spending a decade in several small northern Canadian communities, adjusting to a new life in a city of 80, 000+ was trying at times. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who has spent their entire life in a small place.

And I'm sure there will be plenty of idiots out there who will seize on this event simply to bash the North, education policy, the fact their underwear is on too tight and what have you. The simple truth is that relocating 2000 miles to attain a university degree is damn hard and Robbie should be commended for his grit and determination.

For more media coverage you can find the Nunatsiaq News article here and a story from CHEX Newswatch here. A big thank you to Nunavut MLA Ron Elliott and fellow Alberta/Nunavut blogger Bonnieupnorth for bringing this story to my attention.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Water Woes

This recent news item on the state of water on Aboriginal reserves caught my attention because I can certainly relate to it. I once lived in a northern Manitoba community that was on a "boil water" for much of the time I was there. There are times (particularly in the spring) where I know some communities will issue an advisory simply because of spring run off, a common thing that usually doesn't last all that long. Fort Smith is an examply of this and if I recall correctly the advisory lasted for perhaps a week. No big deal.

The situation I faced in northern Manitoba was much different. The water problems were brought on primarily due to changed water levels in the lake resulting from damming projects courtesy of Manitoba Hydro and an ageing water plant that couldn't keep up with demand.* I spent a good chunk of time and energy boiling my water in a big pot on the stove which sadly became routine. By the time winter rolled around (and we got a great deal of snow that year), I was so tired of using boiled water for my morning coffee that I resorted to boiling snow on occassion (being very careful to avoid yellow or other discoloured areas when collecting snow for my pot of course.) Other than being a pain in the butt, the water aggrevated my skin over time. I developed a couple rashes and it didn't do any favours for my psoriasis either.

I'm feel fortunate looking back that at least my house had pipes and a flush toilet. About half of the community didn't. In fact, most of the students I taught that year had their only exposure to flush toilets at either the school or the adjacent nursing station. For the most part their houses had honey buckets, foul contraptions I would use out of necessity when camping but not something I would want to have to deal with on a daily basis.

All this is to say that this whole issue is not just an Aboriginal issue, a white issue, a black issue or a purple issue or whatever issue certain political ideologues on either side of the spectrum try to make it out to be. This is quite simply a human rights issue and its high time it was dealt with.

*Its my understanding that in the meantime, a new water treatment plant was constructed, but it brings little comfort to me now when I think back on all I had to endure that year.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Education Train Wreck Coming Through

As I've hinted on my other blog, I know longer work for my current employer. As promised, I've decided to post my reasons here on this blog rather than sully my other blog with mention of my former employer's ineptitude. I've thought long and hard about what I am about to say. Something needs to be said.

When I moved to Janvier it was with the clear intention of staying awhile and putting down some roots. Sadly, this was not to be. While I had close to a decade of experience under my belt, the majority of it in Nunavut, I still found myself unprepared for my new work environment. I taught in one school (not in Nunavut, I should add) that was so horrid in terms of enforcing discipline that I felt it impossible to encounter a comparable situation in my career. How wrong I was.

Northland School Division is truly not a place I would recommend to any aspiring teacher to apply to. Understand that during my career I have suffered black eyes, broken bones, racism, vandalism and have had my house broken into. But at least I always felt supported and I always managed to find a way to get through. Not so for Northland School Division. And while I freely admit I've made my fair share of mistakes, I find it absolutely disgusting that I was never supported in my discipline efforts at my former "school".

Rather than enforce the school discipline policy, which was agreed to by all teaching staff, I should add, my former principal merely gave them a "talking to" before cycling them back into my class or worse yet, did nothing. Always, I was made to feel like I was the bad guy. I had a decade of northern experience under my belt. I felt like I could be a real asset to my school and the board. Each day became a struggle. When a student kicks at you and then returns the next day and announces to everyone that they can do whatever they please because they know there is nothing you can do to get them suspended, you know you're in for a long year. Emails to higher-ups expressing my concerns went unanswered. Clearly then, it was only a matter of time until I hit a very rough week. I ended up raising my voice too many times and parents complained. I was asked to take some time off by my board while they investigated things. After languishing for 3 weeks, during which time emails asking for more information on when I might hear a response went unanswered, I had had enough. I resigned. I can only lay the blame for this at the feet of Superintendent Pier de Paola, Assistant Superintendent Shelly Willier and F.R. Perin School Principal John Proctor. Computers, internet, SMART Boards and video conferencing are all wonderful gadgets to have and can have a real positive impact on the learning environment. But it is all for naught when that learning environment is poisoned by students who clearly shouldn't be in a "normal" classroom setting.

