Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, March 17, 2014

Canada's Northern Communities

"Everyone was just shocked. The kids kept mentioning things in the school that were gone. Their hockey sticks. And how there wasn't going to be any more Sunday volleyball." 
"We have no idea where we'll be teaching. We have no teaching supplies. Everything always takes a little more time and money to get things up here."
"We'll probably be teaching out of different rooms throughout town, using the basic supplies. We'll make it work."
Allison Colbourne, Tarsakallak school teacher
Tarsakallak School (Handout/QMI AGENCY)
Qullik Cain, 15-year-old student
 A Kativik Regional Police Officer watches over a fire that ripped through Aupaluk’s Tarsakallak school early March 15. (PHOTO BY QULLIK CAIN)
A Kativik Regional Police Officer watches over a fire that ripped through Aupaluk’s Tarsakallak school early March 15. (PHOTO BY QULLIK CAIN) 

The town of Aupaluk is located along the shore of Ungava Bay, in northern Quebec. Allison Colbourne, 25, originally from Ottawa, arrived in the Inuit community last summer, as a new teacher. Now the schoolhouse she had been teaching in is gone, and she and Qullik Cain and the 54 other students from kindergarten to  high school, no longer have a school in which to teach and to learn academic subjects.

Remote communities, some of them accessible only by plane, are really on their own for the most part. They fend for themselves as best they can, particularly during the winter months, and if they're Arctic communities, so much the better for them if they rely primarily on their own initiatives to cope with all manner of adversities. It is, after all, their traditional way of life, their heritage as northern peoples.

Although not quite as isolated and remote as some, the Arctic township of Aupaluk, with its fewer than 200 residents experienced a miserably sad and upsetting incident when the building that represented the town's entertainment centre, as well as its schoolhouse with its eight classrooms, is gone completely, burnt right to the ground. There were plans to upgrade the building, built 30 years earlier. Now it has to be replaced entirely.

No one was in the school at the time and no one was hurt. And the reason the fire broke out is still unknown, though Surete du Quebec inspectors were searching the scene, and a school inspector ruled out foul play of any kind. The fire had started at 7 a.m. Volunteer fire fighters tried to contain the fire with mounds of snow, using bulldozers, concerned over a large propane tank nearby.


It just happened to be March break, school out for a week, giving the Kativik school board a week to consider where they could find temporary facilities. The two-storey school building was also the town's meeting place. Local leadership held workshops there, basketball camps and Christmas parties took place in the gymnasium, for full community use of the building.

It is a geography that makes the most of two hours of winter daylight.

Courses taught at the school include Inuktitut, French and English. There are eleven teachers at the school, most of whom were visiting their southern-locale families during the March vacation week, and picking up new supplies.

The school board and the Quebec ministry of education are to discuss a "relocation plan". In the meanwhile, officials are considering the use of a government building recently vacated that stands adjacent where the school once stood intact.
... teams start moving again March 16, when they'll head towards Aupaluk. Mushers are expected to begin arriving at the finish line in Tasiujaq March 17.

Meanwhile the town prepared for its annual  Ivakkak race, as mushers and dog teams hunkered down in Aupaluk waiting for the weather to clear. The schoolhouse was also used as a large space in which to host visitors in the past.

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