There has been real growth across the territory in the last 16 years. We are very proud as Inuit and as Canadians. It is a remarkable story how we became Nunavut. It’s one of our biggest achievements as a people. It started in 1953 with the first petition to create Nunavut, which came from my hometown of Kugluktuk. We lobbied Canada about increased mineral and prospecting activity taking place on our land for which we had no recognized rights as Inuit. At the time, it was not customary for Inuit to speak up. But of those 30 original signatures on that first petition, I’m proud to say my father, Alex Taptuna, is amongst one of the signatories.
Today, Nunavut enjoys a thriving arts community that is rich in tradition. Our artists are recognized internationally for their ability to masterfully carve soapstone, write music and direct award winning films. We have a number of successful entrepreneurs, lawyers, nurses, as well as a veterinarian and young folk studying medicine. Nunavut has also inspired and nourished Inuit activists that have championed causes from sealing to climate change.
Some of our most notable people include Tanya Tagaq, a singer who won Canada’s Polaris Prize, and Jordin Tootoo, an NHL hockey player. There are many more individuals that equally contribute to our land. What all these folks have in common is that they are all proud Inuit with their culture rooted here in Nunavut.
Our youth are our future and we need that future to include the best possible supports for success, which ultimately support our economy. It is challenging when the cost of food is high and parents are rightly uneasy with our current education system. We’ve since made changes to standardize curriculum across the territory and incorporate more culturally relevant information. There is nothing wrong with learning about Canada’s first prime ministers, but we want to ensure our youth know about their own leaders too — the people that helped make Nunavut a reality. We are also looking long-term at the possibilities of a Nunavut university.
We’re on the edge of economic growth and becoming treasure chest for investors. Not long ago, we had little economic activity. This is important, because Nunavut’s holds some of the wealthiest high-grade metal deposits in Canada; we are teeming with gold and other metals. In our short history, we’ve moved from zero to an emerging economy where we now contribute over $300 million into Southern jurisdictions just through our resource sector. This means, we are going to see an explosion in job opportunities in the near future.
We need to balance growth with the connection to our land to protect our most fragile ecosystems. We aren’t going to stop moving forward, and we need to continue positioning our people to harness the opportunities.