At the end of the day, students suffer. Kids that are keen to learn are handicapped by peers who couldn't care less about whether any learning takes place and by administrators who are more concerned about squeezing one more year in before retirement than with actually making a difference. Not only did I work at this school, but I had two children of my own in the school. Therefore, a healthy learning environment is very important to me. Unlike many families with kids at schools in Northland, at least I have the luxury of pulling my kids out and enrolling them in a real school in Fort McMurray, which we now obviously have.

Northland School Division has a hard time retaining staff. It's 4-year retention rate is less than half of the provincial average. With that kind of turn over, you know you're in trouble. (Visit this popular website advertising positions Canada-wide for any length of time and you begin to notice, the division always has a lot of positions to fill at the end of every school year.) Had I known this one simply fact, I quite likely would never have moved my family there. I also wish I had been told prior to coming here that during the previous year the school went through 3 principals and my class had 4 teachers. But I suppose the school board would be a little sensitive about THAT little detail raising its little head.

Initially I felt fortunate that we would be getting a nice board-supplied teacherage as not all communities within the board have them. It was one of the few 3-bedroom units the board had so we felt spoiled. I was told upon being hired that it was newly renovated and ready for us to move in. At 1700 square feet, it was downright palatial compared to some of the housing units I lived in in other northern communities when I was single. Of course, the housing office failed to mention a host of underlying issues with the house. Issues that became apparent within weeks of moving in. It started with major sewage issues, which I've mentioned on my Alberta blog. Our house was the only one with water and sewage tanks and a cracked sewage pipe meant that we had raw sewage backing up into the basement in the fall. Clearly, if you have 3 children in your house under the age of 6, this is not a good environment. Getting the problem resolved was a huge headache. As a result of this and also because the hamlet was inept when it came to filling our water tank and emptying our sewage tank, we went a span of two to three weeks when we couldn't use water in our house. Either we had no water or we did but we were getting sewage backup. I had to resort to buying some large plastic containers and filling them with water at the school so we could have water.

We put no small effort into turning the basement into a play area for the kids and in the event they couldn't even use it because of our fears of mold and bacterial contamination in the dry wall. It angers me beyond belief that the kids had to endure this because some idiot somewhere within the colossus of the school board failed to do their job properly. Also, our fridge went, our washing machine died on us and our furnace blew in February while I was out for a meeting in Edmonton. The school board has a very small crew for housing maintenance that is responsible for some 23 schools and 140 teacherages covering a massive chunk of Alberta. Of course these people do their best but that doesn't offer much comfort when it takes a few days to get hold of anyone and a few more days waiting for the problem to be dealt with.

Northland School Division, for those who may be unaware, has plenty of other problems to deal with. I like to think that the inquiry team's recommendations will lead to real change. I AM an optimist after all.

I read some of the problems Northland School Division faces in this news item here though and I have to admit to having serious doubts.

Logically, it makes little sense to have 23 small school schools spread out over a huge geographical area. Maintenance and communication are major issues. In mind there are only two real solutions. You could create a number of smaller boards with local control of education. This is already the case in many isolated communities in Northern Ontario. Local communities have a much better understanding and appreciation of students culture and needs than bureaucrats hundreds of kilometers away.

You could also split up the board and fold schools into surrounding school divisions. The communities of Fort MacKay, Anzac, Janvier and Conklin all lie within a 90 minute of drive of Fort McMurray. If you want more efficient service, communication and appreciation for what its like "on the ground", it makes more sense to make them part of the Fort McMurray School Board than have them under a board headquartered an 8-9 hour drive away in Peace River.

I know there are people out there that will simply dismiss my rant as sour grapes. The one thing I've always tried to stick to in life, though, is telling the truth. And frankly, if this makes some people feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, then so be it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From Long Ago

I absolutely love old black and white photos, particularly ones from Arctic places. They just have such a timeless quality to them. When I came across a batch of old photos while poking around online (thanks Clare) I just had to take a peak. If I'm not mistaken, these little gems are from the private collection of former RCMP officer Finley McInnes, who was posted to Pond Inlet in the 1920's. The collection is now housed in the archives of the University of Alberta. More photos can be viewed here. The photos below are from Arctic Bay and area and date from c1937.

I believe these are part of the St. George Society Cliffs in Adams Sound.

A view of Admiralty Inlet.

King George V Mountain -- a very familiar landmark

The old Hudson Bay Company post at Arctic Bay. I believe the original structure still stands in the town today.

