To most Canadians, the Arctic is a faraway and mysterious place. It's a romantic piece of our history and identity. That wildness and cold is something we're proud of, but we don't know much about. It should play a bigger role in our consciousness. The Arctic makes up almost 40 per cent of Canada's landmass and two-thirds of our coastline.
Seven years ago today, the Prime Minister stood in the House of Commons and delivered a poignant apology to the survivors of residential schools. The apology means nothing if all Canadians do not understand the history behind it. The Prime Minister has refused to deal with appalling gaps in health, education and economic outcomes, nor the deplorable living conditions in many aboriginal communities.
As Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) releases its final report about the residential school system for aboriginal children we wonder, where is Canada's catharsis? With little media coverage up until the release of the final report, and even less public engagement, Canada has had no such emotionally transformative moment. Canada needs reconciliation. The last residential school only closed in 1996. All aboriginal communities still suffer from their impact
Last week, the world observed Earth Hour. Across Canada people flipped off the lights in a symbolic gesture to support action against climate change. But some influential voices like Watt-Cloutier and Mary Robinson -- former prime minister of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner -- suggest we're looking at climate change the wrong way. Climate change is not only an environmental issue, they say. It's also a human rights issue.
On balance, however, this was not a good year for world peace. Russian aggression in Crimea and the Ukraine, and the West's response, pushed the world closer to a new Cold War. Revelations about the CIA's use of torture were enough to shake anyone's faith in the goodness of humanity. Meanwhile, the Middle East spiralled downward with greater violence in Gaza, Syria and Iraq. At home we are still not on track to meet our emissions targets. And the strongest praise environmentalists could muster for the climate change deal reached in Lima, Peru, last week was to wince and say it is "better than nothing."
Commercial sealing advocates find it exceptionally difficult to win hearts and minds with the truth. Because the truth is an industrial scale, non-aboriginal slaughter in which defenseless seal pups less than three months of age are horribly beaten and shot to death for their fur. It is a wasteful kill, in which the carcasses are normally dumped at sea.
Inuit live among polar bears. So it baffles me when well-meaning people who have never seen a polar bear outside a zoo or cruise ship or glass-walled buggy seek to impose rules to govern how Inuit interact with bears, to determine how we should engage in a cycle of life that has allowed both Inuit and polar bears to survive for thousands of years.
At its core, the book Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit captures Inuit worldview. It is a holistic way of living in an increasingly interconnected world and is based in four big laws. It is critical in preserving wisdom and cultural practices at risk of being lost in the next generation. I'm grateful to have spent the last four days in Arviat, Nunavut (Northern Canada) participating in a fascinating roundtable dialogue with Inuit Elders from across the territory about maintaining their traditional culture in a rapidly changing world.
There is no discussion of the fact that part of the reason Mandela was sent to prison was because he was responsible for bombing a power plant. Though we seem to like to imagine that Mandela brought change to South Africa with nothing but wise words and a kind, grandfatherly smile, the truth is very different. Mandela fought for his freedom, tooth and nail.
We Canadians have a special relationship with snow and ice. We ski in it, skate on it, play in it, shovel it, drive through it, sometimes even bicycle through it and suffer through it for many months of the year -- some of us more than others, depending on what part of the country we call home. But how much do we know about it?
Arctic Defenders, my 20th film is about the creation of Nunavut. The film demonstrates that political engagement was necessary to protect Inuit rights. It is told from the point of view of the visionary Inuit leaders, Tagak Curley and John Amagoalik and others who dedicated their lives to protecting the language, culture and environment of their homeland -- the Canadian Arctic.
National Aboriginal Day, June 21, is a day of recognition that celebrates the cultures and contributions of Canada's First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. In celebration, here are a few key points about literacy and essential skills that have broad application in supporting better outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit.