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CBC Northern Service is the heartbeat of ten-year-old Nunavut

During the 2005 lockout, CBC Northern service picket lines were sometimes two people, but the impact of the lost services seemed greater here than in the big cities with the huge picket lines.

The picket line in Rankin Inlet, August 2005.

The listeners and viewers of the service confirmed during the lockout that the staff is vital to the heartbeat of Nunavut, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. It is even more critical for its Inuktitut language broadcasting. Inuit elders who don’t speak English were suddenly cut off from the rest of the world during the lockout. They told the picketers they had no idea what was going on since CBC North Nunavut was shut off.

It was a difficult time for CMG members and an extra stress for the union’s local executive. But we worked hard to keep people informed of the developments of the lockout, even organizing a community-labour rally with the support of other unions such as the Nunavut Employees Union.

The work and involvement of the union is so important in Nunavut. Good jobs are almost always taken up by university-educated professionals from southern Canada, leaving the majority of Inuit in low-paying manual labour, clerical and cleaning jobs.

CBC Northern Service has been around for 48 years and is an important part of the CBC. The service has taken a chance on Inuit, employing us to become first class broadcasters. Sometimes the training is so successful, local CBC staff have no problem finding higher paying jobs and even becoming deputy minister in a government department.

The union has an important role to play to help protect the jobs and the stations of CBC Northern Service to ensure this important programming continues. It is truly Canadian content that CBC and all Canadians should be proud of.

Our faithful audience is renewed as each generation of CBC listeners follows their parents before them to get local and regional information, most of it in Inuktitut. The Northern Service has been crucial in informing the people of Nunavut about how their new territory and government works.

No other media in Canada broadcasts the same extent of programming in a regional language. From morning until late into the evening, you get news, current affairs, stories of the past and discussion and debate on the issues affecting the Inuit today.

CBC North plays vital role in providing information locally but, also regionally and nationally. It is how other Canadians hear about the hard realities of global warming: the changing climate, the hunters’ dilemma of unpredictable weather and numerous search and rescue efforts for missing hunters.

Recently, all ears and eyes were upon the North when Governor Michaelle Jean took the liberty of tasting a piece of seal heart during her tour of Nunavut to celebrate the tenth anniversary. It was CBC North staff who had to explain to the national audience about the traditions and culture of the community feast and how important seal meat is to the diet of the Inuit.

And it was CBC North staff who, during the International Polar Year 2008, provided much-needed context to the unprecedented number of journalists and broadcasters who came north to do stories for their respective countries and regions. Those journalists relied on our staff to get historical information and to learn about the issues that people living up here struggle with every day.

Joanna Awa is the President of CMG Iqaluit location unit and also Co-ordinating Producer for CBC North/Nunavut.

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