This ship is the "Arctic". It was the first of 2 such-named ships to sale into the bay there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Still Waiting For That Memo

Just wanted to share a cartoon that was passed along to me.

Thanks Ron.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Seabirds And Climate Change

This story caught my attention for a few reasons. Among them, the article references an area of Canada I used to live in, I have an interest in birds (though, admittedly I don't see many seabirds here in Northern Alberta) and it involves a hot button issue (and it's not like I never touch on those on this blog). Silly as this may seem, back before I had even given a thought to Nunavut, let alone considered spending 6 years of my life there, I remember being quite surprised to discover that there were birds of any kind there. Afterall, I knew there were few if any trees at that latitude so where exactly would all these birds supposed to nest? The answer of course is cliffs and rocky shorelines, which according to the above news report, are threatened by erosion brought on by climate change.

I know the debate here can get pretty vitriolic and I'd rather stay out of all the political silliness involved as well. I've included below a few pictures to give you an idea of what the shoreline looks along the south eastern coast of Baffin Island. I never had a chance to visit Qaquluit mentioned in the article but I did get down to Kingnelling Fiord, where these pictures were taken in the fall of 2004.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Proposed Ban On Polar Bear Trade Defeated

I've been meaning to comment on this recent headline regarding polar bears for a few days now but haven't found the time until now. It seems that the polar bear has become the poster child in recent years for the climate change nuts and any other person who feels the need to bash Aboriginal hunters for "over hunting."

Groups like Polar Bears International and IFAW love to make the case that over hunting is a major threat. More mainstream groups such as the World Wildlife Federation mention over hunting, but more importantly, climate change, as a big problem facing sustainable polar bear populations. Actually Polar Bears International. IFAW and many other like-minded groups mention climate change as well but find they get more mileage for their causes by plugging the over hunting angle. Also, it helps if you portray polar bears as soft, cute and cuddly rather than as they actual are in the real world.*

Stats on bear populations vary depending on what source you want to look at but I decided to do some quick math with some of the numbers that are most commonly tossed around just to get an idea of what the situation is really like. Now depending on who you talk to, current international polar bear populations lie somewhere between 20,000 to 25,000. Let's be conservative and for the sake of argument, take the figure of 20,000 as accurate. Approximately 65% of the world's total number of polar bears are found in Canada. That's around 13,000 cuddly bears. It's important to mention that each community in Nunavut, where the bulk of Canada's bears are found uses a quota system for harvesting bears. Something like 300 bears are hunted for sport each year. 300...out of 13,000. That's about 2% of the population. Let's be honest, if the big threat here is climate change, as many alarmist groups emphatically state, then how is a trade ban going to solve things? I would submit that Canada has a much better management system in place than say that other large country across the top of the North Pole. Perhaps the alarmists should pay more attention to Russia.

Now, why US-based groups fighting to put a trade ban in place, fail to mention that a mere 2% of Canada's bear population is taken yearly through sport hunting, is interesting. I wonder why? I largely suspect that by having a ban in place, the US, by far, one of the world's major contributors to green house gas emissions, can give the impression of actually doing something. A ban is much cheaper, and consequently more political palatable to voters. It also draws attention away from issues surrounding drilling for oil in Alaska.

*Interestingly, the kids are here watching a DVD this morning and got pretty excited over a preview of a movie about Knut, the young polar bear raised in captivity. The preview mentions climate change rather than over hunting as a threat and, mean step-dad that I am, I pointed out to the kids that Knut is now fully grown, prone to follow his natural instincts to hunt and eat, and consequently, likely not the best of choices for a family pet.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Way Way Up Turns 4!

Today I mark another anniversary as my little blog turns 4. I never thought I'd make it this long in the blogosphere, particularly last summer when I left Nunavut and moved out west to Alberta. While the number of posts has slowed a little, I apparently still have much to say (hopefully some of it is coherent and enlightening). 948 posts and I'm still here. Thanks again to my merry little band of followers and for all those who have taken the time to drop a comment. Thanks for your questions and correction and gentle criticisms. They help keep me on my toes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oh My God! Who's In Charge?

My apologies for being woefully behind on my posts. There are a few issues I had been hoping to blog about but I've been distracted with a new house purchase and my stepson has had one doozy of a fever this weekend but one seemingly endless political drama caught my attention so here goes.

