Wednesday, September 24, 2014


September 10, 2014.
The middle weeks of September were busy, filled with important events and visitors from the sea.  I was glad that I had my camera at all times.
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, an awareness day designed to "provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides."  The event is hosted by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).  According to the IASP, "over 800,000 people die from suicide every year, roughly one death every 40 seconds.  [This] exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined."  This year's theme was "Light a candle near a Window."
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, suicide is a problem of epidemic proportions in Canada's north.  Nunavut's suicide rate is around 13 times the national average.  The territory reached a record of 48 suicides last year.  There have already been 19 this year, including an 11 year-old boy in Repulse Bay.  This is happening to a population of just 36,000.  Suicide affects everyone in the north.  Many Inuit know of at least one friend and/or relative that has been lost to suicide.  For me, suicide came to the forefront when one of my students in Iqaluit took his life in December 2012.  The causes of these suicides are the same as down south but one thing is clear and that is the territory does not have enough resources, skills, and funding to tackle the problem.  There is some progress being made, but more needs to be done.        
One of the activities the IASP promotes is "Cycle Around the World", where participants from all over the globe collectively cycle 85,242.72km, or twice the circumference of the Earth, in an effort to spread global awareness about the importance of suicide prevention.  Nunavut was assigned 2,700km - the distance of the Northwest Passage.  The teachers & students of Inuujaq School did their part by walking 5km around town & the school.  Hopefully, the IASP can forgive us for leaving our bikes at home.            

The walk began at 2:45pm behind the school's gym.  The Grade 8-12 students & teachers completed the 5km walk around town while the K-7 students & teachers walked around the school.  It took 45 minutes to complete the walk around town.  Locals came out to see the "parade" of students & staff walking for suicide prevention.  A congratulatory BBQ awaited everyone upon returning to school.  The hot dogs were prepared by Irene, the town's mental health worker.  She recruited several students who were also cadets to look after the distribution of juice boxes & apples, and cleaning up the area when dismissal bell rang. 
The teachers filled out forms that tracked the students who participated in the walk and how many kilometres they completed.  The forms were faxed to IASP and each student received a certificate for their effort.  It would be several days before we would learn that the Nunavummiut walked, cycled, and ran more than 2,700km.  A lot more.

The next important event was remembering the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001.  It was thirteen years ago, on that infamous day, when four passenger jets were hijacked in the USA by Al-Qaeda terrorists and used as weapons against the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and possibly the Capitol Building or White House.  I still remember where I was on that day, in high school, going to class, and only learning about the attacks after lunch.  I didn't believe it until I got home.  The event was the topic of discussion for all three of my social studies classes.  We discussed its historical significance, how it changed American foreign policy, and how it affected Canada.  We also watched the documentary 102 Minutes that Changed America, and the drama film United 93.  The latter film is about the fourth plane that was brought down by its passengers, preventing the hijackers from crashing it into the Capitol Building or the White House.

Arctic Bay received its first significant snowfall of the winter season . . . on September 12.  No one was expecting it to happen that early.  When I drew open my curtains that morning, I thought it was November.  The snow didn't melt; it was here to stay.  However, the water in the bay was not frozen.  That wouldn't happen until late October.
The chemical tanker OW Atlantic sailed into Arctic Bay on September 13th to replenish the town's fuel tanks.  The large vessel connected to the "Gas Station" via a very long pipe that ran along the surface of the water.  It left the next day.

Another large vessel visited Arctic Bay on September 14th, this time in the form of a research vessel turned cruise ship.  It was my first time seeing the large grey ship and to me, it resembled a military cruiser or destroyer.  Using my binoculars, I looked at the bow (front) and read the name: Akademik Sergey Vavilov.  Russian.  The Russians are here!  I immediately scanned the skies above me, looking for heavily armed Russian paratroopers.  When none appeared, I breathed a sigh of relief and assumed that the ship was just visiting.  My Internet searches at school revealed that the Russian (former Soviet) research vessel is also a polar cruise ship, managed by International Shipping Partners, and frequently chartered by One Ocean Expeditions, Polar Cruises, Peregrine Adventures, and TravelWild Expeditions.  The Vavilov also recently played a role in the Franklin ship discovery.  It too stayed in town for only a day.
During this time, my Grade 10s learned about the importance & significance of 1970 Coppermine Conference.  Kugluktuk, as it's now called, was the community where the Indian & Eskimo Association (IEA) sponsored a week-long meeting for Aboriginal & Inuit delegates to discuss critical issues that would ensure their languages and cultures would survive & flourish.  The meeting also set the stage for future land claims negotiations with the Canadian federal government.  IEA changed its name to Canadian Association in Support of Native Peoples in 1973.
My Grade 11s studied European imperialism in Africa in the late 1880s to early 1900s.  What shocked them was how the borders were dramatically changed & imposed by the European powers, leading to future conflicts that are still happening today.  Ethnic tribes were either forcefully split to prevent them from fighting their occupiers together, or forced to live with enemy tribes.  Additionally, the European powers actively engaged in the slave trade, transporting between 9 - 12 million people to Europe, and North & South America.  The few positive results that came from imperialism (ie. railroads, telegraphs, European styled education) do not outweigh the negatives.  I'm not sure how long it will take for the people of Africa to heal.  Maybe the political boundaries need to be redrawn.       
An finally, my drummers were sounding more comfortable playing on the drums as a group.  Their ears were getting used to the "loud" sounds of the drums.  For beginners, any drum sound is a loud sound.  We also practiced playing sixteenth notes as a group.  The challenge is to get eight drummers to sound like one drum.  At first, it was a cacophony of sound, but after much time & effort, the drummers sounded in unison.   

September 14, 2014

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