Sunday, October 17, 2010


I've struggled viciously with this one, so I ask your indulgence...

One of the most common questions I get from people looking to move to Nunavut, after questions about rent, is about whether or not the place is safe. I give the same answer, which is, "I don't think the place is any more dangerous than Toronto. There is crime, there is obviously a drug problem, but most of the crime tends to involve people who know each other. Assuming you're not stupid, then you should be fine."

So far, knock on wood, the worst Cathy and I have had to deal with was having the tires slashed on our car several years ago, and someone throwing a rock at our living room window when we lived in the NEU building. Most of the problems around the NEU building disappeared after I complained and the building owners put in cameras.

However, this has just been an exceptionally bad last few weeks. I'd blame the dump fire smoke for making people grumpy and crazy. Then there was this story, which caused more than its fair share of freaking out around town. Then there was Macleans listing Nunavut as one of the most dangerous places to live in Canada when it comes to violent crime.

And, of course, there is Cape Dorset completely losing its mind. Nunatsiaq's recounting of what the community has been through this past year reads like a horror show. And when the Globe and Mail's editorial staff shines the spotlight on your community, then things are getting bad enough that the normally obliviously southern media are paying attention. But, for the love of God, don't read the comments section on that editorial. It'll make you want to hurt people.

So yeah, October hasn't been a great month. It's been the icing on a bad year.

We were at the Cape Dorset print show at the museum yesterday afternoon. It's normally one of the highlights of the year for us. It's a great display of art, Cathy and I haggle over whether or not to buy some art (we didn't) and it's always fun to watch the ticket draw and the reactions from people if they did or didn't get their favourite piece of art.

But it was kind of subdued. Hard to be excited about all the art when you realize the place where all of the art was coming from was in the process of trying to destroy itself.

I honestly don't know what to tell people when they ask about the violence and crime anymore. Maybe it's a blip. I have a bad feeling it's more than that.


Look, I still recommend Nunavut as a place to move to. It's not for everyone, obviously. There are challenges to living here which I've gone into before - the cold, the isolation, the lack of amenities, etc. But we love the place. We've been here for five years and it's a good community at heart. But it does have problems. People are trying to solve them, but they're not easy ones to solve. It's going to take a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of patience and a lot of determination. It's going to take tremendous intelligence and even greater will. Those things are rarities at the best of times; I don't know how much exists in Canada, let alone in Nunavut.

I think the thing that frustrated me the most when writing this is that I don't like writing posts that offer up all the problems without taking a crack at what the solutions should be. But the solutions I've mentioned are so...generic. But I've got nothing. People who have lived up here for their entire lives appear to have been so shell-shocked that when these things happen, there's a weariness when it happens.

It'll be fixed one day, I'm sure of it. I just don't know when. Or how many other people are going to die or be hurt before then. And, like so many others who live up here, that frustrates the hell right out of me.

Last Five
1. Back in your hand - Tegan and Sara
2. Fisherman's blues - The Waterboys
3. In the shape of a heart (live) - Jackson Browne
4. Walter Reed - Michael Penn*
5. I can do without you - Kaiser Chiefs


BlackCapricorn said...

I have been looking into traveling to Baffin Island for some time now and after reading your blog and the news sites, figured that the Island was relatively safe but this news out of Cape Dorset really has me confused about my perceptions from afar. My thought about the situation is that maybe due to CD's size and remoteness, if a switch is "flipped" for one person towards violence, then maybe it easily spreads and the switch is turned on by other people in a small community? Have you seen the same thing in Iqualit with crime "waves" at any time? I am still eager to come and explore the Arctic but might leave CD off my list until things settle down.

Sorry to contribute on such a troubling post but I really enjoy the blog!

BlackCapricorn said...

"Iqaluit", sorry for the misspelling! It's early in the morning.

me, just me said...

The things I've been reading about happening in Cape Dorset just make my brain hurt. I'm sorry to hear about all that, and it's so sad. I knew Nunavut wasn't perfect, but that's still sort of a let down to see.

Adam Snider said...

I'm kind of surprised by that Maclean's article. They've previously not included the territories in some of their articles on things like "most violent places in Canada" and other similar stories, because the small populations result in really skewed statistics.

It only takes a few incidents to make the territories look like the most dangerous places on a per capita basis, given that the populations of entire territories are smaller than many cities down south.

So, I'm not sure how much stock I'd put into the Maclean's article you've linked to.

Megan said...

Well, they cover the territories separately. There was a similar story last year about territorial crime rates. We're too small to include in a list of cities, no matter what's being counted.

Richard, Margot and Lilibeth said...

Well put. One of the students involved is registered in my class although I have yet to see him at school. It is a very frustrating situation and I know so many people, both Inuit and Southerners who are in the trenches, trying their best everyday with these kids. It's just a slap in the face when you read comments suggesting that no one cares and we should all just leave and give up. I find the whole situation very disheartening. Thanks for the obvious thought you put into this post.