With a population of something like 32 000 people one could be forgiven for thinking not much goes on there politically. There are many issues though that deserve the attention of all Canadians let alone Nunavummiut...Arctic Sovereignty, North West Passage issues, resource and mineral development, the seal hunt, and climate change concerns spring to mind. It's easy to think that politics must be pretty boring. I've been out of the loop for a few months now, being out in Alberta, but I recall that after the last Nunavut election (for which I was present and eligible to vote in) there was a lot of tension between former Premier, Paul Okalik and incoming Premier, Eva Aariak. Every time I read a political story it seemed Okalik wasted no breath or opportunity to criticize Aareak in the Legislature.

I was hopeful that the former Premier (and it always gives me great pleasure to refer to Okalik as the "former" Premier) would come to his senses and get on with the task of working with his fellow MLA's to tackle the many issues the territory. Sadly, it seems Okalik would rather continue to grind political axes for the sake of scoring cheap political points. The whole tirade smacks of sour grapes. Not allowing a member to continue their statement is simply classless.

Among the many burrs lodged up his posterior, Okalik was concerned that no one was apparently in charge of the territory while Aareak was off attending the Olympic Games. I'm not aware of any law that a leader of any province or territory in Canada losses their authority once away from their home jurisdictions. According to Okalik, if you're a Premier of Nunavut and happen to fly out for a stint, you "leave your authority to make legal decisions for the territory at the border." HUH?? Now, perhaps the former Premier was just confused because to me this makes no sense. And even if what he said is true, the question remains "why is this even important? who cares?" Okalik's "concern" sounds like something that might be brought up in some tin pot African dictatorship. Oh look, the leader is away. Someone needs to be in charge. Hey, that someone should be me." Sadly, I a have few doubts that thoughts similar to this actually went through the man's brain.

Honest to God, it's silly garbage like this that cheapens politics even more than it already is. Grow up "former Premier." Your grandstanding is childish and idiotic to say the least. Frankly, much of what you're saying is illogical and makes no sense. Its sad that someone making such uneducated statements like this ever rose to the position of power you did.

So congratulations! You got your little hissy fit in and made some headlines. Now, could you kindly pull your head out of your ass and at least attempt to do your job?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Quiet Places

As I mentioned in my last post, Arctic Bay had plenty of places to escape to. Nunavut is one giant piece of real estate, so finding your own little place to chill (sorry for the pun) is easy but also difficult. There is just so much to see and you'll never see it all. Uluksan Point was at the top of my list of quiet places to reflect, however, which got me to thinking about some of the other places I've experienced over the years. I mentioned some of them in my previous post so here are some visuals.

Slave River, Northwest Territories, August, 2000(?)

Looking out over South Indian Lake, Manitoba, September, 2001.

Lac La Loche, Saskatchewan, December, 2002.

Inuksuk overlooking Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, July, 2003.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

My Quiet Place

View from Uluksan Point, July 2008

I've been lucky in that most places I've worked around the North had their share of great views. Places that drew me to them. Places I could go to be inspired. Quiet places where I could head to when necessary to relax, reflect and recharge. In Fort Smith, that place was the boardwalk overlooking the pelicans below the rapids of the Slave River. In South Indian Lake, it was the lake of course, where I would gaze up at some fantastic Northern Lights. In La Loche it was a quiet patch of shoreline behind the elementary school where I would watch glorious sunsets across the lake. In Qikiqtarjuaq, it was a large inuksuk, on a small granite knoll behind the Northern Store where, on clear summer days, I could see for great distances over much of the island. In Arctic Bay, there were many places. King George provided some awesome views, though of course getting up there required a little bit of work, which often defeated the purpose of relaxation. While I've posted many many pictures of King George V Mountain over the time I worked in Arctic Bay, an easier, and just as enjoyable place to head to for its calming effect (and some nice views too, I should add) was Uluksan Point. Here on a warm summer or fall day, I could sit in among the rocks, soak up the heat, enjoy great views of the mountain and ponder the remains of the qarmait (traditional houses) to be found there.

Ah, those dreamy days.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Ban Bordeaux?

Nunavut MLA plans to introduce a motion calling for a ban on EU wines into Nunavut. This, in retaliation for the European Union's decision to ban Canadian seal products. Since a) I used to live in Nunavut and like to consider myself at least somewhat familiar with the importance of subsistence seal hunting to the lives of Nunavummiut and b) I have a passion for red wines, I found myself inexorably drawn to this issue.

While wine sales as a percentage of total alcohol sales have been slowly increasing over the past 10 years or so, Canada remains one of the few wine-producing nations in the world where domestic wines do not hold a dominant share of the market. Having grown up within a days' drive of all 3 of Ontario's major wine-producing areas, I know there is still pretty of room for the industry to grow and would love to see it do so. A ban on EU wines, not just into Nunavut, but into all of Canada could mean more sales for our own home-grown wines. According to the VQA, wine sales in Ontario tripled in value between 1997 and 2007, to almost $2 billion. Clearly, there is growing demand for Canadian wines.

