Spreading the word
Author stresses literacy

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (Oct 13/99) - Canadian media icon Peter Gzowski has been watching the evolution of Nunavut with great fascination for more than two decades.

Gzowski was in Rankin Inlet recently to mark the Nunavut Literacy Council's Founding Conference.

Named as the first writer in residence for the program bearing his name through Trent University, Gzowski views the literacy program as very important to Nunavut's evolution.

Travelling North of 60 at every opportunity since 1971, Gzowski says the process leading to Nunavut has set a wonderful example for the whole world.

"I'm very admiring of how it's been done," says Gzowski. "It's a wonderfully Canadian thing, this self-determination being done democratically with everyone's blessing.

"The bombs were dropping in Kosovo at the same time I was sitting on the platform in Iqaluit watching the Nunavut celebration."

Gzowski admits to having high hopes for Nunavut's success, but quickly adds he has been concerned for some time that expectations may have been too high in some circles.

"From day one you could see some people were looking at the creation of Nunavut

as being the solution to everything.

"There's been a general feeling that once we get political independence or self-determination, everything will work out.

"However, enlightened people realize how much work there is to be done."

One area needing plenty of work is literacy and Gzowski says there's a spirit of co-operation concerning literacy across Nunavut and the rest of the country.

He says there are many literary facts which have been quantified in the past decade.

"We've had things we may have long-known, or, at least, thought we knew, quantified as fact and that makes a big difference.

"For example, reading to your kids for more than 10 minutes a day and having more than four books in your house make a positive contribution to a child's development."

Gzowski says it's important for programs to be developed to put more Inuit teachers in Nunavut's classrooms.

He says it's been proven a kid from a non-majority culture has a much higher chance to read and write well in English if they become literate in their own language.

There are 53 current aboriginal languages in Canada and Inuktitut is one of only three predicted to survive.

"It can be occasionally difficult for the young people, who wonder if there's too much attention paid to the language of the elders, but I'm glad to see there's enough attention constantly being paid to Inuktitut to make it flourish.

"Trent (University) has always had an avid interest in the North and, succeeding Mary Simon as chancellor, I hope I can continue to nourish the university's commitment."