First Aid Training in Nunavut!
My first visit to Canada’s most northern region started bright and early. Leaving from Toronto, Ontario, it takes about 13 hours to travel to the small island community of Igloolik, Nunavut. I arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport at 4am, with three hockey bags to check-in – each full of first aid teaching equipment, along with 2 AEDs for the community.
After a short flight and quick layover in Ottawa, I was on my way to Iqaluit. This is the major airport in Nunavut from where all internal flights take off. So, in Iqaluit we switched planes and took off towards the island in a small twenty-seater plane. Landing in Igloolik it was a brisk -15c with a -30c wind chill!
Today I’m on my way to the Ataguttaaluk High School for a full day of training with the teachers there. My ride to the school shows up – on a snowmobile! This is the preferred method of transportation around the town, so somehow we manage to fit 3 hockey bags, myself and the driver on the snowmobile and take off for the school.
This group of teachers from the high school and elementary school were taking the Standard First Aid course as part of their professional development. We had a very large group, but our 2 days flew by because of how amazing all the participants were – everyone was engaged and excited to learn new first aid skills and for the new AEDs to be installed at each school. You can imagine how important a medical device like this can be in any remote area – when minutes matter in cardiac arrest, it’s so vital to have an AED nearby.
Day 2 – Evening
My first night in Igloolik I decided to check out the town. I visited the Community Centre to participate in some circus training with some members of Artcirq. Artcirq is an Inuit performing arts collective based in Igloolik whose mission is to “cooperate with Inuit youth groups by providing access to universal vehicles of creativity and communication to express themselves through performing arts, music, video, etc. to promote social wellness.” This was an incredible experience I will never forget – who would have thought that I would be learning how to stand on another person’s shoulders in Nunavut?!
The next day I started my second course with the students this time. Some of these students even came to the school on their day off to attend the class! I learned so much from the students about their way of life in Igloolik, and I was honoured/excited to be invited back to the Community Centre that night to play some traditional Inuit games with them.
Day 4…to 6!
My adventure in the Arctic was ending – I packed up my things (sans hockey bags!) and boarded the flight back to Iqaluit. The 2.5 hour flight seemed to be going smoothly, but as we started our descent into Iqaluit we suddenly felt the plane ascend again. The pilot alerted the passengers that it was too windy to land and therefore we had to head back to Igloolik! The next morning I made my second attempt to fly home. We boarded the plane but were diverted to another small community for fuel which led to a missed connection in Iqaluit. This meant that I now had the opportunity to spend the night in Iqaluit, so I was able to explore Nunavut’s capital city. The next day I caught a flight back to Ottawa/Toronto and my 3 day travel adventure had come to a close. This experience truly brought home how far away I was in this small island community in Canada’s northern region. Thank you to the teachers, students and the entire community for welcoming me and for sharing their stories and culture with me.