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'Not one community over another': Minister responds to Aurora College concerns in Inuvik

The N.W.T.'s minister of education, culture and employment was in Inuvik Wednesday, attempting to reassure residents that their Aurora College campus will not be forgotten in the wake of a review.

Cochrane says that no decision on the future of the college is set in stone, plans to consult with youth

Caroline Cochrane, N.W.T.'s minister of education, culture and employment, was in Inuvik Wednesday where she reassured residents that their Aurora College campus will not be forgotten in the wake of a review that suggests turning the college into a polytechnic university. (Kirsten Fenn/CBC)

The N.W.T.'s minister of education, culture and employment was in Inuvik Wednesday, attempting to reassure residents that their Aurora College campus will not be forgotten in the wake of a review that suggests turning the college into a polytechnic university.

Town Coun. Clarence Wood was one of about 15 people wanting to speak with Minister Caroline Cochrane during the three-hour meeting.

"I just wanted a feeling of what the general public felt," said Wood.

Wood said that although the report was fairly harsh, the meeting was "well-received" and residents were vocal with thoughts and ideas.

A hot-button issue that has stirred up emotions is the recommendation in the report for Aurora College to be transformed into a university, with its main campus in Yellowknife.

The college currently has three campuses in Fort Smith, Inuvik and Yellowknife.

According to the college, the Inuvik campus had its largest graduating class in at least 10 years in 2018.

The review was tabled in the N.W.T. Legislate Assembly on May 30.

Fort Smith residents met with the minister earlier this week and expressed their opinion that the college's headquarters should stay in their community.

Wood also wants to make sure the Inuvik campus isn't forgotten.

The youth that are in school today are the ones going to university ... They should've been asked about the idea.- Coun. Clarence Wood

"In the past, the government has made a policy of decentralizing out of Yellowknife, and getting more going on in the smaller communities," said Wood.

"If you live in an economically depressed area like Inuvik, something like [a university] would be a real boom to the community. I mean, we are talking a multi-million-dollar operation."

Wood also recommended to Cochrane that the N.W.T. government should get prospective students, like those in local high schools, more involved in the consultation process.

"[The university is] not going to happen until basically 2024. The youth that are in school today are the ones going to university," said Wood. "They should've been asked about the idea."

Minister says retention, recruiting a priority

Minister Cochrane said she agreed with Wood's suggestion. She said that focusing on retention and coming up with a strategic plan to recruit more students needs to be a priority in the coming years.

It's not one community over another. To me, that's not even an option.- Caroline Cochrane, N.W.T. minister of education

She said that although the report was critical and hurtful, there was a great exchange of ideas, including the suggestion of bring Indigenous culture into all programming.

However, none of the recommendations in the review are set in stone, said Cochrane, adding that a final decision will be an "all of government response."

Cochrane said that every program currently being offered by the college will be evaluated.

But no matter the result, the goal is to maintain all three campuses and build upon the college's programs, she said.

"No commitments have been made on any of the programs yet, about where the university will be … my goal right now though is to make all three campuses strong, vibrant and growing," said Cochrane.

"It's not one community over another. To me, that's not even an option."

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