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Visitors from around the world

Stephanie McDonald
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 27, 2007

IQALUIT - Nunavut's legislative assembly is like the territory itself: young, eclectic, and colourful.

It's an attraction for visitors from around the world, those interested in Nunavut's consensus government and Canada's youngest parliament.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Cindy Rennie stands on the steps of Nunavut's legislative assembly in Iqaluit. She has been giving tours of the building for three years. - Stephanie McDonald/NNSL photo

Tours begin at the display of the mace and moves on to the artwork that adorns the walls, the symbols of the territory, a viewing of the gifts from Canada's other provinces and territories, and concludes in the iglu-shaped chamber.

Here, the visiting public "keeps everyone on their toes," tour guide Lindsay Sowdluapik-Lloyd said.

Sowdluapik-Lloyd, 19, entering her second year at Queen's University this fall, has been giving daily tours of the legislature for three weeks. In that time she has shared the stories of the assembly to the group Students on Ice, southern members of Habitat for Humanity, visiting relatives of Iqaluimmiut, new residents of the capital city, hikers coming to or from Pangnirtung and even the Team Nunavut badminton players.

Among the more famous of the assembly's visitors have been prime minister Stephen Harper; Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau; and ambassadors from around the world.

"The first time I was so nervous, but it's getting better," Sowdluapik-Lloyd said.

The most common questions she's asked are about Nunavut's form of government, specific questions about the material and designers of artwork, where a particular community is located and what an elder is.

On the whole, most of the tourists that pass through know at least a little bit about the territory, she said.

Sowdluapik-Lloyd's favorite piece in the legislative assembly is an eight- by 24-foot tapestry that hangs high on the lobby wall.

"It's a really nice idea. Seven women working together for seven months," she said of its creation.

Cindy Rennie, public affairs officer at the legislative assembly, has been giving tours for three years, sometimes in three languages. To build up her knowledge of the territory's art and history, Rennie has done extensive research.

A lot of her knowledge comes from her growing up in the territory. She has also read books, studied artists, and spoken to people. Yet, sometimes she can still be stumped by the questions she is asked.

"You have to know your stuff," she said. "Some questions are really difficult, but that's what keeps me going."