The rate of violent crime per capita in Nunavut is nine times what it is in the rest of Canada. The homicide rate is around 1,000 per cent of the Canadian average. And the number of crimes reported to the police have more than doubled in the dozen years since the territory was formed. If it were an independent country, Nunavut's crime statistics would place it in the realm of South Africa or Mexico.
With this kind of havoc and hardship, it's hard not to conclude that Nunavut is a failing state - that the bold experiment in domestic nation-building Canada launched in 1999 has gone deeply wrong. Is it at risk of becoming our own Haiti of the Arctic Circle, or can something be done to reverse the damage?
Globe reporter Patrick White, who documented Nunavut's struggle with violence and crime in Saturday's Focus feature, took your questions. A selection of his responses are below. For the entire chat, click on the grey dialog box at the bottom of the article. Readers on mobile devices can find a custom version here.
Michael Snider: Patrick, thanks for joining us. Before the first question comes in, I wonder if you can reflect a bit on Leo Nangmalik -- one of the main people you interviewed. For those unaware, Mr. Nangmalik committed suicide shortly before the package was published.
Patrick White: Leo was a wonderful guy with a somewhat troubled past in Repulse Bay who kindly invited photojournalist Peter Power and I into his ramshackle home. He'd been on a waiting list for social housing for 18 months, he said, and was forced to live in an unheated shack. He shared some very moving tales with us, and urged us to share them with as many people as possible. He saw this as part of the healing process. Tragically, he took his own life last Thursday. We found on on Saturday afternoon when a paper with his image on the front page was sitting in newsstands across the country. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.
Jennifer Perry: Hello. I'm a teacher in Repulse Bay. I was happy to see that Repulse was shown in a somewhat more positive light than the rest of Nunavut was in this story, but was not thrilled to see all the negativity. I have been in Nunavut for 5 years and see it as a wonderful place to live.
Patrick White: Jennifer, I have relished all my time in Nunavut. I have never experienced such generosity and patience. But southern Canada gets away with applying this romantic tint to the entire North, with seeing it only in terms of global warming and sovereignty. There are real human problems that need to be addressed and southern Canada needs to be reminded of this.
Guest: if these issues were in the South, believe me, they would be taken care of immediately....no questions asked.
Patrick White: I agree, Guest. If there's a flood on the Prairies, a hurricane in the Maritimes or an infectious disease outbreak in Toronto, all levels of government respond in full disaster mode. But the suicide problem in this nation's north, or the recent uptick in TB cases, or the desperate housing shortage, they can be largely ignored.
Len: Would you attribute these problems as the side effects of Residential Schools in Canada. Most of these people are Residential School survivors, and they lost alot of social skills as a result.
Patrick White: We can't overstate the impact of residential schools in this area, Len. It plays a large factor, many believe, in the high rates of violence and abuse. One person I talked to recently compared the residential schools to a loosely organized pedophile ring. When you hear the stories from students, it's tough not to agree.
Polarlawyer: I read your profile with interest, having lived in Nunavut in the past. Two issues which your article did not cover, but which are a big part of the problem are (in my mind): the lack of follow through by the federal government to live up to funding and program commitments made in the land claims agreement (which over time is hobbling the efforts to build a healthy social economy), and the growing gap between the experiences of men and women (women seem to be adapting to the cultural shifts more easily, and it seems to me that men are experiencing more of the direct social distress associated with being displaced from traditional jobs and valued roles). I note, for instance, that most of the active Inuit leadership at the municipal, territorial, federal and circumpolar level are women.
Patrick White: Polarlawyer, you've identified to great points that I really wanted to squish into the piece. Glad you raised them. While the federal government provides over 90 per cent of the territorial budget, a reasonable argument is being made that it is not meeting the commitments made in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. I'm not sure about you, but I haven't heard much recognition of this in Ottawa. Also, with the experiences of women and men, it's hard not to notice women emerging in leadership roles -- Premier Eva Aariak and Iqaluit mayor Madeleine Redfern among them. It's inspiring, and could provide a lesson to the rest of the country.
Nuliayuk: Thank you for great reporting on the issues Nunavut faces. You are correct when you say the south has a very limited perspective on Nunavut and it's issues. I would ask you, the G&M, and other national media outlets to maintain reporting on Nunavut's social issues. Many southerners are quick to blame 'the natives', 'free hand-outs', and alcohol for Nunavut's social problems, not understanding the depth and history of our issues.
Patrick White: Thanks Nuliayuk. The whole "free handouts" argument really bugs me. I often surprise people in the south when I tell them that people in Nunavut are tax-payers. This point isn't well known down here.
Jasmine: It's also that whole two-worlds phenom. Young people are caught in a limbo -- fluent neither in the ways of their parents nor in the language of modern society. Considering it was only 60 years ago that life as Inuit knew it utterly and irreversibly changed, that kind of damage takes time to process and move forward from.
Patrick White: Jasmine, this two-worlds phenomenon is a tough one to solve. How do you balance lessons about the modern world and the way of life that pervaded only a couple generations ago. It doesn't seem anyone has solved this. Nobody I've met say Nunavut would be better off if it shut out the southern word and returned to traditional ways completely, as some would have us think.
Read the complete chat below.
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