Monday Morning Musings

Posted on February 17, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Inuit artifacts at the NV

 

 

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

This African proverb reflects the emphasis African cultures place on family and community.

But what exactly is a village and how does it operate for the collective good of its citizens?

I decided to get a few answers to this question by taking my students on a fact-finding mission to the town hall in Kangiqsujuaq. Up here, the building is referred to as the NV, short for Northern Village. Having served 9 years as an elected official back home, I have some sense of how communities work but I was eager to learn how northern communities function and was particularly interested in having my students get a firsthand look at the inner workings of the place they call home.

Back in my high school days, we took a class called civics. Civics derives from the Latin word civicus, meaning relating to a citizen. We also took Latin and French. At the time, like thousands of students before us, we wondered why we had to take such boring subjects.
I can see you old-timers nodding your heads. We were so fortunate back in pre-historic times to take such interesting classes as woodworking, drafting, art, music, home economics, and lots of gym classes.

On a bitterly cold morning last week, we walked up to the NV to meet with Paula (not her real name), the secretary-treasurer. When we arrived, she was tied up, so the receptionist chatted with the students. The receptionist in any office is crucial to the smooth running of any business. Eventually, Paula showed up and escorted our entourage to Council Chambers. It is a beautiful room filled with windows, sunlight, Inuit art and optimism.

Initially, my class was much more interested in the adjustable swivel chairs where the councilors sit for meetings, but gradually, Paula had them completely engaged.

The village employs seventy people. Besides the administrative officials and support staff, the village employs drivers for the water trucks, sewage trucks, oil trucks, and garbage trucks. It also hires people to drive the two community transit buses, and the people who run the municipally owned gym, swimming pool and arena.

I was very curious about electricity generation. Being a remote community, I thought that keeping the power on, especially in the dead of winter, was pretty important. We learned that Hydro Quebec operates the power generating station. Electricity is produced by diesel powered generators. There are massive storage silos on the edge of town that hold all of the oil and gas needed to run the community for the winter months. In the spring, tankers will come into Wakem Bay to re-supply.

On more than one occasion, I wondered what would happen if the power went out for an extended period. Paula told me that their EMO (Emergency Measures Operation) plan would be to bring all the residents to the gymnasium. Nine hundred bodies in one room would bring the temperature up several degrees! When I thought about it afterwards, I grinned to myself. The Inuit lived on the land for centuries without electricity. If there was one place I should feel safe, it is here among the Inuit, the ultimate survivors.

I felt compelled to ask Paula about the village’s most pressing problem. I wasn’t surprised with her response. Alcohol, particularly bootlegging, is a serious issue in northern communities. To be fair, it is also a problem in southern communities.

I was very pleased that, without prompting, Paula told my students that learning to speak and write the English language was crucial if they were ever to consider working at the NV. It is the official working language of the village.

On Valentines Day, I asked the students to write a short thank you note to Paula and the staff for giving us their time. I hand delivered them to the NV on my way home at the end of the day.

It takes children to raise a village.

Someday my students could very well be part of a team that looks after its citizens.

Have a great week.

Highland Hearing Clinic
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