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February 2019 in review: schools adopt health program; seamstresses hit New York; triplets born

A look back at 2019’s top stories, month by month.

Inuit health program made mandatory in schools

Beulah-Rose Okatsiak, left, Daisy Lyla Kidlapik, Tracy Taleriktok and Chanelle Manik, students at Levi Angmak School in Arviat, spend some time in the gym being active, but in the classroom they learn much more about what it takes to be a healthy human. photo courtesy Dept. of Education

In Nunavut's schools, students were engaged in matters of health holistically by a program called Aulajaaqtut. "Aulajaaqtut in Grade 10, 11 and 12 is an actual subject. It covers the key ideas of health, emotional and physical wellness. It also covers leadership, citizenship, planning for the future in the way of careers and other kinds of planning and goal setting," said Leigh Anne Willard, director of curriculum development.

The intent of Aulajaaqtut was to ground young Inuit in their culture while teaching them how to thrive in today's world. That program included detailed lessons that help a student learn about suicide prevention, self-esteem building and sexual health awareness.

Aulajaaqtut 10 and 11 were required to graduate and Aulajaaqtut 12, though an elective, qualified for university entrance at 26 institutions.

Some parents felt the program was not academic, so not as important as the academic courses. To this Willard replied, "But the truth is, if kids aren't healthy socially, emotionally, physically … If they're not taught the skills to help them establish a healthy lifestyle or to deal with difficult situations in life or to plan for the future, then all the academics in the world are not going to help that child.”

Flags raised to help end stigma

The nation's three Northern capitals, as well as other Canadian cities, raised flags to promote mental health Jan. 30, a day Bell Canada designated as the Bell Let's Talk Day.

"The raising of flags … shows support for a particular cause, like today's regarding the Let's Talk initiative. The goal is to raise awareness around mental health, attempts to reduce the stigma around it and provide information to those who may be struggling with mental health issues so that they're aware of the resources that are available to them and to let people who are dealing with mental health struggles realize that they are not alone," said Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern.

On this day, five cents were donated toward mental health whenever someone sent a text, watched a video, made a long distance call on Bell’s network, or used the hashtage #BellLetsTalk on social media. A total of $93,423,628.80 has been donated since the beginning of the initiative.

Inuit seamstresses unveil their work in New York

Iqaluit's Marlene Watson and Mishael Gordon were asked to join Project Atigi, Canada Goose's "new social entrepreneurship project for Canada's North." Twelve other Inuit seamstresses were also chosen for this secret project.

"They really wanted to keep the project on the down-low. They really wanted to surprise the world with our creations," said Gordon.

Each of the 14 seamstresses received those same recognizable materials to create their one-of-a-kind pieces for Project Atigi, though Watson needed more for her ulu-embellished amauti. Gordon had settled on a child's parka.

"They just said, 'Let your artistic seamstress shine through and do whatever you want,'” Gordon said.

The unveiling of Project Atigi took place in New York on Jan. 31.

Both Watson and Gordon received lots of attention on social media and were contacted for orders.

All sales from the project pieces – each item was priced between $5,000 and $7,500 – went to the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to be returned to communities.

Mom gives birth to triplets

From left, sleepy and adorable Chase, Mackail and Chester Jr. Arqviq get some rest. The triplets were born prematurely in February and came home to Cambridge Bay in May. photo courtesy of Roseanne Kaiyogana

Cambridge Bay's Roseanne Kaiyogana gave birth to Chester Jr., Chase and Mackail Arqviq at 9:27 p.m., 9:28 p.m. And 9:29 p.m. on Feb. 10 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.

Kaiyogana only found out she was carrying triplets in October 2018, during an ultrasound.

"We saw two babies then we moved over and found the third baby,” she recalled. “I thought (the ultrasound technician) was playing a joke on me.

“It was shocking to my home town where I was born and raised, too. The news of me having triplets was amazing. I got a lot of congrats and I was told I am blessed.”

Nursing 'burnout' a worry, says NAM president

Nursing vacancies are causing a strain on existing staff and resulting in a lesser understanding of patient needs, said Madeleine Redfern, then-president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities.

At the time, there were 119 nursing vacancies out of 295 nursing positions in Nunavut, according to the Department of Health. The Government of Nunavut uses casual staff and agency nurses to fill some of these positions.

"(Health staff are) often overworked – the high number that are coming and going; not necessarily consistent individuals and therefore not familiar with the community, not familiar with the residents," Redfern said.

Pirurvik preschool program reaps $1-million prize

An innovative made-in-Nunavut preschool program claimed the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize.

The Pirurvik Preschool in Pond Inlet, which allows children to express natural curiosity to learn about what interests them at a pace that suits them, was announced as the big winner during the Arctic Inspiration Prize ceremony in Whitehorse. Children from three months to five years of age are involved in this style of learning, based on the in the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit principle of Pilimmaksarniq and Montessori methods.

A Kitikmeot Heritage Society program, Uqarluta Inuinnaqtun – Let's Speak Inuinnaqtun, was a one of the two runners-up for the $1-million grand prize.

A Cambridge Bay welding program for at-risk youth that produced a striking muskox statue and eye-catching wolves earned $100,000 in the youth category.

First gold poured at Agnico Eagle's Meliadine mine

The first gold dore weighing about 29 kg is poured at the Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. Photo courtesy Agnico Eagle
The first gold bar, weighing about 29 kg, is poured at the Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. Photo courtesy Agnico Eagle

Agnico Eagle's Meliadine mine poured its first gold on the morning of Feb. 21 as it ramped up to commercial production.

Meliadine Mine, 25 km north of Rankin Inlet, and the Amaruq deposit, near Meadowbank, are Agnico Eagle's new projects that will replace the Meadowbank mine, which produced more than three million ounces of gold over close to a decade. Meadowbank serves as a processing centre for Amaruq ore.

-with files from Derek Neary