Out in the Open

Inuk performance artist challenges 'Southern Canadians' on their perceptions of 'the North'

For many Canadians, their northern-ness forms a treasured part of their Canadian identity (think kayaks and the ubiquitous inukshuk). But Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory wonders if 'Southern Canadians' hold some real misconceptions about the Great White North.
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Elysha Poirier)

When you think about Northern Canada, what do you picture?

"The North is an extremely cold place, barren actually, without a single tree in sight. You walk on the streets that are not even paved and you go into the stores and you pay exorbitant fees for things like milk and eggs and lettuce. Prices that are four or five times higher than any city in the South. And the people that you see in the aisles of the store are people who have the highest statistics of all the worst things. Highest suicide rates, the highest rates of unemployment, the lowest rates of education. It's an extremely difficult life here in the North."

At least, that's what the North might be like in the imagination of Southern Canadians, says Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, a performance artist from Iqaluit.

For somebody like me who is racialized in mainstream Canadian society, I always have to describe who I am, where I come from, and why.- Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory

To Bathory, the North is an ancient homeland to which she is deeply connected.

"The relationship between Inuit and the land, Inuit and the animals, families, community ties, those are all things that go back for generations that you can't even count." 

But that doesn't mean "Northern Canadian" does a very good job of reflecting Bathory's identity.

"It is the start of a conversation to be called a Northern Canadian, but at the same time it's not exactly how I identify myself," says Bathory.

"I'm an Inuk. I was born in this country called Canada and I engage in Canadian society. It is completely possible to be multifaceted in your identity without having to be a hyphenated Canadian."

In her work as an artist Bathory is interested in exploring the ideas that Southerners have of the North and in challenging the many assumptions held about Indigenous peoples by Canadians.

This Iqaluit artist is using her body to pull stereotypes apart

6 years ago
Duration 4:00
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory explains that her nude body acts as a way to break stereotypes about Indigenous women.

This story originally aired on July 2, 2017. It appears in the Out in the Open episode "Hyphen State".