Yesterday was a dark day in this beautiful city of mine. I sensed something was amiss when I awoke to snow falling softly, and an odd hazy fog that had settled over the bay. Before I went to bed Tuesday night, I read an article in Nunatsiaq News that mentioned a body had been found at the Iqaluit cemetery, and beside it, a gun. As I lay in bed, Ian let me know the story had been updated…four people dead. Wednesday morning, the official story did not change…but the rumours didn’t let that stop them. Talk of a man killing his wife and two children in their home…then moving on to visit the grave of a family member and killing himself. The only thing that exists to confirm the sad possibility is the closure of one of the local elementary schools where one of the children attended grade two.
I was at a loss for most of the day. Trying to focus on work was a challenge. I don’t know who it was that died. I’m not even sure if I know anyone who knew them well. But this is a small community. We’ve lived here for six months now, and already I have seen what the losses have done here.
I don’t know what drives a person to such ends. But I know that this part of the world where poverty is rooted so deep within the social system…homes are overcrowded, leading to increased risk of illness…literacy is low and school dropout rates are high…the chances that you know someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol are great…domestic abuse is prevalent… But how does one tie it all together in order to provide a solution? These are problems that still exist in southern Canada, where resources are less expensive. So how can we even begin to address the difficulties this territory faces when a family earning $100 000 annually can still live in poverty due to the high cost of living?
I don’t have the answers. I don’t claim to know what is best for the people that live here, be they Inuit, southern temporary transplants or long time northerners. I might be looked upon as a naïve qallunaat, but optimism doesn’t equal naivety. I have so much hope for Nunavut…there are challenges piled upon challenges, but humans have conquered mountains before – there’s no question we can’t do it again. I just hope that the journey doesn’t leave us so broken that we can’t relish the victory when we reach the top.
I never came to Nunavut thinking that I could change the world…or even change the territory. But I truly hope that if someone was to approach me for help that I could offer them what they needed to prevent another senseless tragedy. My heart is broken for this city and its people. Be strong Iqalummiut…your fellow citizens need you now…