Arctic research conference is held in the Arctic for 1st time

Joshua Komangapik organized a panel on Inuit experiences in academia at ArcticNet’s Annual Scientific Meeting, happening this week in Iqaluit. Komangapik says that having the conference take place in Nunavut has changed the ‘vibe’ and made it more comfortable for Inuit to participate. (Radio-Canada / Matisse Harvey)

A national Arctic research conference is taking place in Iqaluit this week, marking the first time in the academic conference’s 19-year history that it’s being held in the North.

The ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) brings researchers from across the globe, from a wide variety of disciplines, together with government leaders, territorial organizations, and Indigenous organizations to discuss the changing North. Since 2004, it has been held in different cities across the country.

Joshua Komangapik, an Inuk master’s student at Royal Roads University who’s from Iqaluit, said that having the conference in Nunavut makes it more comfortable for Inuit to participate.

“It does mean something important because usually … other ArcticNet [conferences] are in a different kind of vibe completely because they’re mainly for southern researchers,” he said.

ArcticNet’s Annual Scientific Meeting takes place until Thursday at the Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Centre in Iqaluit. The event is expected to attract more than 300 people in-person, and more than 150 online. (CBC Radio-Canada / Matisse Harvey)

But, at this year’s conference, “there’s a strong community presence … which makes it a lot more comfortable, I think for myself and probably for other people that maybe wouldn’t have felt the same comfort going to an ArcticNet down south,” Komangapik said.

The conference, which includes panels, speeches and hands-on activities, began Monday and continues until Thursday. According to organizers, about 300 people are expected to attend in-person, while more than 150 will join online.

Some of the topics covered include Inuit self-determination, health and wellness, food security, permafrost, fishing, water quality and wildlife.

Komangapik, who’s part of the ArcticNet Student Association, hosted a panel discussion on Inuit experiences in academia.

“I really wanted to have Inuit voices be a part of the program, especially because it’s on our land,” he said.

Enooyaq Sudlovenick, an assistant professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, spoke on the panel and shared how strange it can feel to be researching the North while based at a university in the South.

“It’s hard to be an arctic researcher when you’re based in the South. So you’re not always in Nunavut and the Arctic to do research,” she said.

Apart from Yukon University, there aren’t any universities in the territories. However, Sudlovenick still encourages northern youth to consider a future as a researcher.

“Research is a great way to continue being out on the land and hunting, and we have a lot of knowledge to share, so I encourage academia [and] research as a career option.”

Christine Barnard, executive director of ArcticNet, said students from the environmental technology program at Nunavut Arctic College are also attending the conference and they’ve designed programming for the students to network with current researchers.

Given the conference’s nearly 20-year history, Barnard said she’s excited it’s finally happening in Iqaluit.

“You might say it’s about time and you’re right. So we’re extremely excited to be hosting our researchers and students from across Canada in Iqaluit,” she said.

Related stories from around the North : 

Canada : New report promotes equitable research in Northern Canada, Eye on the Arctic

Finland : Finland prolongs Sami Truth and Reconciliation Commission through 2025, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland : Climate, integration & Arctic among priorities in Iceland’s Nordic Council of Ministers program, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden : Abuse and shame the legacies of Sweden’s old assimilation polices: report, Radio Sweden

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