Beyond mere nationalism, buying domestically helps to cut down on the amount of carbon emissions it takes to get that bottle of Bordeaux from some little vintner in France. Given how anal the EU has become on the climate change front, I'm sure they won't mind if more Canadians decided to buy from Niagara or the Okanagan rather than say Burgundy. The decision then is up to us whether or not we want a good domestic wine gracing our dinner table or some EU import. Personally, I've never understood the big deal over French or Italian wines. In the past year, I've had perhaps one bottle of Bordeaux, nothing to sneeze at. Personally I'd much spend my money on a home-grown wine from Colio's, Sandbanks, Chadsey's, Erie Shores, Black Prince, even Huff's. With all the New World wines, especially from Chile, Argentina and Australia, not to mention the United States, perhaps the EU should be careful about wanting to ban certain trade items. The French wine industry, not having the monopoly on the world wine market it once did, is facing stiffening competition from New World wine and (I say this with a smile) they struggle to compete at times. Yes, I know I'm ranting here. Bear with me. Don't worry though, EU, Canada is a fair country. We can always make "exemptions" and then blindly protest they will work even though history says otherwise....just like you guys do. Perhaps we should just ban French and Italian wines but make exemptions for Hungarian tokaj. I'm sure the EU will understand that.......

Grief, trying to make EU politicians grasp anything these days, I think I need a glass of wine myself. No wonder those guys drink so much. Anyhow, while I don't think a Nunavut ban on EU wines would be anything more than symbolic, one can always dream about what a wonderful world that would be.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh Canada!

All I can say is what a game! Congratulations to both the Men and Women's Olympic hockey teams for delivering such stellar performances. By no means was it a cakewalk. The competition just keeps getting better year after year. Nice to see the teams rise to the occasion. It really doesn't get any better than Sidney Crosby scoring in overtime.


Monday, February 15, 2010


I randomly picked up a paper off a restaurant table last night after a meal. The paper caught my attention since its one that I used to see in Fort Smith, where I began my career 10 years ago. A couple pages in and I see news that as a teacher you hate to see. A student from my first school had passed away just a few days ago due to complications from pneumonia. It's really quite distressing. I never taught Shantha but I knew her for her hard work on the student council that year, her friendly, outgoing personality, and her sharp mind. Her fellow students thought so too. She was voted valedictorian of her graduating class at Paul W Kaeser High School in 2001. She was only 26 and had just recently moved to St. Albert with her husband to take up a new job as a crime analyst/social planner for the local Family and Community Support Services.

I recall the grad night vividly in my mind. The grads lined up and a big line of people walked by to congratulate them, parents, staff and community members alike. I remember shaking Shantha's hand and telling her how proud I was to hear that she was on her way to study for a criminology degree at university. I knew a few criminology majors when I was doing my undergrads - not an easy program by any means.

I've worked in a number of isolated communities so I know first-hand how tough it can be for a kid to break out and make something of themselves. While Fort Smith certainly had more going for it than most places I've worked in, it still suffered (unfairly I should add) from a bad rap. Shantha was making a life for herself which makes the news of her passing a particularly bitter pill to swallow. To me, Shantha is a shining example of what you can accomplish with drive, determination, good humour and the support of a loving family behind her.

You were a great person Shantha. I never taught you but considered it a great privilege to have worked with you and experienced your smiling personality!

My sincere condolences go out to the Rasiah family.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just Let The Guy Compete Already!

It never ceases to amaze me the little amount of respect that PETA and other anti-activists hold for their fellow human beings. Witness the tale of American figure skater Johnny Weir. He originally planned to stay in a Vancouver hotel during the Olympics but elected instead to stay in the athlete's village due to fears of threats from animal rights' activist groups like PETA and Friends of Animals. Weir's sin is that his flamboyant costumes involve animal fur, typically fox fur.

To PETA, and all the other protest groups, I say grow a brain! Keep your anti-establishment, anti-poverty, anti-RCMP, anti-fur, anti-colonial, anti-IMF, anti-World Bank, anti-G8, anti-conservative, anti-liberal garbage out of OUR Olympics. Funny how these activists make the case that nothing would ever get accomplished if you always listened to the naysayers. How pathetic that they don't extend this to a figure skater who simply choses to have his own unique style.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

When You Get Out And See The World You Might Learn A Few Things

Having read this little CBC news item on the wrap up of the G7 meeting in Iqaluit, the following little excerpt caught my attention --

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling [could the man's name be any more British?], said while everyone felt privileged to come to a part of the world they may not have seen otherwise, the important thing was to discuss the world economy.

