Northern Canada (July 5th – 12th, 2010)
A JOURNEY TO THE WORLD’S LAST FRONTIER
In the early morning of July 5th, Ambassador Bahah, together with a delegation of 17 other Ambassadors, several members of DFAIT, the Privy Council, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Parks Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, gathered together to embark on the ever-popular annual Northern Tour.
The Northern Tour, since its inception in 1972 has been consistently considered the most popular of all Diplomatic outings. It is a shining example of the numerous outstanding programs superbly organized by the Office of Protocol. The Ambassadors felt particularly spoiled by the kind care and attention bestowed upon them by the members of DFAIT who accompanied them, entertained them and kept them out of harm’s way. They were also most grateful for the expertise and great hospitality of Northern Air personnel who made their air travel so enjoyable. Most agree that the memories of these exceptional trips ultimately define their time in Canada as the posting of a lifetime.
During this extraordinary week, Ambassadors were given an overview of all aspects of the complexities, challenges and triumphs of everyday life in the North, particularly as they relate to issues involving natural resources, employment, defence, security, health, housing and social issues. They also gained an in-depth appreciation of the northern people, their history, cultural legacy, developing government and astounding future potential. With this insight Ambassadors, were better able to appreciate the importance of Canada’s Northern Policy and its implementation in this region. They became conversant with the Four Pillars:
The week-long tour stopped in nine main locations, required more than 25 hours of flying time and covered a staggering 12,000 km of terrain. It presented all participants with a comprehensive understanding of the sheer magnitude of Canada, as well as a rare glance at vast areas of pristine beauty of the world’s last frontier.
The tour began in Ottawa and headed for Sanikiluaq in the Belcher Islands, located in the Territory of Nunavut. This is the most southern community in the territory. Once landed, they visited the Community Centre where they were given a presentation on the Belcher Islands, as well as a cultural and art exhibit. From here they headed by plane to the Province of Manitoba and the town of Churchill, known as the “Northern Gateway” and “Polar Bear and Beluga Whale Capital of the World”. Once landed, they enjoyed an Ice Floe Boat Tour in the Churchill River Estuary, followed by Dinner hosted by the Manitoba Government with a presentation on the growth of scientific research and the importance of transitional zones like Churchill.
The Ambassadors returned to their housing at the Lazy Bear Lodge to rest for the next day’s activities.
Tuesday morning, following a briefing on Energy and Commodities by the Churchill Gateway Development Corporation, the Ambassadors made their way to the Polar Bear Holding Compound where they learned about the Polar Bear Alert Program. Shortly after this they boarded a plane heading north-west for Yellowknife in the Boreal Forest of the Northwest Territories.
Yellowknife is the capital and upon landing the Ambassadors were taken to the Legislative Assembly where they were given a Briefing on the Territorial Government, which proved to be extremely interesting. Following this they enjoyed a wonderful dinner hosted by the Government of the Northwest Territories and then retired to the Explorer Hotel for the night.
The following morning, Wednesday, they departed across the province, once again heading north-west, this time for Whitehorse, which is the capital of the Yukon and the largest Canadian City north of the 60th Parallel. This presented the Ambassadors with the opportunity to visit another Legislative Assembly, receiving a government briefing from the Yukon perspective. Shortly thereafter, they attended a Government-hosted working luncheon at the Westmark Whitehorse Hotel and Conference Centre.
Mid-afternoon, they departed by road to Haines Junction where they enjoyed a fascinating meeting with Chiefs and Council of the Yukon First Nations and Ashishik First Nation.
Returning to Whitehorse, they relaxed and spent the night at the Westmark Whitehorse Hotel and Conference Centre.
Thursday morning the group was airborne again, this time headed for Dawson City – the famous city of the Gold Rush of the 1890’s. This city lies close to the Alaska/Yukon border and marks the farthest west point of the tour. The flight was particularly spectacular providing remarkable views of Kluane National Park and Mount Logan.
Once in Dawson, they stopped for an informal luncheon at Sourdough Joe’s Restaurant and then toured the Tr’ondek Hwech’in Danoja Zho Cultural Centre. Following this, a sightseeing walking tour of Dawson City took them to the Parks Canada Gold Dredge and Table Mountain. Sadly, nobody found any gold, but they all had a wonderful time and headed back for a relaxing dinner at Klondike Kate’s Restaurant and a comfortable night at the Westmark Inn.
On Friday July 9th, they said farewell to Dawson City and took to the skies, flying along the Mackenzie Delta, heading north, beyond the Arctic Circle, to Inuvik which is located in the north-western area of the Northwest Territories. After a Briefing by Inuit Circumpolar Council they re-boarded, bound for one of the most northern and coldest communities in the world. Resolute is located at the northern end of Resolute Bay and the Northwest Passage. It is inhabited by 229 people according to the 2006 Census and is a very important research centre. At this time of year, the temperature averages 7 degrees Centigrade during the day and -2 degrees Centigrade at night, with 24 hours of daylight. Upon arrival, they headed to the South Camp Inn for an informal dinner and a good night’s sleep in rudimentary, but quite comfortable surroundings.
Saturday morning had been scheduled for a flight to Eureka, the second most northern research centre in the world (other than Alert). It is located on Ellesmere Island and, as happens often in this unpredictable part of Canada, the weather did not permit for air traffic. Instead, the Ambassadors spent a fascinating day at the Polar Continental Shelf Project Base in Resolute, touring the facilities and attending presentations on the work of the Base. They were then treated to dinner by the representatives of the project including all scientists presently in residence. After this absorbing evening, they retired for a second night at the South Camp Inn.
The next morning was Sunday and once again they found themselves the victims of poor weather, necessitating a change of plan. Instead of traveling to Cape Dorset, a cultural centre for the region, they flew south east to the town of Pangnirtung, on Baffin Island, a community of over 1300 people which has achieved an international reputation for producing high-quality traditional arts such as sculpture and carvings, as well as printmaking and weaving. The Ambassadors were delighted to visit the cultural centre and museum to learn about their phenomenal 4,000-year history.
The tour continued that afternoon as they were shuttled by plane further south to the City of Iqaluit, also on Baffin Island. This is the newest and smallest capital city and has been the capital of Nunavit since its creation in 1999. After being met by the Mayor, the Ambassadors were taken to their hotel, The Frobisher Inn where they spent a memorable final evening in the North, attending a wonderful dinner, with representatives of the Nunavit Government, hosted by the Government of Canada.
Monday morning was spent visiting the Unikaarvik Visitors’ Centre and the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, followed by a visit and tour of the Legislative Assembly and tour of the Community.
The afternoon brought with it the final leg of the trip which was the long flight home to Ottawa. After a slight weather delay, all said goodbye to the North and headed due south – another Northern Tour came to a resoundingly successful conclusion. The eighteen Ambassadors and representatives of the Canadian Government who shared in this unique adventure developed a tremendous bond with one another that is truly unforgettable. They brought home many photographs and stories, but most of all, they treasure indelible memories of collectively discovering a land that most people never see; a clearer understanding of the tremendous scope and challenges of this often harsh but magnificent expanse of territory; and an appreciation of the great efforts that are underway to efficiently and harmoniously blend an ancient civilization’s culture, history and livelihood, with modern society’s passion and hunger for “progress” and development.
Thus was the remarkable journey to the world’s last frontier. All returned with a far better understanding of those who inhabit it and the courageous and adventurous spirit of the pioneers who ventured there so long ago.
List of Ambassadors on the Great Northern Adventure
HE Jawed Ludin (Afghanistan)