As It Happens

The other Scottish Question: Which tartan should represent Nunavut?

The Scottish question in Canada's northernmost territory is not, "Why would anyone where a kilt in the Arctic?" Instead, it's, "What should it look like?" There are two rival candidates for Nunavut's official tartan. Only one will win out....
The Scottish question in Canada's northernmost territory is not, "Why would anyone where a kilt in the Arctic?" Instead, it's, "What should it look like?" There are two rival candidates for Nunavut's official tartan. Only one will win out.

Donald Mearns, an advocate for the so-called Laird tartan, lives in Pangnirtung, on Baffin Island, just 30 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. Carol began by asking him how popular kilts are in Nunavut:

"There's a fair few ex-Hudson's Bay men scattered across the North who pull out tartan on Burns Night and we say a few of the poems and shed a few tears and drink a few drops of scotch," he says.

He added that he doesn't worry about freezing any exposed parts.

"They're all fine and warm and cozy and tucked away," he says.

mearns2 cropped.jpg

(Photo: Donald Kilabuk)

Mearns's friend, John Laird, was the one who initiated the push for an official Nunavut tartan. He consulted with local elders and created a blue-dominated pattern that pays homage to the tundra, the sky, the snow and the sun.

But there is another tartan on the scene -- one created by Canadian fashion designer Michael Kaye. Kaye wants to design a line of dresses from each of the official tartans of Canada's provinces and territories. And, since Nunavut didn't have one, he decided to make one himself.

Mearns concedes that it is a "bonnie tartan," more green than the Laird pattern. But he believes his friend's better reflects their home territory.

The Nunavut government seems to be in no hurry to create an official tartan. But Mearns has a stunt in mind he thinks might convince them.

"I think would be absolutely wonderful to introduce the tartan in full regalia with the bagpipes into the legislative assembly," he says. "We actually fantasized about a polar bear busby, but that might be very, very expensive."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.