Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce (BRCC) chairperson Victor Tootoo says the Northern Lights Conference, held every two years in the south, is an opportunity to educate others about Nunavut.
“One of the politicians from Nunavut was listening to the mayor of Carp (Ont.) on transfers to the North,” Tootoo recalls.
“That particular mayor was not speaking in favour of the level of transfer from the federal government to Northern governments.”
“Our person got up and educated that mayor and said, ‘Did you know that your community hosts headquarters for First Air.’ He went on about how many millions a year First Air gets in revenues from Nunavut.”
Tootoo says that kind of information exchange happens on a regular basis, which is important, he says, because it wasn’t so many years ago Nunavut was an unknown entity.
“The more Canadians in general know about what’s happening, and are educated about what’s happening, in Nunavut, the better off we are,” he said.
“Northern Lights provides a focal point in a structured formal and semi-formal venue and mechanism to really have a respectful dialogue, and to educate others.”
Activities at the event, which takes place at Ottawa’s Shaw Centre Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, include conferences, workshops, a trade show, a variety of daily arts and culture events, social events, and, in recent years, the annual multi-million-dollar Arctic Inspiration Prize awards ceremony.
Northern Lights is organized by the BRCC and the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce. Tootoo says the conference, which now calls Ottawa home, has grown quite a bit over the years, with approximately 1,400 registrants this year.
“We’ve got the crowd, so adding their event (Arctic Inspiration Prize) to ours works well for both of us. Some of the other things we’ve added over the years is keynote speakers at breakfasts and lunches. For the gala we do fashion shows and auctions,” said Tootoo.
Performances feature a mix of up-and-coming and established artists.
The list of benefits continues. Visual artists from across the North attend the conference well-stocked with their creations.
“I follow some of them on Instagram and I see all the stuff that they’re making, getting ready for the show. It’s a big sales volume for them, so that’s a huge impact,” said Tootoo.
He says the event brings the private sector, all levels of government and the public together, which offers opportunity for discussion.
“Many times there’s follow-up from sessions that create working relationships between organizations in the south, or governments, with people or companies or governments and Inuit organizations in the North, creating that personal connection and a working relationship,” said Tootoo.
Also, supply connections facilitating trade are made between North and south, which is increasingly a two-way street. Tootoo knows of a few businesses created in the aftermath of Northern Lights.
This year, the Qaggiavuut Society, the performing arts organization looking to build a performing arts centre in the territory, will be presenting Kiviuq Returns, featuring its pan-Nunavut 12-member cast.
“I have worked hard on my performance career as a young person,” said actor Natashia Allakariallak. “I have watched artists I look up to perform on the Arctic Inspiration Prize stage and now I am going to be there myself. Hard work pays off.”
Tootoo will have the opportunity to see his own daughter Christine in the show for the first time – and he’s pretty excited about that.
The society launched its fundraising campaign for a performing centre in July 2017 and Northern Lights offers a perfect opportunity to build momentum and support in southern Canada. Qaggiavuut hopes to make the centre a reality by 2019.
Finalists for the 6th Annual Arctic Inspiration Prize Awards to be held Jan. 31
Shortlisted for in the $1 million category:
– Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project, Northwest Territories
– From-the-Land – Food Ambassadors Program, Northwest Territories and Inuit Nunangat
Shortlisted for up to $500,000, for up to four teams:
– Unaaq Men’s Association of Inukjuak – Intensive Traditional Program Development, Inuit Nunangat
– Our Families, Our Way: The Peacemaking Circle, Yukon
– Inuinnait Ingilraatuqanit Ayuiqharvik – Inuinnait Cultural School, Inuit Nunangat
– The Qajaq Program, Inuit Nunangat
Shortlisted for up to $100,000, for up to seven teams in the youth category
– Dene Heroes Publication Project, Northwest Territories
– North in Focus: Nunavut, Our Land, Our People, Inuit Nunangat
– Rankin Rock Hockey Camp, Inuit Nunangat
– Rivers to Ridges, Yukon
source: Arctic Inspiration Prize