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COLUMN: Looking for a southern saviour (again)

The 3055 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps (RCACC) in Naujaat has benefitted greatly by the leadership of Capt. Lloyd Francis during the past five years.

The corps saw its numbers and achievements grow while receiving numerous accolades on Francis's watch. But, ultimately, its greatest success was the growth of so many Naujaat youth in the program, both with their cadet skills and their personal life skills.

Although wishing him nothing but happiness and success on the next part of his journey, the vast majority of cadets and their family members were deeply saddened when Francis – a teacher at Tuugaalik High School – announced this would be his final year in the community.

On the surface, the sadness stems from the loss of a highly-skilled and dedicated corps commander who produced tangible results and was deeply respected by the cadets in the 3055 RCACC.

But beneath the sadness is where fear and apprehension lurk, and the large group of Naujaat cadets affected by Francis's departure have every reason to be worried.

It's not the worry of the 3055 having the ability to bounce back after the loss of a fine leader – the corps has done so previously following the loss of both Jennifer Perry and Leonie Aissaoui – but, rather, its ability to bounce back at all.

It was extremely fortunate for the 3055 to have Francis move to the community and bring his extensive cadet experience with him immediately following Perry's departure, after she spent eight years in Naujaat.

Ditto Perry being in Naujaat at the time of Aissaoui's departure. Aissaoui guided the Naujaat corps through its infancy and, through her dogged determination and refusal to quit, had the corps on fairly solid tundra when she handed the baton to Perry.

This time, however, the community may not be so lucky if someone locally doesn't step-up to keep the corps – the best in Nunavut – moving forward.

Unfortunately, Naujaat has a less-than-sterling history in saving successful programs its youth benefit from if someone from the south doesn't move in and pick-up the reins.

The memory still lingers of Tusarvik School teachers Mike McMillan and Ian Gordon, who started the wonderful Whalers program in Naujaat that combined hockey skills and opportunities with school attendance and academic achievement.

The program proved itself so successful, McMillan and Gordon were named the 2004-05 winners of the RBC Local Hockey Leaders promotion. In addition to the cash prize they used to take their young Naujaat team to a Winnipeg tourney for the first time (it was the first time outside of Naujaat for six of the players).

When the teachers eventually departed Naujaat, the award-winning program had evolved to the point where it was, basically, a paint-by-numbers operation in need of only a guiding hand for its continued success.

Yet, despite its success on the ice and in the class room, and despite it being one of the most important things in the world to the youth involved at the time, not a single person in Naujaat would give the only thing required – their time – to keep the initiative alive and the youth engaged.

The same sad fate could await the 3055 RCACC come the new school year.

Naujaat does have an engaged SAO in Rob Hedley and mayor in Solomon Malliki who are big-time supporters of the cadet program. And reports out of the community indicate Hedley has met with Francis and is looking at ways to keep the 3055 RCACC operational, but there are no guarantees.

Once again, a highly-successful program in the Kivalliq that benefits a good number of Inuit youth may go the way of the dinosaur if someone from the south doesn't step-in and save it.

The question needs to be asked – what's wrong with this picture?