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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

'Everyone thought we were stupid'

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Fred Lum.
The Globe and Mail, December 14, 2001

Part 6 of 7: Knowing how to adapt


Salluit The Inuit may not be prepared, but the outside world is pouring into Nunavik like a spring runoff. And the Raglan mine is only part of the deal. Satellite television, frozen dinners and an abundance of consumer toys, paid in part by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, are transforming coastal villages like Salluit.

The hunting and fishing hamlet of nearly 1,000 people has been turned upside down in one generation, which helps explain why so many of its residents have had trouble working at Raglan. Located on an inlet that leads to the Hudson Strait, it was one of the sites to which the federal government encouraged nomadic Inuit families to move in the 1950s. They have since struggled to cope with everything the modern world could throw at them.

Once shrewd hunters, the Inuit were encouraged to stay home and collect welfare. Then they were sold snowmobiles, and the community's entire collection of sled dogs was slaughtered by the provincial government, claiming there was not enough food to go around.

If nothing else, say Paul and Barbara Papigatuk, the Inuit know how to adapt. They speak little French, but have a trilingual son living in Quebec City, and two of their three younger children attending Salluit's French-language school. For all their objections to the provincial language, which they see in a way as imperial, they know it will open doors for the next generation. Salluit, they keep telling their children, will never again exist in isolation.

As if to prove their point - in lifestyle more than language - the Papigatuks pile around a kitchen table for a Friday-night dinner of tacos and French fries. Youngest son Andy is slow to come to the table because he wants to finish the rest of Red Planet, the DVD he is watching on the family's 48-inch Sony television.

By almost every visible measure, life now seems no different in Salluit than it is in suburban Saskatoon, except that during the second helpings of tacos, Jamie Papigatuk slips outside and returns with a frozen char, which her father slaps on a piece of cardboard on the kitchen floor, and slices open. Raw fish, they all agree, is still their favourite dessert.

On the level of prosperity, the James Bay and Raglan deals have brought Nunavik much closer to the south. The region's median income is close to that for rural Quebec and only 15 per cent behind the Canadian average. But in a cash economy, the north can also be punishing. According to a Laval University study, basic food costs 69.1 per cent more in Nunavik than in Quebec City. To feed a family of four for a week costs $215, compared with $121 in Ottawa.

And Salluit is not immune to the social pressures that have come with modern development, and with a population that doubles every 20 years. Paul Okituk, the local employment officer, figures three-quarters of the community has a drinking or drug problem. Teen pregnancies are five times higher than they are in southern Quebec, and the suicide rate is nearly six times greater. With good health care still hard to come by, it's no wonder the average Inuk can expect to die at the age of 65 - 13 years before the average Quebecker.
THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 7):


Photo Essay
Heavy Mettle


1. 'When we first started, we were nothing'
Life at the Raglan mine

2. Getting the nickel out
Fresh food, workers flown in weekly to remote mine

3. 'I feel like a white man hunting for ore'
The racial divide at Raglan

4. Time becomes an issue
'The family is more important than the job'

5. Increasing Raglan's Inuit workforce
'I don't think we're joining the mainstream of society as well as we should'

6. Knowing how to adapt
Preparing for the next generation at the coastal village of Salluit

7. Inuit savvy makes them a business partner
'The Inuit adapt admirably to the site, but I contend the site is not very good at adapting to the Inuit way'


 
 

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