The New North

A younger generation remakes the map of the Canadian Arctic


The New North

A younger generation remakes the map of the Canadian Arctic


The New North

A younger generation remakes the map of the Canadian Arctic




In early summer, at well past midnight, the sky is still luminous, the sun glancing off the igloo-shaped dome of the Northwest Territories legislature in Yellowknife. North of the 60th parallel it is eternal day, when dawn and dusk no longer parenthesize the drift of time, and in the relentless light, sleep is hard to come by. By 4 a.m., Michael Miltenberger, the MLAfor the Thebacha region southeast of Great Slave Lake, will be heading to the Yellowknife Golf Club, and its “greens” of sand, to shoot a round before work. “Summer’s so short you have to take advantage of it,” says the brawny 47-year-old.

By 8, Miltenberger will have played nine holes, visited the gym, showered and reported to work in his office. The legislature is in session and the 24 members of the 13th—and very last—assembly of the Northwest Territories faces several crucial tasks. Most importantly, they must continue their work of dividing the Northwest Territories, creating two distinct governments in the Eastern and Western Arctic by the deadline of April 1,1999—just eight months from now. ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Miltenberger says, with a sense of awe at what legislators are trying to accomplish. “It will never happen again.

The last time the territories were divided was in 1905 when they carved off Alberta.”

It is, indeed, a historic undertaking. Cartographers last redrew the map of Canada in 1949, when Newfoundland entered Confederation. Now, the Eastern Arctic will become the territory of Nunavut—meaning Our Land in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people who will make up 83 per cent of the population.

A name for the western territory has not yet been chosen, but creating two new entities means far more than rejiggering the map of northern Canada or dreaming up new names. Division has entailed carving up government bureaucracy, dividing assets and liabilities, training new civil servants, devising new constitutions and new forms of government. It has meant splitting up unions, such as the Northwest Territories Teachers’Association. It has meant giving the Inuit control of their own government and land and recognizing the growing influence of aboriginal groups in the western territory. Most of all, it has meant a new beginning to the people of the North. “Think about how people feel the night before they get married,” explains Jim Bell, the editor of the weekly

I Nunatsiaq News in Iqaluit o (formerly Frobisher Bay), the g seat of Nunavut’s govern| ment. “It’s a mixture of anxi| ety and excitement.” p For more than 20 years, the Inuit have been agitating for their own lands. In 1993, during its final months in power, the Mulroney government ratified the $1.14-billion Inuit land claim and laid the groundwork for a new territorial government through the Nunavut Act. The new territory’s population of 24,665 will be smaller than that of many towns in southern Canada. But its administrative area will be a massive 2.2 million square kilometres, a jigsaw array of remote polar islands and vast inland stretches of tundra. It will be twice the size of Ontario and traverse three time zones. The western territory will cover 1.17 million square kilometres mainly below the tree line, a land rich in diamonds, oil and gas, and gold, with a mixed population of 39,460

Dene, Métis, Cree, Inuvialuit—western Inuit—and non-natives. In the West there are nine official languages—North Slavey, South Slavey, Cree, Chipewyan, Dogrib, Gwich’in, English, French and Inuvialuktun. The East, with its Inuit majority, is far more homogenous. And for the most part, the two areas of the North have always been very different in temperament: the Inuit are a gentle maritime people, the residents of the West a mixture of frontier mavericks and fractious aboriginal groups.

Governing the Northwest Territories has never been cost-efficient or easy. The round-trip airfare between Yellowknife and Iqaluit, which is on the southern part of Baffin Island, costs as much as $2,400. Homicides are twice as common as in the rest of Canada. Sexual assaults are seven times more likely. The highschool graduation rate is a mere 27 per cent; the area has the lowest literacy rate in Canada. The Northwest Territories also has one of the country’s highest unemployment rates: 17 per cent, compared with the national average of 8.4 per cent. Half of its $ 1.2-billion budget—74 per cent of which comes from Ottawa—is invested in social programs. When split, the two territories will get a total of $95 million more, with approximately $620 million going to Nunavut, $701 million to the West. Some critics warn that Nunavut, which has fewer developed resources than the West, will

be fraught with social and economic problems and dependent on federal largesse. But the Inuit argue they need to take charge of their own fate. “We have to put the colonial years behind us,” says John Amagoalik, head of the Nunavut Implementation Commission, “and start looking towards the future.”

