Canadian Arctic university idea gains momentum
The calls are growing to establish a university in Canada's North as more northerners and academics say they need a permanent institution north of 60 where students and researchers can study.
Canada is the only Arctic nation that does not have a university physically based in the North, meaning northern residents must move to southern Canada to pursue post-secondary studies.
But the calls for a northern university have grown to the point where everyone who supports the idea should come together soon, said Marianne Douglas, director of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
"We need a conference or a workshop in which we get federal, territorial and provincial players from the education scene, as well as some of the affiliates, to really see how can we actually facilitate this," Douglas told CBC News.
The public push for a university in Canada's North began when Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean endorsed the idea during her tour of Nunavut in May.
The following month, the North's three colleges — Nunavut Arctic College, Yukon College, and Aurora College in the Northwest Territories — announced they were joining forces to lobby the federal government for funding to set up a university.
A group based in Iqaluit is also working on a proposal for a university that would not only allow Inuit to study closer to home, but also develop northern experts.
"We need to have experts from Nunavut on issues such as the environment, such as sovereignty, such as adequate access to our resources," said Kirt Ejesiak, one of the group members.
Some Canadian universities currently offer degree program courses through the northern colleges.
There is also the University of the Arctic, which is a network of existing northern colleges and southern universities that aim to promote higher education and research in the region.
Actually having professors and researchers based in the North, as opposed to being based in southern universities, would make a big difference, said Ian Church, who recently chaired the Canadian committee for International Polar Year.
"As one person once said, 'Your heart is where you sleep.' And, you know, in truth, those people aren't spending all their time in the North and therefore only really get snapshots," Church said.
Douglas said a Canadian Arctic university would attract people who don't even live in the North.
"There are people from other circumpolar regions in the world, as well as people within Canada who live outside the territories or outside the provincial north, who would probably very much like to go to school in Canada's North as well," she said.
"So it's almost [like] if you build it, they will come," she said, borrowing a line from the movie Field of Dreams.