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February 23, 2010
In Canada’s Arctic, finding hope with the help of a circus

Canada’s Nunavut territory covers about two million square kilometers and comprises a fifth of Canadian territory. It’s home to about 29,000 people, mostly Inuit.

Along with their proud heritage and striking landscapes, residents struggle with unemployment, poverty and cultural dislocation. Suicide rates among Inuit youth are ten times higher than the national average.

In the tiny Arctic town of Igloolik, where there are barely 1500 inhabitants, around 5 young adults commit suicide every year.

In response to this widespread despair among the young in Igloolik, the village launched several initiatives. A film company, Iglooklik Isuma Productions, went on to win the Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

With the help of a Montreal acrobat, several young people also created a circus troupe called Artcirq that blends modern circus activities with traditional Inuit culture.

Filmmaker Linda Matchan, in association with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, is documenting these efforts in a project called Hope on Ice.

Artcirq has taken its performance all the way to the Olympics, performing in a Vancouver medal ceremony on February 21st.

Linda Matchan blogged this week from Vancouver about the large native presence at the Olympics:

The Aboriginal presence at the Olympics is conspicuous to anyone who watched the opening ceremonies on TV, which were dominated by four massive totem poles representing each of the host First Nations. The work of Aboriginal artists appear in every Olympic venue. The gold, silver and bronze medals feature West Coast aboriginal designs.

Not all Aboriginal people are buying this. As Joseph himself acknowledged, First Nations people experience an unemployment rate that is at least double of other Canadians. The suicide rate in Aboriginal communities is twice the national rate. Two out of three Aboriginal children living on reserves will not graduate from high school.

Members of an Olympic Resistance Movement have argued that the Olympics is merely window dressing. They say the money would have been better spent on remedying the after-effects of colonialism, such as homelessness among Aboriginals, many of whom live in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side known as the poorest postal code in Canada.

Canada’s Arctic Inuit people have many of the same social problems, though they have not been addressed so vocally at the Olympics (It is the source of some pride, though, that the official Olympic logo is an inukshuk, a traditional stone sculpture used by Canada’s Inuit people).

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Comments

4 comments

#4

Circus has amazing powers. It empowers children and adults in inner cities and also in the arctic circle and every where in between. Give people a way to express themselves and they will better themselves and their communities. Thanks for bringing us a story about the transforming power of circus!

#3

First, thank-you World Focus for giving us real news.It is greatly needed in America. I don’t watch any other news because it has gotten to be too ‘Hollywood” and empty. This story is very important. As more and more native, indigenous, aboriginal people lose their lands and entire tribes all over the world, it is a small glimmer of hope and thankfulness to read this story. If it were possible to tell this population in Canada how beautiful, special, unique, and important they are to the entire world so that they would not feel alone and hopeless, I would write to them in whatever language it took to convince them. Please let them know that we need them to survive and to thrive. They are important for the stories of eternity of human-kind, for survival of the strongest tribes to keep their story and their tribe continuing into the next generations. To have such an opportunity as becoming a separate, self-ruled population is much more than the government of the U.S.A. ever did for the people here; that can never be changed or corrected. Please make a strong stand for your future, for your children, for the world. Live long and strong, all of you up in Nunavut Territory, Canada!

#2

Welcome to the welfare State. The USA has the same problem when you have free wealfare. The problem is that people on welfare look around them have nothing to do with their lives and feel left out of the world. In the old days it was a struggle, today it is a hand out. You get use to it living on welfare. That monthly check, the free food, the time off of working. The boredom of not working. Some cultures will build a road to nowhere just to keep people working. The Great Wall of China kept ten of thousands working each year. It kept people working.
In Canada you need to keep people working doing a project that employees people body and minds if you do not then just look at the people South of the Border. American cities are falling apart, yet weeds grow in the slits in their sidewalks.
Welfare feeds people who are too fat and lazy do pull the weeds.
Another problem is that Canadians look at the Inuit as a separte class of people. If you called me an Aboriginal I would show you how primate I could be. You scalp would hang from my rear view mirror.

#1

This is a fasinating segment you’re airing on indigenous people’s throughout our beatiful planet. Your unique programming is a triumph for diversified journalism,…so absolutely fresh,and sprinkled with such altruistic warmth. Thanks Worldfocus

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