That it who future have will experience be determined outside largely the Eastern by a small Arctic. number People of Inulike 25-year-old Nicole Camphaug, a Grade 12 graduate, educated in Alberta, who is now a policy manager in the current territorial government; Victor Tootoo, 33, assistant deputy finance minister in the new government; and, perhaps most prominently, Goo Arlooktoo, the 34-year-old MLA for Baffin South, whom some are touting as the first premier of Nunavut.

Arlooktoo is typical of the generation who will help form Nunavut’s first government: a sober-minded high-school graduate with a strong sense of purpose. Both of Arlooktoo’s parents are unilingual Inuit who were raised on the land. Before he was born, they settled down in Lake Harbour—now known as Kimmirut—on the south tip of Baffin Island. As a child, Arlooktoo, who has 10 sisters and brothers, enhanced his English by reading the dictionary. “Most of the people in town didn’t speak English,” he recalls. “There

was no television, no magazines.

Even the Anglican minister and his wife spoke Inuktitut.”

Arlooktoo saw his first tree when, at the age of 14, he participated in a student exchange trip to Montreal. He was sent to Iqaluit to finish high school and went to college in Fort Smith, where he trained to be a renewable resources officer.

He worked in that capacity in the territorial government, and also as a drug and alcohol counsellor, before winning his seat in 1995.

In the 1990s, he says, the outside world began to intrude more into his home town, Kimmirut, largely because of the ¡8 spread of multi-channel television. “When we got other channels besides the CBC, professional wrestling became 12V a really big thing. I mean really big,” Arlooktoo explains.

“Hunters would rush home at the end of the day to watch the 6 o’clock fights. They couldn’t believe the fights were faked.”

Television advertising encouraged a new awareness of southern foods and some of Kimmirut’s 400 residents started to supplement their meals with more consumer-society fare

such as McCain’s Pizza Pockets. But most Inuit, Arlooktoo says, still live a traditional life, relying on the land for sustenance. (Last week, in spite of condemnation from environmentalists, Inuit hunters from the community of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island revived an old tradition after 50 years and killed a bowhead whale following a five-day hunt.) “The providers, the good hunters, are still very respected and valued,” Arlooktoo acknowledges. “They

are still the leaders of the community.”

The lingering tension between the traditional life—most Inuit were nomadic until the 1950s, when the federal government forced them to resettle in permanent communities—and the continuing encroachment of a southern Canadian lifestyle exacerbates the social and economic problems of Nunavut and will make governing the territory a tremendous challenge. The statis-

tics are devastating: 83 per cent of Nunavut residents live in government-subsidized housing; a litre of milk costs $5, a loaf of bread $3. The suicide rate is seven times the Canadian average; in a 1996 survey, 20 per cent of the adult population admitted to sniffing solvents and aerosols (compared with 0.8 per cent for all of Canada). “This dream for Nunavut has been sold to us that it would make life better, that we’d have more jobs, that government would be responsive, that it would be run in Inuktitut, that there would be less rent, that things would be cheaper,” Arlooktoo says. “But these are unrealistic expectations. Now that I’ve been in government, I know that it runs on money alone and there are severe limitations on what you can do. When Nunavut comes into being, there will be a rude awakening for many people.”

