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Halfway assimilation in Canada’s arctic

Yesterday, I discovered a Jerusalem-based Italian photographer by the name of Vittoria Mentasti. She has an ongoing project called “A Woman With Two Names”, that’s exploring the identity of Canada’s Inuit community in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Click on the photo below to see the entire gallery.

Here’s her language on the project:

“Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, is a city of 7000 people surrounded by tundra and the sea. The only way to get in or out of Iqaluit is from the air. I was interested in the cultural identity shift the Intuit community is experiencing and its consequences. The community, especially its younger members, are trapped between two worlds; they are losing touch with their past and are headed towards an uncertain future.

The process of forced assimilation carried out by the Canadian Government and the Church during the first half of the 20th century, deprived the Inuit of their social and spiritual customs. The transition away from their nomadic roots to modernized living has led to alcoholism, domestic violence and unemployment; symptoms of a society that is floating between its past and present.

Photographing off-moments of everyday life, I was looking to depict the sense of isolation, their ancestral connection to a harsh land, and the feeling of not belonging to “The South”, the way Inuit refers to the rest of the world.”

As one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions in the world, it’s easy to overlook what’s happening here in our country. But there are real problems in our north. In 2011, the Globe and Mail published a Focus Feature on Nunavut where it asked: Is Nunavut a failure of Canadian nation building?

“The rate of violent crime per capita in Nunavut is nine times what it is in the rest of Canada. The homicide rate is around 1,000 per cent of the Canadian average.”

I’m not an expert on this matter, but it seems like everybody is picking up on the same phenomenon. We’ve created an in-between society. A society that’s completely ill-equipped to compete in the modern world, but that’s too far removed from its roots to turn back now. They were nomads and now they’re not.

This is hugely problematic and it’s only going to get worse. Already we’re seeing rising income inequality within “The South.” The returns to being smart are being amplified and twenty somethings with a killer app are turning down billion dollar acquisition offers.

What do you think this does to the north? I’d bet it makes it much worse.

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