Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Is the Nunavut government as Inuk as it could be?
The CBC has an interesting article on the current state of the Nunavut legislature (their elections were held yesterday).
Here's an excerpt:
'In the chamber, there are attempts to bring the best of Inuit culture to government. The speaker sits at the front, the seats of the MLAs placed in a circle before him. It's consensus government here. Like in the Northwest Territories, there are no political parties. Behind the MLAs is another row of seats. They are for elders.
'Nunavut's first senior justice of the peace, Alexina Kublu, says Inuit were expecting elders to play an important role in the Nunavut legislature. The seats are there for them, she says, but they are rarely used.
'"Elders don't like to be just a ceremonial role," Kublu says. "They do not want to be equated with the mace. Whenever elders are present they want to feel that they've been invited to attend an occasion because they're able to bring in worthwhile input."'
Doesn't that sort of highlight the problem? The whole idea of a set government seems to involve some set stable ceremonial & static elements, which maybe doesn't translate so well. I don't know.
Meanwhile, the CBC also pointed out that "Kelvin Ng had to find proper footwear for his budget speech, something that reflected the serious message he had to give his fellow MLAs. So when the finance minister stood up in Nunavut's house last March, he wore kamiik. And not even new ones. The used pair of seal-skin boots symbolized what he wanted to tell the house. Money was going to get tight, so it was time to be frugal and sensible." This article explains Nunavut's budget issues, which are incredibly serious. Also -- remember the population pyramids we had to draw in OAC World Issues? [insert other high school civics-type class here] -- there are population pyramids provided for Canada as a whole and for Nunavut. Nunavut's are strongly pyramid in shape -- just like a "third world nation" (if I were Derrida I would put that phrase sous rature, but I make do with quotes... where did the expression scare quotes come from?).
The CBC writes:
'While the territory makes up more than one-fifth of the Canadian landmass, there are only about 30,000 Nunavumiut, spread over 25 communities ranging in population from a few dozen to the largest, Iqaluit, at 6,000.
'And the needs of those people are huge. A look at a population-age graph tells the story: while the country as a whole has a baby-boom bulge in the middle of the graph, with fewer younger and older people, Nunavut's graph is a pyramid: fully 60 per cent of the population is under the age of 25.
'There is massive unemployment in Nunavut, 80 per cent or higher in some communities. And with the population boom comes a desperate need for new schools, training, and jobs. Municipal governments need water systems, sewage treatment plants, roads and arenas. Vast amounts of money go to health care. Then there are the social problems; alcholism, depression, violent crime, and suicide. People need help, support, and programs.'
For now, Nunavut's only source of revenue is the federal government, which has to be convinced to free up extra money. While Nunavut has natural resources that could be exploited, they (according to the CBC article, though I wasn't clear precisely why this is the case) would not receive direct revenues therein. (I guess it's their status as a territory, that forbids them that autonomy over federally-mandated natural resources?)
Remind me to continue reading up on this. Nunavut is fascinating because they're trying to do things differently, but still within the constraints of the Canadian system. I'm really intrigued by what's possible, as well as frustrated about the problems. I doubt Nunavut really needs a philosophy professor to lecture them on Hegel, but... I wonder how hard it would be to learn Inuk?
and just in case you wanted this
The CBC also wants you to have Nunacom, an Inuk font for PC or Macintosh. So go ahead & download.
Also, (whew!) here's the link to Rick Mercer's Monday Report take on the Nunavut elections. Alas but I have never been able yet to enjoy this show, being stuck in Yankeeland. But a video is posted. And a picture. Mmm, Rick Mercer...
jane 11:50 AM [+]