Government jobs, including teachers and medical workers, will provide most of the employment in Nunavut. As a result, the architects of the new territory have devised a bureaucracy that would be

WESTERN TERRITORY Population: 39,460 Non-aboriginals: 52% Dene: 28% Inuit: 10% Métis: 9% Other aboriginals: less than 1% Official languages: North Slavey, South Slavey, Cree, Chipewyan, Dogrib, Gwich’in, English, French, Inuvialuktun

NUNAVUT Population: 24,665 Inuit: 83% Other aboriginals: less than 1% Non-aboriginals: 16% Official languages under consideration: Inuktitut, English, French, Inuinnaqtun

Division has meant a fresh beginning

as decentralized as possible. Although most of the deputy ministers will work out of the legislature in the new capital of Iqaluit (population 4,220) many

of the assistant deputies—and their offices—will be located in communities such as Rankin Inlet, Arviat, Cape Dorset and Cambridge Bay, spreading the jobs around. “Government to us has always been somewhere else,” Amagoalik says. “Now, it will be in our own communities.” Last fall, former Liberal MP Jack Anawak was appointed commissioner of Nunavut to oversee the hiring of civil servants and set

up government infrastructure. About 600 new government jobs will be created. The goal, initially, is to have a workforce that is at least 50-per-cent Inuit, and that has meant hiring people who before could only have dreamed of being civil servants. Many of them, such as Camphaug, never attended college although they finished high school. Camphaug has been training for the past year, learning the essentials of government and taking

management courses at Yellowknife’s Arctic College. She also spent time at the Ontario legislature this summer to understand how the political process works elsewhere.

Camphaug, who has worked as a gas jockey, ambulance attendant, firefighter, secretary, legal assistant, purchasing officer and document control officer, sees her job in the new Eastern Arctic government as a remarkable opportunity. “If I’d stayed in the South, I’d still be working at the gas station or maybe selling clothes,” says Camphaug, who moved from Rankin Inlet to Sylvan Lake, Alta., a town near Red Deer, when she was 10, and is the child of a white father and Inuk mother. “Now, I’ll have a career. I’ll have options in the future that I never would have had. As an Inuk woman this is a liberating experience for me. It has changed so much in my life.”

Marius Tungilik, Nunavut’s deputy minister of personnel, says his government “is fortunate to have people like Nicole who are well motivated.” And with unemployment levels of up to 60 per

cent in some of the smaller communities, the new government jobs will be crucial. Forty per cent of the population of Nunavut is 15 years of age and under. There are only a handful of private sector jobs. But Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the organization administering the Inuit land claim, is helping Inuit people develop their own companies and become economically self-sufficient. For example, an Inuit-owned construction company, started under the aegis of NTI, is building the new legislature in Iqaluit. The land claims group has also hired business development managers to lure mining companies to the area and promote other industries such as tourism. “We are tired of having the government take care of our problems by giving us money,” says Jose Kusugak, president of NTI. ‘We know we can’t just take an eraser and wipe away the prob-

lems. But we need to make our own mistakes and run our own lives.” Sitting in his office in the legislature at Yellowknife, Arlooktoo, a broad-faced, bespectacled young man, continues to fret over the heightened expectations of his people. But, he says, there is also reason for optimism. As a result of the Inuit land claim, he says, “We have a lot of money in the bank: large stores of ore such as gold, lead, zinc. There is oil and gas in the ground wait-

ing to be retrieved. It’s a matter of making these economically viable and environmentally sound to take out. The potential is there. We just need the tools.”

A Arlooktoo’s few doors down office, the hall Stephen from Kakfwi, the territory’s minister of resources, wildlife and economic development, takes a break from an afternoon session of the legislature. On the credenza beside his desk is a stuffed gyrfalcon, a powerful arctic bird of prey, which, in profile, is a match for Kakfwi himself: fierce-eyed, beaknosed and dignified. Born in a canvas tent on a trapline, educated in a residential school, Kakfwi rarely shows his emotions—and just as rarely smiles.

