Tuesday, June 2, 2009

GG says seal episode helped improve understanding

Build roads and/or trains that will connect the North to the South what a concept. Industry can pluck forests clean from some pretty rough remote terrain - and build roads to get their vehicles in there and their products out but still a system that will connect communities for trade purposes is too expensive or unrealistic. I call cow poo.

Industry (other than for resource extraction and then it’s a selfish need) has no desire to provide
access to Inuit or First Nation communities to open their door for trade. Right now, as is stated in the story, northern communities rely heavily on food that is grown, marketed, and profits the producers and food lobbyist in the south. It’s about money and controlling the market.

I dunno, my son and one of my friends told me I was a hippy (in a nice contemporary way they said~!), and maybe they are right because more and more I like to support local farmers and producers but I still want to purchase berries, game, fish, and grains from First Nation, Inuit producers where possible.

But then again, I had the luckiest of opportunities to travel to Nisga’a territory several years ago and was able to try sea lion. I can tell you it was so good that I am haunted today by the memory and want more. I asked the locals about marketing the meat because it was so good. They pointed out how experience with “white markets” has destroyed many of their traditional industries already (think salmon). They said quite honestly and truthfully that they did not want to share what other foods are out there in case the day came that someone would take it away and make them pay. They were afraid they wouldn’t be able to afford to eat.

I say it again, in a land of plenty to say there is a food security issues are misleading. There is food – lots of it – but less and less people can afford it.

GG says seal episode helped improve understanding

Updated Mon. Jun. 1 2009 4:56 PM ET

The Canadian Press

KUUJJUAQ, Que. -- Her globally televised seal-eating episode may have been a distraction initially, but the Governor General says in the end it will help promote better understanding of the North.

Michaelle Jean had arrived in the Arctic with an unusually political demand for a university there, and expressed hope southerners would take note of the desperate needs in education and infrastructure.

Her week-long trip certainly got noticed -- but all anyone wanted to talk about was the vice-regal visitor munching on a slice of seal heart during an Inuit community feast.

The blood-soaked images prompted so much debate, in fact, that the Rideau Hall press office says they generated more news clippings around the world than her meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

But what about those other things she spent the week discussing -- like the 25 per cent high-school graduation rate in Nunavut, the search for economic hope in a place with a 58 per cent employment rate?

Jean sees a silver lining to the seal-skinning sensation: at least people noticed the Arctic, and spent time thinking about its people. She ended her trip expressing hope Monday that the country will continue paying attention.

"Did the seal take up all the space?" Jean said, laughing.

"My motto is breaking down solitudes. ... It provoked, I think, a big discussion in the country. And I think that is part of some new awareness. . . I hope it is."

The government of Nunavut seized on all the headlines to urge more southerners to try their food -- such as the muskox ribs, Arctic char, goose, caribou and seal served to the Governor General.

The problem with an Inuit food industry is there are no roads or ports linking the Arctic to the rest of the country, despite repeated calls for some by territorial leaders.

That dearth of infrastructure makes shipping by plane, or boat, complicated and expensive. That's one of the reasons so many Inuit rely on hunted food, because shipped food costs a fortune.

They may also have found a few more customers for their fare down south.

One Montreal restaurateur who sells $13-$15 seal appetizers says his sales have doubled amid the recent controversy, and that the blubbery mammal now accounts for two-thirds of his entree sales.

In Jean's final meeting with community leaders Monday, plenty of issues were raised -- like the desperate housing shortage in Quebec's northern community of Kuujjuaq.

Locals estimate that the town of 2,200 needs 950 more houses, and they described the family tensions and fights caused by having so many people crammed into inadequate homes.

But even the locals kept bringing up the seal-skinning images.

Jean received ovations and plaudits from across the region for her defence of an Inuit tradition -- and the accolades kept coming during Monday's discussion with community leaders.

"Just because you eat raw meat does not mean you are a savage," said Anthony Ittoshat, frustrated by some of the things southerners have said about Inuit traditions. "We are not savages. . . . We need to find a way to survive in this cold place."

But he finished on a positive note: how heartening it was to see Canadians defend Jean's actions and Inuit custom.

"You went and you united a lot of Canadians. ... We need more exposure. We need to educate the people down south."

Another elder agreed that the south needs to understand -- and then to leave well enough alone.

"Our life is hunting and fishing -- our wildlife is our lifeline," said Bobby Snowball, head of elders' association in Kuujjuaq.

"It's very important that the public understand this. ... We don't bother you. please don't bother us -- let us live our life."

One woman at a roundtable discussion Monday said city-dwelling Canadians know more about Inukshuks (stone figures) than they know about the people who make them.

But leaders throughout the Arctic are also hoping to leverage all the attention to their real needs: housing and transportation.

There's an urgent need for roads to connect with the highways of the south, in order to ship the minerals, fish and others goods that could help make communities self-sustaining.

Preliminary talks are underway for a highway from Manitoba to Rankin Inlet though even if it gets a green light the project would cost $1.2 billion and take a quarter century to complete.

Jean has also been pressing the federal government to create a university of the Arctic, an unusual foray by the vice-regal into policy-making.

She kept insisting on such an institution of higher learning even after the government said it was cool to the idea, saying she must be a sounding board for people to express their aspirations.

On the final night of her trip, Jean was serenaded over supper by Inuit singer Sylvia Cloutier. The song was about a child hunting, killing, and skinning his first seal -- and about his gratitude for the bounty of the land.


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