Guest Editorial by Justin P. J. Trudeau, M.P. for Papineau
Leader of the Liberal Party of Canadau
In January, with my eldest son Xavier by my side, I had the pleasure and privilege of connecting with Canadians on a five-day working tour of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This trip was about meeting with Northerners, experiencing the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis, and recognizing opportunities for sustainable economic growth. It also underscored to me what an incredible place the North is to visit during the winter!
We began our trip in Inuvik. I had many meaningful conversations about the serious issues facing the community. I discussed land claims, self-government and devolution with the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, and had conversations with health care providers about the difficulty they face creating relationships of trust with residents due to the former’s near constant turnover. I explored the Aurora Research Institute, and learned about the cutting-edge research being conducted there which capitalizes on the North’s unique expertise and environment. And after 30 days of darkness, Xav and I joined the community to celebrate the return of the sun at the Inuvik Sunrise Festival, where we listened to drummers, danced and tasted local and international foods.
In Yellowknife, I met with locals, discussed economic development opportunities in the North with local business leaders, and dialogued with chiefs of the Dene Nation about the need for a respectful and collaborative partnership with the federal government. Here, Xav experienced several moments I know he will always remember, including waking up to the magic of the northern lights for the first time, and capping off our time in the city with some dogsledding.
Our final stretch of the tour took us to Iqaluit. There, I heard from local business leaders about the need for investment in training, infrastructure and resource development, and held productive discussions with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on their specific land claim agreement. A major personal highlight was hosting a community feast at Nakasuk School, complete with traditional dishes of caribou meat and Arctic char for all to enjoy.
Finally, I visited the Qayuqtuvik Society soup kitchen, where volunteers and staff spoke with me about the harsh reality facing many Northerners who are unable to access basic necessities like affordable food and housing.
This incredible experience reaffirmed for me two things: first, that the people of the North and the strength of their communities are our country’s best guarantee of Canadian sovereignty; and second, that this region has huge potential for growth, but is in desperate need of a partner who will invest in its people, infrastructure and research in order to ensure that this growth is realized.
Canada’s North is an extraordinary place to visit, live, and invest. I look forward to continuing my relationship with Northerners, and I am more hopeful than ever for the future of the North.