Sunday, October 4, 2009


September 2009 marked the end of an era for the justice system in Nunavut. Judge Beverly Browne, Nunavut's Senior Judge, has been called to the Queen's Bench in Alberta. So ends her time as the chief justice of the Nunavut Court of Justice. While she will no doubt return to preside as a deputy judge, she will no longer be a daily part of life in Iqaluit. Not just a jurist, Judge Browne was also involved in the community. Her energy drove more than one organization. Committed equally to the community and her profession, she encouraged new lawyers to get up out of their office chairs and get involved.

This month, it will also be two years since I came to Nunavut. I feel like the time has flown by, but at the same time I have trouble remembering a time I did not live here. My life in Toronto seems very far away now. I spend a lot more time experiencing than writing about experiences these days. Maybe the novelty has worn off. Or maybe as my long to-do lists get longer, I have less time for reflection. Or maybe I am no longer looking at this as an observer. Maybe I have decided to get out of that office chair and get involved.

For whatever reason, dear friends, this is the last post on Habeus Corpus under Aurora Borealis. I am still here, still working away, and still watching aurora borealis burn more brightly as the nights get longer.

I have so much more to learn and I am getting up out of my chair to do that now.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Machine

In Nunavut, when someone refers to her (or his) "machine", she is usually talking about her skidoo, aka snow machine. As machines, they are fairly simple, though it's not the easiest thing to take one across mountains. At least for me. If you spent your life mountainbiking, skateboarding or building the myriad of skills that teach balance, hand-eye coordination and confidence in your ability to interact wioth rugged terrain, you will likely master the skiddoo in minutes. Unfortunately for me, however, I never really got much of that out of "British India--a historical survey" or Common Law Property. Nor is it something they've really covered in Self magazine--though perhaps I could find a new niche....

Ever defiant of obstacles, I decided that living in the Arctic meant I had to overcome my inadequate education and get myself into the skidoo racket. So I saved my pennies, and before Christmas I bought a nice, heavy, long track 55o Polaris. Because who would want a smaller machine? Or a lighter machine? Or even a used machine? If I was going to be Arctic Girl, I needed the Arctic Machine. I would ride the machine to work, take it out into the mountains... I even named it: Black Beauty.

Well, Arctic Girl's Arctic Machine got driven Gavin. In January, we took it out once, inspired by a visiting prosecutor to take a little spin. I trailed behind the pack of my colleagues as we headed out to the sea ice, like a kid who is riding her first bike without training wheels. Sled dogs could have beaten me across the Bay. It was so cold that I had to use my hand warmers to stop my fingers from going numb. After that, I vowed to ride the skidoo every weekend so that I would not feel so slow again.

Weeks passed and snow fell on my machine, much like David Guterson's cedars. Once in a while, I would brush the snow off hoping the neighbours would not notice how long it had been since I had taken it out. Also, I feared I may never be able to unlock it again when it was buried in all that snow. Friends would ask if I had put 10 miles on it yet. My boss kept asking me when I was going to drive it to work. I felt more like a kadlunat than the day I stepped off the plane.

This morning dawned as one calling for a girl to ride her skidoo. It was bright, sunny, warm (-21C) and calm. After briefly flirting with the idea of laying on my sofa basking in the sun and the Globe & Mail, we decided we would indeed go for a little spin. I donned all the gear I knew I would need to keep me warm: 2 pairs of long underwear, fleece, snow pants, two pairs of socks (wool), Canada Goose parka, gloves, windproof mitts, balaklava, wool hat, and last but not least goggles. All this so that I could ride down to the ice and take a trip to Tar Inlet, just across the hill from Apex. I think this daunting amount of clothing had held me back.

Gavin, good man, took the machine out to the ice for me and then let me drive it across the lovely, flat Bay. I managed to go a little faster than the usual safari. I stopped the machine in the middle of the inlet and we got off to walk around. I could hear the ocean moving, the pack ice moving around under my feet, and it was the eeriest feeling to know that beneath the 10 feet or so of ice was the ocean, cold and alive. Not letting me get away with just a lot of pansy sea ice safari, Gavin made me take the skidoo up to a lookout point, where I was rewarded with a view that really made me regret forgetting my camera--sorry folks.

I did, however, chicken out of driving home. As we sped along and I admired what I could see of the Arctic from under my hood and through my rose-coloured glasses, I wondered if I could in fact take it out every weekend...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

we hae meat, and we can eat

Yes, friends, the Bard of Scotland's reach knows no bounds. Even here in the almost-Ultima Thule of Canada the faithful Scots and wanna-be Scots gathered to celebrate Robbie Burns' birthday. It is his 250th. Robbie Burns, if you don't know, was a poet and a lyricist who travelled Scotland collecting and adapting traditional folk music and poems as well as well as his own. On his birthday, Scots celebrate with a Burns supper. The format of Burns suppers has not changed since Robert's death in 1796. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements followed with the Selkirk Grace (see the byline). After the grace comes the piping and cutting of the haggis, where Robert's famous Address to a Haggis read and the haggis is cut open. Don't know what haggis is? Please read about it here: Memories of the last Burns supper I attended (12 years ago in Glasgow while an exchange student) are a bit hazy, so I was looking forward to this one as a more sober celebration. So to speak.