Sure, but if you stepped out from behind your desk in you little office and experienced the real world beyond that of suburbia, perhaps you'd have a better understanding of the gravity the decisions you make have on people in a far off corner of the world.

But that's just me.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


When I was a kid I was taught that when someone offers you something, particularly food, it's only good manners to accept it. It's a lesson I've taken with me for the past 35 years and its served me well no matter where I've traveled be it North Rustico, PEI, Fort Smith, NT, Gyor, Hungary or Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic (pick any strudel in any restaurant.....I promise you won't be disappointed.) Unfortunately, a few European finance ministers left their manners at home and boycotted the feast ending the G7 ministers meeting in Iqaluit. Apparently, the feast featured many traditional foods, including seal. I guess for these ministers, politics trumps politeness. Very sad.

I wonder what went through some of their heads when the reporter mentioned in the CBC story asked them if they had learned anything about the importance of seals to Inuit culture during their stay. I wonder if the French Minister thought for a second about all the force fed geese back in his country. I wonder if the German Minister thought for a second about the boar hunt in his country. I wonder if the British Minister thought for even a second about all sheep in his country, turned into delicious mutton steaks every year. Given the tendency for Italian politicians to become entwined in sexual scandal, I don't even WANT to think what was going through the Italian Minister's mind. (Hopefully nothing to do with animals.)

Ok, guys. I get it. I really do. You cling to this silly self-righteous attitude. But don't pretend that some sort of silly exemption when it comes to your EU ban is going to make any difference. You can be ignorant all you want. But don't lie.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Northern Exposure

While I haven't really commented on it yet, I have been following with interest the upcoming G7 meeting in Iqaluit. My feelings on the EU and their views of the Canadian seal hunt aside, it's nice to see the city of Iqaluit, Nunavut and Inuit culture get some international media exposure.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Elephant Pie

Since I seem to be on a bit of a roll lately....

I read this story after work this afternoon about Lucy the Elephant and started thinking......banana cream pie....seal flipper pie.....elephant pie perhaps? Don't get me wrong. I don't want to see this pachyderm in distress if indeed that is the case. I just question PETA's timing on this. Heck, perhaps it was just a slow news day on the part of the CBC. (If PETA succeeds in getting Lucy moved and she dies in transit, would we hear about that in the news, I wonder?) Still, the thought of a nice big, steamy elephant pie flung right in the face of some PETA protester (or even an entire mouthy, misguided group of them for that matter) would be a nice touch.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A PETA Moron Gets Her Due

When I read Townie Bastard's post suggesting PETA members needed to be given a taste of their own medicine when it comes to the whole "pie in the face" silliness, I admit I couldn't stop laughing. Really, if you are going to pie a Cabinet Minister, an East Coast Minister, you aren't going to make many friends in the Maritimes, regardless of your politics I would think. Pieing the President of PETA is on my life "to do" list. But I guess I'll take the pieing of some random PETA idiot for starters. I'm happy someone picked up on the idea of returning the favor to these wingnuts and followed through with it.

Emily Lavender, the pied protester in the CBC story, fits the description of the typical PETA nut job. She's young, idealistic and obviously clueless about the importance of the sealing industry to Newfoundland and the Maritimes. Really, if you're going to go and protest the seal hunt in downtown St. John's you're quite obviously lacking for brain cells. And she's from Vancouver too. Are you kidding me? Vancouver was recently ranked as the most expensive city on the planet to live in terms of housing costs. Why don't you go protest that instead, sweet heart?! My guess is that this MENSA genius got on a short bus intending to go off to some Olympic protest and wound up taking the wrong bus to St. John's instead.

Yes, I know I shouldn't stoop to her level and sure, this story has no doubt given her group media exposure they don't really need or deserve, but damn, it just feels nice to FINALLY see one of these loud mouthed imbeciles get their just this case pie.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Slow Return of the Sun

Here's what it looks like around 3pm this time of year. Both pictures were taken in Arctic Bay, Nunavut on this date, one year ago at about 3pm. See? The whole idea of 6 straight months of darkness is pretty much a fiction.....unless you live right on top of the North Pole of course, but really who does?

