Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pilimmaksarniq 2015 – Part 3

GG David Johnston
The last full day of the conference began with a formal affair.  David Johnston, Canada's Governor General (GG), had been scheduled to address & speak to the 300 teachers of the Qikiqtani Region about how a robust education system in the territories is the key to the success of Canada's north.  He would also answer four prepared questions from the audience.  The address would be done through Connected North, a video conference initiative created by Cisco Systems.  Connected North's aim is to deliver "immersive and interactive education and healthcare services to remote northern communities through high-definition two-way video and collaboration technologies."
The layout of the gym at Inuksuk High School was drastically changed.  All the tables were removed and the chairs were rearranged into a large semi-circle facing the stage.  A large white screen covered the stage.  In between the screen and chairs stood a camera - (so that the GG could see everyone) - and a microphone on a stand.

The Governor General's Address promptly began at 9am.  The computer technicians dialed a number and established a secure connection with Ottawa.  I'm not sure where Johnston was speaking from in Ottawa, but on the big screen, he appeared sitting at a round table inside a classroom/conference room with a big whiteboard in the background.  He greeted everyone with a smile & a wave of his right hand.  He launched into his prepared speech, praising us teachers for the hard work that we do in & outside the classroom.  He then spoke about needing to improve high school graduation rates in the territory and communication between communities.  He concluded his speech by summarizing everything that's being done in the North, calling them the "four s's".  They are sovereignty, signals, science, and stewardship.  You can read more about them here.
Question 1
Question 2
Four pre-selected teachers came up to the microphone one at a time and asked the Governor General a prepared question.  All four questions were related to education and Nunavut development.  Unfortunately, I can't exactly remember the questions or how the GG answered them.  All I know is that the GG's responses sounded scripted but were well received by the audience.  The 30-minute video conference ended with the GG & the teachers waving to each other. 
James Igloliorte
James Igloliorte, retired judge and head of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission (QTC), continued the conference with his lecture on the QTC and how its investigations into Inuit life between 1950 & 1975 relate to education.  The QTC was established in 2007 by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) "to create a more accurate history of the decisions and events that affected Inuit living in the Baffin Region from 1950-1975".  This is done by collecting oral histories from Inuit elders from across the territory.  I previously mentioned in another post that one of QTC's first significant investigative reports was about the alleged conspiracy that the RCMP systemically killed thousands of Inuit sled dogsduring the 1950s & 1960s in order to force the Inuit to come off the land and live in communities. 
The first workshop I had after the 15-minute Nutrition Break was Nunavut Sivuniksavut: An Overview.  NS, as it's commonly called in the north, is an "eight-month college program based in Ottawa.  It is for Inuit youth who want to prepare for the educational, training, and career opportunities that are being created by their land claims and self-government agreements."  I had heard about NS since I began teaching in Nunavut but didn't know a lot of details.  Thankfully, the NS staff who were present at the workshop were able to "fill-in-the-gaps" and provide valuable information for those in attendance.  We also got to take brochures back to our communities. 
Shawarma lunch
I had a craving for a shawarma at lunch time.  When the clock struck noon, I almost bolted out of the high school and headed down to Yummy Shawarma near the airport.  I walked-with-a-purpose.  I enjoyed a large beef shawarma sandwich before returning to the high school.

My first afternoon workshop was Bullying and Healthy Relationships, facilitated by Dr. D. Pepler, a distinguished research professor from York University.  She is a member of the Department of Psychology which is attached to the Faculty of Health.  Her research focuses on bullying, aggression, and other forms of violence.  She spoke about how bullying can be curbed by establishing healthy relationships between youth, parents, peers, schools, and neighbourhoods.  She also talked about PREVnet - Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network - "a national network of leading researchers and organizations, working together to stop bullying in Canada." 
What stood out for me were the undercover videos & recordings she played from one of the research programs she conducted.  Elementary school children who were identified at risk of being bullied were given hidden microphones and video recorded from a distance during recess time.  I, and everyone else present, was shocked to see & hear what happened.  Let's just say there was a lot of bad language from the kids and a lot of ignoring from the recess duty staff.  We were also shocked when Dr. Pepler told us the principal of the school where the study was conducted routinely denied that bullying existed at the school, even with the evidence presented to them.  That kind of approach never works. 
My second workshop of the afternoon, and the last one I attended for the conference, was Inuit Social History, facilitated by David Serkoak.  The Inuit social history class focused on the changes that occurred in the Arctic, from the 1950s to the present time.  The biggest change was coming off the land and moving into the communities.  I already had some prior knowledge of the changes, but I wanted to know more details from personal experiences. 
Roast Beef Dinner
The last dinner of the conference was very well prepared by the Frobisher Inn catering service.  Roast beef was being served and you could choose either rare, medium-rare, medium, and well-done.  Of course, if you had the stomach, you were allowed to sample all four selections!  I just went with a medium-rare piece of roast beef, some salad, and a bun.  It was delicious and filling.  I certainly hope the leftovers will go to the homeless shelter & local soup kitchen, I thought, Iqaluit's needy are going to eat like royalty tonight.
Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna
The closing ceremony featured speeches from Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna and NTA President Terry Young.  The Aqsaarniit Middle School Choir and Fiddle Club also performed several songs and received standing ovations from the audience.  I filmed both performances.
With Pilimmaksarniq 2015 now officially done, it was time to have one last outing before the majority of teachers flew back to their communities on Friday.  Several of us went over to the Legion for karaoke.  I didn't sing; I was just a part of the audience.  There are quite a lot of good singers in Iqaluit.
Shawarma beef plate.
The Arctic Bay crowd wasn't scheduled to fly out until Saturday afternoon.  I'm sure we all spent Friday doing last-minute shopping.  I checked out of the Discovery Lodge and checked in my luggage at the airport.  I then proceeded to Yummy Shawarma to have my last meal.  Since I wouldn't be eating shawarmas until June, I ordered a beef plate to hold me over.  When I came back to the airport, I was shocked to hear that the flight to Arctic Bay had been cancelled due to a mechanical issue.  We were rebooked to fly out the next day and First Air put us up at the Frobisher Inn for the night.  Unfortunately, room service was still unavailable because of the conference.  We flew out the next day without any problems.
Overall, the Pilimmaksarniq Conference was a success.  I learned a lot from the workshops I attended and networked with teachers all over the Qikiqtani Region.  If the conference was just a few days longer, I could have attended more workshops.  The trip also gave me the opportunity to purchase supplies for my classroom.  Next year will be the big Nunavut-wide teachers conference in Iqaluit.  The last time that happened was in 2012 when I first started teaching in the north.  I can't wait!   

A First Air cargo plane being unloaded at the Iqaluit Airport.
I photographed it before being told that my flight had been delayed until Sunday.
End of Pilimmaksarniq 2015 mini-series.

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