But there is a grin on his face now. The western caucus of the legislature has just voted to redraw the electoral boundaries in its ter-

ritory. The issue is contentious because of the tenuous balance between the aboriginal population and non-natives: of the 39,460 western residents, 47 per cent are aboriginals. Redrawing electoral districts could give the populous region around Great Slave Lake, which includes the communities of Yellowknife and Hay River and their concentration of non-natives, a greater edge.

Kakfwi, a 47-year-old Dene from Fort Good Hope on the Mackenzie River, has ambitions to be the first premier of the western territory— and needs to demonstrate that he speaks on behalf of all, and not just a specific group. He has voted in favor of redrawing the electoral map, even though that might not win kudos from his own people. “If, someday in the future, the Dene will be a real minority, then I would see a need to get into a protective mode,” says Kakfwi, a former president of the Dene Nation. “But this is history-making and I want to take my people and my region and go into this new part of history.”


Giorgio’s best Italian is considered restaurant the in Yellowknife. At lunch, tutto il mondo eats there—deputy ministers, business people, many politicians—attended to by the owner, Rocco Meraglia, and his mother, Cosimina, the chef. But Meraglia complains that business in the capital of the Northwest Territories, population 17,275, is as flat as a pizza, overburdened by government downsizing, enormous taxes—and uncertainty over the imminent division of the territories on April 1, 1999. “People are scared,” Meraglia says.

“There’s a lot of investment going to the Eastern Arctic and Iqaluit and it’s being taken out of here. So what are we going to do in 1999? In the past, at least we had gold, at least we had the government.”

But the two local gold mines, the Miramar Con Mine Ltd. and the Giant Mine, owned by Royal Oak Mines Inc., are almost mined out and have become costly to run. As a result, there has been downsizing at Giant, while close to 150 workers at Con have been on strike since May 14 over

a new collective agreement. About 500 federal and territorial government jobs, meanwhile, have disappeared, a consequence of diminishing transfer payments from Ottawa and plans for territorial division. More civil service positions are in the process of being shifted to Nunavut. And even jobs outside of government are hard to come by. “I have 185 applications for waiters and waitresses,” says Meraglia, 32. “I have a staff that won’t give up a shift for fear someone will get their job.”

Yellowknife Mayor Dave Lovell concedes that division has produced a palpable anxiety. “There is uncertainty about jobs being lost,” says Lovell, during a breakfast interview at the frontier city’s Wild Cat Café. “You’ve got people on hold and they aren’t spending.” But there is also a certain optimism. In the early 1990s, diamonds were discovered in the North and the first mine, Ekati, will come on stream next year. The diamond mining business has brought some new people to town—about 50 employees of BHP Diamonds Inc., the opérator of the new mine—and real estate is beginning to move again. Upper-end houses in

the old town, on streets such as Ragged Ass Road, are selling for upwards of $300,000. The promise of new mines is spurring secondary industries, such as heavy equipment. And tourism is booming, especially among the Japanese; so far this year, 5,000 visited the city. The Japanese are convinced that spending time under the northern lights brings good luck. The residents of Yellowknife are crossing their fingers, too.


It may prove to be a painful process.

On one level, the ongoing wrangling over the new territory’s name is indicative of the fractious nature of the

West. When the government turned to the public in 1996 for ideas, over 90 per cent of the 6,000 people who participated favored the status quo Northwest Territories, although 80 people suggested the name Bob. (A few locals, despairing that Nunavut was getting most of Ottawa’s attention, said it stood for bottom of the

barrel). Some aboriginal proponents favor Denendeh: Dene land. Kakfwi recommends the more inclusive Nahendeh, Our Land, to take into account other native groups and non-natives. But Northwest Territories has to go, he says. “That name has no soul, no culture, no meaning,” Kakfwi notes. “It’s a colonial name that somebody else gave to us.”

