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Get the Data Bug


January/February 2012 by Mary Simon

Two years ago in January 2010, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami launched the Inuit Qaujisarvingat – the Inuit Knowledge Centre. We had two people on staff at the start, and now there are seven, including full and part-time staff. Most are Inuit. The mission of the Centre is to ensure that Inuit knowledge advances sustainable Arctic science and policy.

North American society is being transformed from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge based economy. The Arctic is rich in traditional Inuit knowledge. As attention to Arctic issues increases, we want to ensure that scientific research is guided by Inuit knowledge, and that the results of this research are shared with Inuit.

Knowledge is power. And knowledge in our contemporary society frequently takes the form of data. In our political and business world, to make a political argument, or a business case, sound and credible data is needed.

One of the projects the Inuit Qaujisarvingat has brought to life is one of the most remarkable data sets among Aboriginal peoples in Canada called Naasautit. The data is based on the 2006 Aboriginal Peoples Survey and the Aboriginal Peoples Children’s Survey. All Inuit regions participated in the collection of data for these surveys in a formal agreement with Statistics Canada. It was funded by Health Canada from the Aboriginal Health Transition Fund.

I encourage readers to go online and explore this remarkable data collection and “Get the Data Bug”. On the surface, Naasautit is a collection of Inuit Health Statistics, however it covers a broader range of data than simply health statistics. Let me give an example.

In my role as Chair of the National Inuit Committee on Education, we spent months developing the National Inuit Education Strategy, launched in June 2011 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Naasautit data complements our report by providing data on key indicators, such as language use.

Using the Naasautit website, I was able to produce the chart used to illustrate this article. The data is organized in 10 categories. I clicked on “Culture and Language,” scrolled down to “Language,” and selected “Ability to read Inuit language, aged 6-14”. Only 32 percent of this age group can read very well. 16 percent can read relatively well. The figures are broken down region to region.

These facts are generally well known, however this data collection brings it to life for me as a leader, and it is publicly available for you regardless of your occupation or area of interest. As a student, explore this data collection and do a project based on it. As a teacher, assign a project based on the Naasautit data. If you are in media, the wealth of information supports a number of stories in the Arctic. If you are engaged in crafting policy for Inuit in the Arctic this is an important tool for you.

The 10 categories show the many factors that contribute to Inuit health and well-being. All data is exportable to Excel. You can print colour charts directly from the website, and create statistical charts within minutes for a PowerPoint presentation.

I am proud of the people who have developed the Naasautit data collection. As with many Inuit endeavours, it is a joint effort with many organizations involved. They include the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, the Nunatsiavut Government, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (for Makivik Corporation), the Inuit Tuttarvingat Centre of the National Aboriginal Health Organization, and ITK.