Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Metaphor for a Broken System

While our Prime Minister parades around talking about his plan for protecting Canada's north and asserting our sovereignty north of the 60th parallel, one has to ask oneself about our communities who live in the northern territories. After all what's the point of protecting the north and asserting our ourselves if our communities are dying a little at a time?

This whole thing for me was sparked by the picture seen about of two ten your old boys sleeping next to an Iqaluit grocery store in the early hours of the morning. I know that it might be an isolated event, as officials from Nunavut were telling the Globe and Mail. The bottom line though is that the figures don't lie here is a chart below that shows the suicide rate in Nunavut as compared to the rest of Canada.

The suicide rate in Nunavut is 11 times higher than the national average. That should tell you something about our northern supremacy. I understand that we have a legitimate claim to the land and the oil and the ice, but how about claiming back the basic rights of our own people and take a second to think about them before we worry too much about the rest?

There is a chronic housing shortage that sees at times 20 people living in the same 2 bedroom residence, it is also a place where 25% of people taking part in a psychology study claimed to be victims of abuse and a place where children would rather sleep on the streets than go home.

I'm not saying that the government is the only one to blame, but I think that the territorial government when asked about the issues should address them directly with a concrete plan instead of saying:
"Just like anywhere else in the cities or towns across Canada, there are negative things that are happening as well as positive things, and Nunavut is no exception.”
“The media will certainly concentrate on one area, most times unfortunately on our negative side of things, and not so much on the positive things that have been happening in Nunavut since the creation of the territory.”

While the media are certainly scandal hungry, I also think that they have done a wonderful job in bringing this issue to the front and center where it belongs. In a country that spends billions on bailouts, billions on foreign aid, billions in Afghanistan, billions in repairing our roads, billions on the Olympics couldn't we also spend a mere 250million on building enough homes for everyone in Nunavut, or job creation? (I know we have programs present, but it's clear that they aren't sufficient)

The picture of the 10year olds is a metaphor, an image that mirrors the situation of thousands of our fellow citizens and we need to address this as if they were our own children. Our children and those of generations to come really are the most precious resource that we have and if they keep sleeping in the streets or committing suicide there won't be a population left in the north we're trying so hard to protect.

(all images above are reproduced from

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Patrick Ross said...

It is shocking. When someone would rather sleep on the street in bloody Nunavut than go home, you know something is wrong there.

But it seems to me that many of the problems of Nunavut are very similar to the problems being experienced on reservations across Canada.

The amount of despair is absolutely palpable. It's time for a policy about-face so we can start addressing these issues.

Muchacho Enfermo said...

I know... believe me, I've seen this kind of despair first hand on so many reservations over the years. But part of the problem that we never seem to notice until something like this comes up and then it's just a blip on our social conscience.

I think that the policy in place has some merit, but I think that work needs to be done on Ottawa's and the provinces' side to seriously address the wide ranging problems from unemployment to education to basic drinking water.

In return, the media should listen when our First Nations cry out and the First Nations themselves need to take a good hard look at themselves as well.

It'll be a long hard road but if we can all get together and start fixing this, future generations won't have to go through this crap.