But the question of naming the new territory pales in relation to the need to reach agreement on what form the government of the West should take. “The major challenge,” says Gurston Dacks, a professor of political science at the University of Alberta, “is to fashion a form of government which will be acceptable to the cultural mosaic that makes up the West. Aboriginal people and the non-aboriginal

people tend to bring different sensibilities to constitutional matters.” The status of different land claims complicates the issue. The Inuvialuit people who live near the Beaufort Sea have settled their claim, as have the Gwi’chin and the Sahtu—agreements that allow for future self-government negotiations. But the aboriginal groups around Yellowknife and in other western areas have not yet reached agreement with Ottawa. “This makes it hard to know what our government is going to look like,” says Charles Dent, the minister responsible for western transition. “A lot of people have failed to recognize that as self-government agreements get signed, the status quo won’t exist any longer. Many of the functions delivered by the territorial government may be taken over by aboriginal govern-

ments. They could choose to deliver education or social services.”

Of the several proposed models of government that recognize aboriginal self-determination, none, so far, has been received with public enthusiasm. One involves a single territorial government, including representatives from aboriginal governments and elected officials. Another entails a smaller version of the present Northwest Territories government working in tandem with various aboriginal governments. Non-natives are concerned that their voices won’t be heard if the government is dominated by aboriginal groups; First Nations people have similar fears, since the West will be slightly dominated by non-aboriginals.

The details of division, meanwhile, present further problems. There has been continued wrangling, for instance, over control of Northwest Territories Hydro. The West wants to jointly own Hydro, leaving the power company as one entity but splitting the equity, 60 per cent for the West, 40 per cent for Nunavut. Since most of the consumption is in the West, western representatives argue, it should have a greater stake. Nunavut politicians disagree— and want to split the utility in two. ‘You don’t create two new territories in Canada without differences of opinion,” acknowledges Minister of Finance John Todd, who is overseeing the division of assets and liabilities. The slowness of the process, though, has in many ways left the West in limbo. Nellie Cournoyea, former premier of the Northwest Territories and a member of the Western Coalition, a technical group evaluating budgets, assets and liabilities, says that until division is settled, “It is very difficult for the West to focus on its own needs. It is the western bureaucrats who are doing most of the work to get the nuts and bolts of division in place.”

Politicians in the western territory say that the split will benefit both sides


• In the early 1960s, Ottawa first begins considering division of the Northwest Territories as a means of giving the North greater autonomy.

• Yellowknife becomes the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1967. Over the next two decades, as public government in the North matures, there is increasing agitation for aboriginal land claims.

• In 1976, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada—the Inuit representative body—approaches prime minister Pierre Trudeau with the first formal proposal for an Inuit land claim.

The proposal argues for the creation of Nunavut.

•The question of creating Nunavut is put to voters in the Northwest Territories in an April 14, 1982,

plebiscite. Fifty-six per cent vote in favor of splitting the territory.

• In 1982, a new organization called Tungavik Federation of Nunavut is set up to focus entirely on the Inuit land claim. But during the next decade, the process is slowed by debate over where the boundary between the Eastern Arctic and Western Arctic should be.

• On April 19, 1991, the Tory government of Brian Mulroney endorses a boundary division between the Eastern Arctic and Western Arctic.

• In June, 1993, Parliament enacts the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act, ratifying the Inuit land claim and authorizing the creation of the new territory of Nunavut.

• On April 1, 1999, Nunavut will become Canada’s newest territory.

But in spite of some frustration, western politicians, like their Nunavut counterparts, argue the necessity of division. “The Inuit asked the leadership of the Dene to support them and their leadership and that is what we had to do,” says Kakfwi. “It is our job in the West to make sure there were some good things