The sun will be visible from the community in another couple weeks. With the day lengthening roughly 14 to 15 minutes a day, I didn't really find the long hours of darkness all that bad.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nunie Winners For 2009

The votes have all been tallied and Clare has announced the winners of the 2009 Nunie Awards. "Best Post 2009" goes to Newbie in the North, one of the new blogs to pop up this year, for her post "First Boating Trip". The post brings back pleasant memories of boating trips I took in Qikiqtarjuaq. I was fortunate enough to see a couple bowheads there (albeit from the shore) and I'm still kicking myself that I didn't have my camera with me that day. The history buff in me liked the mention of Pangnirtung's whaling past.

"Best New Blog 2009" went to The Arctic Post, a blog from one of Nunavut's smallest communities, Chesterfield Inlet. When I first began blogging it it seemed that most of the blogs were out of the Baffin region. It's nice to see how new blogs are popping up all over the territory now.

"Best Blog 2009" goes to Townie Bastard, blogging out of Iqaluit. This is the only blog on my sidebar, other than Clare's, that predates my own. I've seen a lot of blogs come and go over the last 4 years or so but not this one. A very deserving win.

I'd also like to take a moment and thank the people that voted for my blog. It suffered a little from the fact that I now reside in Nunavut in spirit rather than physically. Still I like to think I can pump out a good post or two every once in a while and I love how the Nunavut blogging community has blossomed, changed and grown over the past 4 years. A hearty congratulations go out to all winner and nominees. It is a honour indeed to be included in such company.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Last Drop

Having lived for a couple years in Qikiqtarjuaq (Broughton Island), this little recollection caught my attention. While it does serve to give a sense of the isolation faced by some of Canada's most northerly places. I found Harper's story interesting for a number of reasons. The Padloping Island the author mentions was once the site of a USAF WWII air base and a Canadian weather station. I never actually stepped foot on Padloping Island myself though I it was pointed out to me by a local elder once.

Kenn Harper, for those who don't know him, is well-known in Nunavut as a teacher, linguist, northern historian and businessman, who first went North in the 1960's. He remains there to this day. Not only did he spend time in Qikiqtarjuaq, but he was also one of the first teachers in Arctic Bay, the other Nunavut community I lived in. Ernie Lyall, mentioned later in the article, was the subject of an interesting book my parents bought for me a couple years ago, An Arctic Man. While chaperoning at a badminton tournament in Rankin Inlet not that long ago, I met one of Mr. Lyall's grandsons. Ernie Lyall also spent a period of time in Arctic Bay with the Hudson's Bay Company.

The North. It is a cold dark place in terms of its physical geography but also a small and intimate when considering its human element. The history of the place is always interesting too.

Don't Forget

Just a friendly reminder that you can still vote for the 2009 Nunie Awards. Simply head here to cast your vote if you haven't done so already. There are still a couple voting days left.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Importance Of A Good Breakfast

When I was a kid starting out my day with a good breakfast was just part of the daily routine. It was something I could count on, like the rising and setting of the sun. As an adult, I must admit I've grown a bit lazy when it comes to starting off the day with a good morning meal. Ultimately, if I feel hungry mid-morning I can only blame my own stupidity. Sadly, a good breakfast is far from a reality for many children, as this news item here reminds us.

I taught at a couple different schools in Nunavut and in both their were breakfast programs, funded predominantly by the Brighter Futures program cited in the above-mentioned news item. At the time, I was under the impression that only school's in Nunavut's smaller, de-centralized communities had breakfast programs. A fellow Nunavut blogger once pointed out to me though, that this is not the case. All communities can benefit with a breakfast program but not all can afford to fully fund them. (I know one Nunavut politician made a fully-funded territory-wide breakfast program a major plank in his campaign during the last territorial election.) One might think that as Nunavut's largest community (and capital) Iqaluit wouldn't have a need for a breakfast program, given the amount of employment available there in relation to say Qikiqtarjuaq or Arctic Bay. Just not the case, as it turns out.

It needs to be pointed out that this is not just a Nunavut issue. I'm sure you could find students in major centres like Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto (or any other Canadian city for that matter) that come to school on a daily basis without eating breakfast. Here in Janvier, we are fortunate to have a breakfast (and lunch) program at our school. It is generously funded by the oil companies. (The same companies which the protesters at the recent climate talks in Copenhagen say should simply pack up shop and leave Wood Buffalo. Ah, if only life were that simple.)

As a teacher and now a parent, this is an issue of some interest to me of course. I hear the argument that kids function well with something in their stomachs so it is important for schools to ensure a good start for their students. I hear that argument that parents have a responsibility to feed their kids and society shouldn't be burdened by the irresponsibility of parents. I hear many different arguments and often get it from both sides. While Tamara and Nicholas don't rely on the breakfast program to anything close to the extent of other children (teachers are well paid, despite what some would have you believe), we are thankful for the lunch program. It's not that we are unable to feed the kids, but rather its an issue of how the lunch hour at the school here is structured: 15 minutes for lunch followed by a 15-minute recess doesn't give enough time for the kids to get home, eat and back to the school.

As a teacher, I'm conscious of the fact that it seems that school are increasingly called upon to do more and more on top of educating. This is a tough issue for me. Part of me believes strongly in the idea of personal responsibility yet I have to acknowledge that when there is a well-run breakfast program in place, the classroom is full of happier, more alert students. I'm not sure that I really add anything coherent or original to this issue. The CBC article does remind me of how fortunate we are to be living here in Alberta.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2009 Nunies

Voting is now underway for the 2009 Nunie Awards. You can visit Clare's blog to cast your vote for Best Blog, Best New Blog and Best Post. Voting is open until 5pm EST on January 21. The "Best New Blog" category has my attention and should be especially interesting. A few bloggers have left the territory in the past year and it's encouraging to see a number of new bloggers steeping into the breech. I'm up for "Best Blog" and "Best Post" so swing by and vote. Of course I'd love to have your vote but feel free to vote for any of the nominees. Just now!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Secret Is Out

When I first read this story about how Nunavut-caught arctic char is taking off in fine restaurants south of the border, my first thoughts were about the hypocrisy of the southern urban consumer. The image of an arctic char doesn't tug at the heart strings in quite the same way as a misty-eyed seal, even though both are valid food sources and have been in Northern climes for generations. Putting my initial thoughts aside though, it is nice to see a Nunavut resource making its mark. For those in the know, it comes as no real surprise.....arctic char makes for fantastic eating.

Arctic Bay 2005 (with snow)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

My Solution To Europe's Weather Issues

Seems our European cousins are experiencing a rather frigid blast of winter at the moment. And I know I shouldn't find humour in this but......I do. I'd like to think that perhaps they might be more appreciative of why Inuit use seal skins to keep warm. Canada has plenty for sale. You should look into it. Seriously. I can vouch from personal experience that seal skin will definitely keep you warm in -40C weather. But, hey, it's only a suggestion. Ponder it while you eat nibble your frozen little baguette down by the Riviera.

Arctic Bay 2005

A few pictures from my first year in Arctic Bay.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

No Biggie

I had two posts lined up for this evening depending on the outcome of the hockey game. I was hoping the following post wouldn't see the light of day but it is what it is.

I have a simple theory why Canada's Junior squad didn't win the gold this time round -- I didn't watch the game. The last 5 years I've watched the tournament pretty much in its entirety and the Canadians wound up coming out on top. (A couple years I really had to rush to get to my hotel in Iqaluit before the start of the wasn't pretty but somehow I managed to pull it off.) Okay, I know its a little more complicated than that but like I said, its just a theory. As my roommate and I discussed last year, 5 golds in a row is a fantastic accomplishment. There is always great pressure on each succeeding team to keep the streak going. Unfortunately, a time will come when they will lose. It sucks but that's just the way it goes. Hopefully the country doesn't go into a state of mourning over the lose.....really, there's no need to. Let's face it - since 1977, the U.S has won gold twice. Sure, both times they beat Canada to do it, but big deal. Canada has 15 gold medals and has won something like 25 medals in total...the US has 6 medals by my count. A U.S. victory will give the tournament a good boost in the American media, just in time for next year's tourney in Buffalo.

I should also add to that its refreshing to see that the so-called experts were way off when it came to who would finish where. No Canada- Sweden-Russia finish as predicted. A little shake up once in awhile is a good thing for the sport. And, hats off to Switzerland for beating Team Russia. Who would have thought? No friendly barbs to my Aunt Janice over in Switzerland this year. Beating a super power like the Russians gets my respect.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Return of the Nunies

Once again, its that time of year. Clare has announced the start of the Nunie Awards. For those who may be unaware, this is the Academy Awards for the Nunavut blogging world. The past year has seen a number of new blogs start which should make this friendly competition very interesting. If the format is similar to the past couple of years, there will be awards for "Best Post", "Best New Blog" and of course, "Best Blog". Stay tuned to Clare's blog for details.

Feel free to nominate my blog if you wish. Don't let my anti-seal hunt rants scare you off. Really, I'm a nice guy.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Qikiqtarjuaq 2004

Since I continue to be in photo review mode, here are a few more photos of Qikiqtarjuaq and area.

Kingnelling Fiord

The DEW Line station (FOX-5) as it existed in 2004. It no longer exists today.