It would be hard to find a Canadian city farther from the High Arctic than Vancouver. You might wonder, then, why the Vancouver Aquarium is interested in Arctic issues at all. The short answer is that Arctic issues are Canadian issues.
Canada is an Arctic nation. The need for greater awareness and understanding of Canada’s Arctic and Arctic issues has never been greater–and its importance will continue to grow. Yet Canadians’ understanding of the Arctic is critically lacking. Greater understanding and awareness of Canada’s Arctic requires improved connections and communication between North and South. As the only organization of our kind in Canada with a truly national audience, the Vancouver Aquarium is well-positioned to act as a bridge between southern and northern perspectives, knowledge and ideas. Arctic Connections is that bridge.
More than just a place to visit
The Vancouver Aquarium is well known for a world-class visitor experience. We host close to a million visitors a year to our facility in Vancouver, BC. It’s an important part of what we do. As a non-profit charitable association, those visitors are the primary source of funds that support everything else we do. Our exhibits, displays and programs are also powerful ways to create greater awareness and understanding of issues and topics of importance to all of us.
But we are much more than just a single physical location, and Arctic Connections is one example of the depth and breadth that make up who we are as an institution:
- Aquarium scientists, Research Associates and staff conduct and participate in important research on species as diverse as belugas, narwhals, Arctic cod, killer whales and invertebrates;
- our curriculum-based school programs connect B.C. students with students in the Canadian Arctic;
- camps and clubs teach about the people and environment in the North;
- we engage in consultations and workshops for institutions, agencies and organizations across Canada;
- this blog and the Arctic Connections Twitter feed bring news and perspectives not easily found anywhere else; and
- programs and partnerships with Northern communities, agencies and institutions ensure the true voice of the North reaches Aquarium audiences in everything we do.
What we do is perhaps less important than how we do it, and to what end.
Let’s be honest: We all have opinions about the way things should be. That’s healthy and even necessary for true solutions-oriented dialogue. But when opinion becomes dogma, effective dialogue suffers. The Vancouver Aquarium does not shy away from controversial topics; instead we recognize that controversy is often the result insufficient understanding of context and perspectives. We believe that a big part of our job is to help our audiences understand the range of perspectives and context that’s often lost in a sea of soundbites and headlines. Sometimes that means being a safe place for dangerous discussion. It always means favouring dialogue over dogma.
Arctic Connections was created in response to this need and our recognition of the strong role the Aquarium can play in facilitating respectful solutions-oriented dialogue. We are more committed than ever to bringing all the resources we have available to enhance that dialogue.
If you have questions, comments or perspectives about the North, the South, or creating better connections, we’d love to hear them.