in it for ourselves. What we need to do is get more development, settle our land claims, look for new forms of government and encourage the spiritual and cultural aspects of our territory.” There is strength, too, in the West’s greater self-sufficiency. With an unemployment rate of 12 per cent and an average income of $34,000, with new diamond mines and oil and gas exploration, the territory is economically healthier than Nunavut. “Clearly we face less of a challenge,” says Dent, “but it doesn’t mean our task in the West is going to be easy. Six months ago, people were worried about division. Now, we are recognizing there will be challenges—but we will be able to deal with them.” When the prospect of division was first presented in a 1982 plebiscite, Miltenberger, the golf-loving MLA, voted against it. “Our population is the size of a small city in terms of actual numbers and to me it didn’t make sense,” he says. Now, he thinks differently, stressing the cultural and economic divide between the Eastern and Western Arctic. “I think the indicators in the West will actually improve,” Miltenberger argues. ‘We raise $200 million of our own revenue and that has the potential to increase because of all our development. Our population is well educated. We have the enviable problem of having too many jobs and not enough qualified northerners to fill them. The future doesn’t look bad.” After a round of golf in the unremitting glow of the midnight sun, when time seems to have no limits, the looming deadline of 1999 and the problems in redrawing the map of Canada seem to fade away. □


indy Camp, at the edge of the Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories, is a rock-strewn stretch of tundra—and an odd place for someone to find his first fulltime job. But Lloyd Baton, a 26-year-old Dene, started working there this spring, his first time getting out of bed at a set hour, his first time earning a regular paycheque. As an employee of Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd., Baton is doing odd jobs and learning something about the mining business at the gold exploration camp. Until this year, his prospects for real work were nil. He was an alcoholic. He had left school after Grade 8. He had rarely been outside his home in the remote community of Déline, 270 km northwest of Yellowknife. But when his common-law wife became pregnant last fall, Baton recognized the need to change his life. In January, he enrolled in an alcohol awareness program, and was selected to participate in the N.W.T. Community Mobilization Partnership, a non-profit program that is helping the unemployed in the Northwest Territories learn how to hold jobs and become self-sufficient. “I haven’t had a drink for four months,” Baton says proudly. “This job means a lot to me.” The Community Mobilization Partnership does not just focus on the mechanics of finding a job, but takes into account family history, alcohol problems and lack of education. It encourages companies to understand aboriginal people—while showing First Nations groups what is expected in the workplace. At Windy Camp, retired mining engineer Herb Heinz tutored Baton and 20 other aboriginal apprentices right at the job site. “A lot of these people have never left their communities before,” says Heinz,

Community Mobilization’s academic co-ordinator. “Some of them have tried several jobs and failed. But you can’t condemn them—you have to be patient.”

So far, 184 northerners have been through the program. After 21 days of training in areas such as mine safety, many now hold entry-level jobs in expediting, catering, laundry, construction, electrical work and plumbing. It can take four or five different placements before a job clicks. “You can’t give up on people because they’ve had one or two bad starts,” says Barb A. Brown, executive adviser to the program. “There is a great deal of transition. Eventually, we hope they will become role models in their communities.”

The Community Mobilization Partnership started in 1995 when Broken Hill Proprietary made an application to open the first diamond mine in Canada. The company had to meet certain conditions before beginning the development of what is now the Ekati mine in the Northwest Territories, including a requirement to hire northerners and aboriginal people. But many aboriginals, unskilled, poorly educated and beset by alcohol and drug problems, were ill-prepared for work. So BHP recruited Brown, an education specialist from Vancouver, to help. Another 200 companies, including the Bank of Montreal and Interprovincial Pipeline Ltd., signed on as partners. They work in tandem with Brown's organization, with various aboriginal communities and with all levels of government, providing the program’s $1.4 million in funding and offering expertise.

Gord Van Tighem, manager of the Yellowknife Bank of Montreal, says the program has enabled people to find jobs and keep them. “It’s been dramatic,” he says. “We’ve been able to have 82-percent retention in the workforce.” Aboriginal leaders strongly support the program. “I went to the BHP mine site last fall and there were people working there who I knew had not worked for years,” says Stephen Kakfwi, the territory’s minister of natural resources, wildlife and economic development. “The Community Mobilization people recognize it’s not enough to get an alcoholic to quit drinking—he also has to go to work and become an active member of the community.” That is something a new father like Lloyd Baton now clearly understands.