The Baker Lake Balance
After spending a few hours touring the Agnico Eagle Gold Mine, we flew to Baker Lake, a community that the mine is a major employer. Baker is an inland Inuit community in Nunavut, and as a result deals with different environmental issues than coastal communities do. The people rely on caribou as the main source of country food. As a result of climate change, development of roads and increased air traffic for the mine, the caribou have adjusted their migration path making it difficult for the Inuit to eat their traditional food. This results in a complex balance of support for economic development and traditional living.
The mine provides significant financial income for the community of Baker Lake, and for Nunavut as a whole territory. So many residence of the hamlet work at the mine, and from what I could see, there has been a positive relationship built between the mine and their employees and neighbours. But resource-development projects come and go, and often put surrounding natural ecosystem at risk, which in this case has an impact on the Caribou.
The Inuit elders and hunters that spoke to us from the hunters association were kind and respectful when referencing the mine and the industry as a whole. But they expressed real concern about country food security. Southern food (that is mostly canned, not fresh and full of preservatives) is too expensive for the average family to afford. The reliance of country food is not for the sake of tradition, it’s for survival.
The North is a region of Canada that knows intimately what it means to ‘trade off’, and ‘give or take’. As this region develops, and the southern lifestyle creeps in, the people of Nunavut are experiencing massive change in a very short period of time. Striking a balance that sees economic development without negatively impacting cultural tradition and food security is critical. This is a part of our collective Canadian story that we all need to pay attention to and respect.
We are close to releasing the film that we shot during the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference across Nunavut. Sign up to my mailing list at www.greghemmings.me to stay up to date on release info!