Arctic Canada at a Crossroads

The Arctic has been hit hard by the first wave of Climate Change. While record losses of sea ice and disintegrating ice shelves have been shown to have direct consequences for the rest of the planet, these effects remain largely distant and abstract in the minds of most people. For Inuit living on the front lines of this global catastrophe however, the local effects of these changes are immediate and life-altering. This series of photographs explores some of the challenges facing Inuit who still depend on the land for their subsistence.

Following a group of hunters out looking for seal, we see how changes in the sea ice directly affect the entire food chain and ecology of the region. This, in turn, has major consequences for the health and economies of local people dependent on “country food” (locally hunted food) for a considerable part of their diet. Fresh food imported from the south is prohibitively expensive for many families, while high energy/ high glycemic index foods have contributed to major health problems -from diabetes and heart disease to obesity and tooth decay – among Inuit communities. On the other hand, the traditional diet, rich in protein derived from the sea, in the form of fish and mammals high on the food chain, has been shown to contain toxic levels of mercury.

All this merely exacerbates existing social problems within Northern communities. With the highest rates of suicide in the country, an epidemic of alcohol and substance abuse and high incidences of domestic abuse, in conjunction with low rates of high school graduation, low literacy rates and pervasive unemployment, the social and psychological disruptions effect every level of society. Still reeling from the psychological trauma of residential school abuse, dislocation from the land and prohibitions on traditional cultural and spiritual practices as a consequence of colonial policies, the Inuit of Canada are struggling to define their contemporary identity in the face of rapid environmental change and social pressures.