The main attraction besides haggis: David Francey, Juno-award winner and folk musician. He had the stage for most of the night, though there was lots of fiddling and pipes to go around. True kudos go to a local Iqaluit musician who fiddled at the show most of the night despite expecting her first baby on Monday. I think, however, that one of the best moments of the night was when an elderly Inuit woman, clad in modern leather kamiks and a tartan skirt, went up to the buffet to get the last share of the leftover haggis, turnip, and Scotch eggs. It makes me wonder what Chinese New Year tomorrow will bring.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is There a Polar Bear?

I love to run outside. I am not a running fiend. I have never run a marathon and generally I eschew running outside in the winter like the plague. It's cold. And dark. And, well, cold!

Last night, I got home at the unheard-of early hour of 6 p.m. The idea of walking an hour to get to the gym was more daunting than braving the outdoors. The outdoors also cooperated. The temperature was about -10 to -15 in the evening (unusually warm), there was little to no wind, and I happened to know that it was going to be a lot colder the rest of the week. So, I made an educated guess at how many layers I needed and set out, hoping I would not get too cold.

The biggest challenge was getting used to the cold air. My nose got pretty cold. My lungs got a little sore as I ran uphill. What I imagined to be the greatest challenge, however, the slippery ground, didn't turn out to be at all. Trail runners and careful footing kept me on track.

At one point, I needed to stop and do some jumping jacks. I just wanted to warm up a bit without breathing too hard. A woman walking home saw me and thought something very different. I noticed her staring at me, so I stopped.

She asked, "is there a polar bear?"

I imagined what she must have seen from her point of view: a woman running from a side street, crossing the road, running a little, then stopping, turning and jumping up and down while waving her arms. Oops.

"No, no," I assured her, "I'm just exercising."

"Oh," she seemed relieved and took her daughter by the hand and kept going. I ran on, hoping that in fact there was no stray bear roaming town looking for delicious human running snacks.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Political Inspiration

Nunavut has its first woman premier, Eva Aariak, a newly-elected member of the Legislature whose riding is actually mine: Iqaluit East. The other candidates were Paul Okalik, the incumbent, and Tagak Curley, who was acclaimed to his riding in Rankin. As one of my friends noted, I guess if you are only going to elect one woman to the Legislature, ya might as well make her the premier!

Nunavut works on a consensus political system, so we have no political parties--at least at the Territorial level. The Legislative Assembly selects its premier and cabinet after the new ministers take office during a leadership forum. There are usually nineteen MLAs but because we're waiting for a by-election, eighteen were at the forum. It's all explained in Nunavut's Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act (, in case any of you want some light reading.

The news made us news papers from the Brockville Recorder to the Prince George Citizen to the Globe and Mail. It's understandable, as she is the only woman currently serving as a provincial or territorial premier in Canada, and only the fifth woman — after Rita Johnston (B.C. 1991-92), Nellie Cournoyea (NWT, 1991-1995), Catherine Callbeck (PEI, 1993-1996), and Pat Duncan (Yukon, 2000-2002) ever to hold a premiership. With a federal MP a woman too, it seems Nunavut has made the news more than once this year. Rightly so.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Year in Review

October 29th marked the anniversary of my first year in Nunavut. The days are shorter now and the time passes quickly with work, gym and the usual routine of life. I broke out my snow pants and parka this week. They provide the best protection from the cold wind. I've also renewed my love of moisturizer. Last year, I forgot to bring any with me and spent weeks suffering dry skin while I waited for my cargo to arrive on First Air.

A year in Iqaluit still makes me an Arctic novice, but I am happy to look back on lots of exciting firsts: my first blizzard day, my first sighting of aurora borealis, my first taste of raw seal and raw caribou, learning 5 words of Inuktitut (ok, maybe 6), breaking open the band on my sealift container...not to mention coming to possess a seaworthy crate stamped with my name and address.... I continue to study the view from my window, marvelling at the haunting beauty of the place I call home. Moreover, I have been lucky to share all these moments with good friends whose generosity, spirit, and goodwill have made life here so much better.

So, the adventure continues.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

There is Turkey in the Arctic

This weekend was my first Thanksgiving. It was a propos, as almost ten of my friends answered the call for moving day on Saturday. We moved me in a couple of hours, an amazing blitz that made me feel like this Thanksgiving I had quite a bit to be thankful for. Certainly, the meals I ate this weekend made me feel no less. At one, we had an entire table full of dessert, at another, a twenty-nine pound turkey (yes, they sell turkey at Northmart). I have never seen such a big turkey. Happily, there was a lot of cranberry chutney, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and molasses brown bread to back it up, not to mention pumpkin-sausage pasta, pies, and chocolate pudding. You see, food is an obsession for us here on Baffin island. The food may be physically removed from us, but it is never far from our minds. The holidays are just an excuse to celebrate food with each other.