Truth and Reconciliation Inuvik
FTLComm - Inuvik - Tuesday, June 28, 2011 by: Andrew Shire
My journey began on Sunday, June 27 with a flight from Winnipeg to Edmonton then an uneventful though pleasant flight from Edmonton to Inuvik, North West Territories and some great conversation from CBC personality Shelagh Rogers on Monday. We got onto the Inuvik runway mid morning and at Latitude: 68° 21' 24.6" N it can become pretty confusing as to just what time of the day it is.

Having lived in the
Yukon for many years the north is not really foreign territory but Watson Lake at 60º latitude is a long way south of being along the North MacKenzie River at 68º. There is a chance of snow later this week but Monday it was hot but not a mosquito around.


Inuvik sits on permafrost with the MacKenzie River flowing north and during the summer barges are used to move fuel and materials to Inuvik and on up to the delta. The airport is connected to the town with the only road connection south, the Dempster Highway which is also the only all weather road to actually cross the Arctic Circle in Canada. If you do a close up look at Inuvik using Google map you can make out several barges moored at the Northwest corner of the community.

This is the second big annual event for
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I provided video editing and technical support to last year’s event in Winnipeg and working with others I am doing much the same thing this year. Each day there are very dramatic descriptions of the hardships and aftermath of those who were forced to attend the residential schools. The proceedings are video taped, interviews are recorded and then the video material is edited to document the testimony and pass on to others the essence of the discussions.


The proceedings are taking place on the grounds and within Sir Alexander MacKenzie High School. The red pin in the map shows the GPS location of the picture above and the one below on the school grounds. A lot of work has been undertaken to make this happen with an excellent Internet connection, plane loads of equipment have been brought up by the Canadian Armed Forces including one plane load of golf carts. For the outdoor concerts there is a stage and a jumbotron video display made its way up the Dempster on a flatbed semi.


While some of us who are here to provide assistance and support are being housed on a barge a small group of us are bunking in a camp located midway between the town site and the airport. ATCO trailers, the standard shelter for northern workers make up the camp and it has its own diesel power generation unit that hammers away pounding out about 80 decibels of sound twenty-four hours a day. Perhaps in time a person might get used to sleeping beside that steady drone but in the few days we are here it looks like some short sleepless nights ahead.

Looking out across the familiar flat lands to anyone from the Canadian prairies the difference here is the stunted vegetation and of course the light that only is experience where the sun circles in the sky rather then setting each night. This scene below is from the camp.


Towards those woods and beyond down the MacKenzie is the land of the Dene people various communities of people who are spread out from the middle of Saskatchewan (Chipewyan) all the way to the Yukon (Kaska) and up to the edge of the delta. To the North is the land of the Inuit, the people of the barrens with a culture so completely different matching the hostile and diverse geography in which these two cultures and peoples have lived since this land and most of North America was covered with ice hundreds of metres thick.

With my co-workers, we will provide support and record this event, we will try to capture the images and sound of people who suffered, continue to suffer and many suggest that the suffering will be passed on to generations to come.


On the left you will find references to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s web site, information on this event, news stories from today and other references mentioned in this story.

When we wrapped up the production for today production coordinator
Belinda Bantle-Carboni from Winnipeg and I briefed the editor of this web site on our day before we made our way off to our accommodation. I went back to the drumming of the generator at the camp and Ms. Carboni to her barge on the river.