Nunavut Sivuniksavut celebrates new Ottawa home
“This is not just about a building, this is about building Nunavut"
OTTAWA — Inuit celebrated the grand opening of Nunavut Sivuniksavut’s new centre in downtown Ottawa May 14 with laughter, pride, some tears of joy and lots of good food.
“When I walked up the stairs of 336 MacLaren St. 23 years ago, I didn’t think that walk would lead to this,” said program co-ordinator Morley Hanson as he spoke to Inuit leaders, NS students, and their families and supporters, all of whom came to see the college program’s spacious new home at 450 Rideau St.
Nunavut premier Eva Aariak said that, along with the recent opening of the new Nunavut trades centre in Rankin Inlet and Clyde River’s Piqqusilirivvik cultural school earlier this month, NS’s move bodes well for Inuit-based education
“This is not just about a building, this is about building Nunavut,” Aariak said at the opening ceremony. “Nunavut Sivuniksavut now has a physical presence just as vibrant as the presence it supports.”
NS’s new home fills the first two floors of a downtown office building that, until recently, retained the tell-tale signs of its former function as a bank, with counters for bank tellers and automated teller machines.
Today, there’s an open space with high ceilings and large windows to welcome students, who officially moved into the space in December 2010.
The program, which until now has turned away at least a dozen candidates every year for lack of space, may now go ahead with plans to expand and welcome two, first-year classes in September 2011.
That’s along with a second-year university-prep class of about 10.
Overall, these expanded programs will almost double NS’s student population.
Next year, a student from Greenland and another from the Nunatsiavut region will also attend the program — another first for NS.
Plans to move NS into a new and larger facility took almost six years to realize, Hanson said.
The new location also provides a huge boost to the school’s profile and what the program can offer students, who travel thousands of kilometres to attend school in Ottawa.
“I was told we might be moving into a new a new building, but we weren’t sure,” said Chelsea Adjun, a soon-to-be graduate of the program, originally from Kugluktuk. “It’s exciting to be the first students to be here because there’s more space to learn and practice our cultural performances.
“It’s a big thing,” said Adjun, who said she enjoyed the eight-month program.
Many of the event’s speakers said that during its 25 years, NS has helped to train Nunavut’s future leaders.
The Tungavik Federation of Nunavut, now Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., started NS back in 1985 to help young Inuit understand the land claims process.
Since then, NS has developed a much wider focus to help students prepare for higher education or employment.
NTI vice-president Jack Anawak said many NS graduates have gone onto to seek post-secondary education and leadership roles in Nunavut — including Anawak’s son, who now works as a policy analyst for the Government of Nunavut.
“I think that over the years, the delivery of education here has really improved,” Anawak said. “To me, this is our future.”
Of the program’s former students, eight in 10 have gone on to higher studies or to work, with nearly 40 per cent ending up in jobs with the GN.
NTI has introduced two scholarships of $5,000 to honour the late Inuit leader, Jose Kusugak, a long-time support of NS and one of the program’s founding board members.
NS also plans to dedicate one of the building’s classrooms in Kusugak’s memory, once renovations of the downtown space are complete.
NS used money from NTI, the three regional Inuit organizations, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to pay for the new building.
Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, who attended the ceremony with her family, said her presence within the Conservative cabinet likely helped NS realize its goal of moving to Rideau St..
“[Then] INAC minister Chuck Strahl and I worked very hard to get this funding,” she said. “We were so excited to hear the news.”