Nunavut on the airwaves
CBC's newest bureau will connect residents of new territory
by Kerry McCluskey
NNSL (Apr 06/98) - It's possible now to bring the Kitikmeot region into your home just by turning on the radio or the television.
As of last Wednesday, CBC opened a new bureau in Cambridge Bay that will, according to Marie Wilson, help residents of the Kitikmeot feel more in touch with Nunavut.
"What we hope it will mean is for the people of the Kitikmeot to feel as though they are able to be full participants in the new Nunavut territory. We are re-organizing all of our Nunavut radio broadcasting services so that come April 1, 1999 and leading up to that, we will start to hear a program a day that makes all the citizens of Nunavut, wherever they live, feel connected to their capital city and to other parts of their region," says Wilson, CBC North's regional director and director of radio and TV.
She says people living in the Kitikmeot have often felt quite isolated and that the opening of the new bureau should help to eliminate this feeling.
Wilson adds that while broadcasting has always played a huge role in connecting the various regions of the North, the new bureau will help the residents of Nunavut adjust to the logistical changes accompanied by the formation of the new territory.
"Their allegiances and their lifelines are going to start shifting from Yellowknife to Iqaluit and we want to play a role in helping that happen," says Wilson.
Despite the fact that the grand opening coincides with the one-year countdown to Nunavut, the notion of having a CBC bureau in the Kitikmeot is not a new one.
"The Inuit of this region have been trying for almost 20 years to get a CBC presence in the Kitikmeot. This region has always been very vocal about wanting a presence," says Wilson, who adds that Roy Goose and Tim Sawa, the Kitikmeot broadcasting team, have actually been on the air since last September.
Wilson says the opening of the new station didn't add to CBC's list of expenses.
"It didn't cost a thing in the sense that we had no new money for this. We redirected some money, a little bit from TV and a little bit from radio, just realigned some of the resources we had within the region," says Wilson.
Wilf Wilcox, the mayor of Cambridge Bay, says he's happy that his 10 years of hard work have finally paid off.
"For a lot of years, we've been getting radio from other areas and we had only temporary participation and we thought it was a real loss for our young people because they didn't get a chance to hear radio from their own area," says Wilcox, now in his third term as mayor.
"We're big radio listeners in this area and we felt it was very important to be full participants in the Northern picture. It's been a long haul and we've been patient but persistent and yesterday was a great day," says Wilcox.
Bill Lyall agrees.
"It was something the people really wanted and we got it finally and now we can go on with other things," says Lyall, who adds that CBC used the issue of financial restrictions in the past as the reason for not putting the area on the air in the past.
"One of the things that will happen is that the communities will be closer together and we'll be able to know what's going on. It'll bring the communities together and if anything, that's what we're looking for, not to hear about the war in Serbia or the Korean crisis," says Lyall who has been involved in the issue since the beginning.
"I didn't spearhead it but I took it on as one of my projects and no matter what anyone would say, we were going to get this and if it wasn't CBC, then it would be someone else," says Lyall, the president of Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. since 1981.
"All of the settlements in the Kitikmeot region have been working on this since the beginning of the Settlement Council in the early 1970s. I was the first chairman of the council so I've been working on it since 1970 but about 1968 or 1969, it all started," says Lyall.
The new station will be able to transcend a number of barriers because it offers both television and radio programming in English, Inuinaktun and Inuktitut.
"This region is going to be playing a role in telling the whole country the story of Nunavut," says Wilson.