The Arctic Connections Southern Expedition has come to a close. And what a busy 2 weeks it was! Thirteen students, one Elder, an instructor and a chaperone travelled south from Pond Inlet (some south of the Arctic Circle for the first time) to Ottawa, Quebec, Vancouver and Whistler to both teach and to learn every step of the way.
Some background on the expedition can be found here.
We’ll be talking about lessons and key significant outcomes over the next few weeks, but here are some highlights.
April 6, 2011
I met the group in Ottawa on the evening of the 5th and we began in earnest the next morning with a walk past Parliament Hill to the offices of the Canadian Polar Commission.
The group met with Steve Bigras, the Director of the Canadian Polar Commission. It was a good opportunity to learn about the Commission’s mandate and its revitalized role under a newly appointed Board. There were several good questions and discussion. A good start to the trip.
Very early in the day, it became clear that these folks–future leaders in their community–were going to make a strong impression everywhere they went. They quickly showed that there was both an interest and a capacity among members of the community of Pond Inlet to engage in meaninful dialogue on northern issues. It also became clear that there are many ways that communication between science-based agencies and northern communities can be improved. Both are excellent communicators but do so in very different ways. What works for scientists and policymakers (invitations to attend conferences, presentation of information in PowerPoint talks with questions after, and large volumes of published results) doesn’t work for the northern communities. Similarly, what is considered effective and appropriate communication in the commuinities (more informal one-on-one discussion over a greater timeframe, less didactic presentation and specific connection to relevance of the information to the community) is often difficult for scientists and policymakers to achieve in any logistically feasible manner. This theme would continue throughout the next two weeks.
The next stop was a meeting at the INAC offices. The group met with Danielle Labonte, Director General for Northern Policy and Science Integration and several of her team members. Developing a better understanding of how science agendas are set and policy determined was an important goal of the trip. We heard about the mandate of INAC and the primary areas of focus. The group was pleased to see the extent of social and health sciences (the human dimension) that were included in the most recent International Polar Year research.
Discussion again touched on ways to create greater awareness at the level of the northern communities of the activities of INAC, associated research and policy. Clearly it’s not feasible for Ottawa-based agencies to visit every community to present research and policy; the cost alone would be outrageous. However, one thing became more and more clear as the trip went on: there is both the interest and the capacity within communities such as Pond Inlet to reach out more proactively and to act on their own behalf to obtain and communicate information of relevance. Paniloo Sangoya, the Elder that travelled with us, pointed out that traditionally leaders in the community such as himself would engage only when asked. These young leaders are taking a different approach–one that will result in greater engagement, awareness and dialogue with scientists, policymakers and politicians.
Next was a trip across the river to Gatineau for a meeting with the Parks Canada New Parks Establishment Branch. We had a great series of discussions about Parks Canada’s northern parks, Heritage Sites and archaeology program. Then we talked specifically about the proposed Lancaster Sound Marine Conservation Area. It was a great opportunity to discuss an issue that’s quite close to home for the community of Pond Inlet. Next it was the ETP students’ turn with a presentation on the importance of seals culturally, socially, economically and nutritionally to the northern communities.
April 7, 2011
A day of travel and rest with a lot of this:
This expedition was made possible by the generosity of members of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Board of Directors and support and contributions from:
Government of Nunavut Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth