When Words Fail

Posted on December 10, 2022 under News & Updates with 3 comments


There have been three suicides of students from our school in the past two weeks; two in the last 48 hours.

While I appreeciate all of the thoughts and prayers, expressions of grief, virtual hugs and support, I would implore you to take it a step further and read something about the north. Without historical context, people can’t possibly understand why these problems persist.

There are many excellent books written about the North. May I humbly suggest “the Right to be Cold” by Sheila Watt-Cloutier.




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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on December 7, 2022 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 2 comments


How many of us in the village were feeling last week


True confessions.

Let’s face it. From time to time, we all have bad weeks.

So far, my adventure in the North this time around has been as close to perfect as one could imagine. My students have been respectful. Teaching secondary is a totally different ball game than elementary. The curriculum is better defined and there are lot more resources from which to draw, making lesson planning infinitely easier. I also have plenty of prep periods during the week so that I am not constantly chasing my tail as in previous stints in elementary. And I no longer have recess duty outdoors. I don’t have to stand in bitterly cold temperatures holding the end of a skipping rope!

Most things in the north (as in life in general) are beyond a person’s control so when you have an opportunity to exercise some kind of control, you take it. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I decided to forego cable, internet and a landline. Not only are these devices expensive but they are also unpredictable and often unreliable. Oddly enough, I am so close to the school that I have been able to pick up an internet signal just about every day. I also decided to buy my groceries locally rather than order them and have them shipped from Montreal. Yes, groceries can be very expensive in the north, depending on what you are buying, but most food items are typically the same as one might find in a large grocery store in the south. Fresh fruit and vegetables are heavily subsidized, and I see no difference whatsoever in the price of chicken, beef, pork or fish. Food is expensive everywhere in case you haven’t noticed.

Twelve days ago, my feeling of bonhomie evaporated in a heartbeat. On a Friday afternoon after school, a very bright 14-year-old student went home and took her life.

I plan to write a piece about trauma in the north but will wait until I get my bearings. This death, on the heels of another student suicide three months earlier, rocked the community as you might well expect. To add to these woes, the weather in the ensuing week was brutal. For three days after her death, a blizzard raged. A recent Covid outbreak necessitated an outdoor funeral service at the gravesite on the tundra. It was held in the evening. This was followed by another three days of sustained blizzards. I have never seen storms of this intensity or duration. It forced everyone indoors which is not the healthiest thing at the best of times but during a time of great sadness and trauma, this situation is exacerbated. On the day of the funeral, a team of grief experts flew into our village from the south. They got to meet with staff and students for exactly three hours when the weather went bad preventing school from opening again until after they left.

Everyone is dealing with a multitude of emotions. Topping my list are anger, frustration and a profound sadness for the family and the community. As I said earlier, I will save my rant for another time,

but history always plays a part in these tragedies. A lot of people including politicians and religious people have much to answer for.

I am very pleased to announce the release of my seventh book: “Northern Lights: Hope and Healing in Kangiqsujuaq”. This book was three years in the making and there were times when I thought it would never get published, mainly because of inertia on my part. I am quite proud of this book, and it has a local (Kangiqsujuaq) flavor. The cover photo is by a young Inuit photographer, Lucasie Kiatainaq and the manuscript was proofread by one of the most respected women in the village, Mary Arngak. The book will give readers a feel of what everyday life is like in a remote, fly-in community. While I came to the north to teach, I also came to be educated and I learned a lot about Inuit culture.

My book is being sold in my hometown of Antigonish at the 5 to $1.00 store. The only other way to purchase it is to go to my website (www.week45.com) and follow the links. Now, I won’t be home until December 22nd so if you’re ordering online, you won’t receive it until after Christmas. However, it might be great reading material between Christmas and New Year’s. For you locals in Antigonish, you can chase me down and get a copy before Christmas. I warehouse the books in my closet!!!

Thank you in advance for your support.

Have a great weekend.


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