Grounded aviation tour a disappointment

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Hundreds of people enjoyed the show when the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour dazzled Inuvik and surrounding communities early this June.

After each show, pilots took hours out of their time to meet with residents and discuss opportunities in aviation and form bonds with people of the North.

Unfortunately, it looks like not all Northerners will get to enjoy that show, as the tour has been postponed since its last stop in Yellowknife.

“I’m extremely heartbroken and disappointed,” Nancy McClure, executive director of the project, said to me earlier this week. “I’ve put my heart and soul into this.”

The tour needs more than a million dollars in additional funding to finish its route through Nunavut and Atlantic Canada. McClure had been banking on that funding coming from the Government of Canada for its Canada 150 events, but hope is running out as the season begins to change and no new grant comes through.

If it didn’t come through this week, the tour would have to be officially cancelled, as the weather in Nunavut would begin to make it unfeasible to fly such small planes in the territory.

What especially hurts McClure is knowing the impact the show had on some of the smaller communities.

Ken Fowler, one of the pilots, relayed a story about how touching his experience meeting people in Aklavik was.

“We have so many people coming up to us that were literally in tears,” he said at the time.

From what I’ve seen in my time in Inuvik, few events put on by out-of-towners have matched the interest and fanfare the aviation tour achieved.

What might be a simple spectacle to Vancouverites seemed like something bigger here.

Not many people come to the North to put on a show for Northerners.

Usually, the onus seems to be on community members to show off their traditional culture to wide-eyed tourists, which certainly has its place.

But there’s something very special about a troupe of highly skilled aviators putting on a dazzling show for a community that might not even have 1,000 residents.

It’s not just an afternoon spectacle, but a great sign of respect and involvement in celebrating a united country’s pride.

Speaking of unity, a peculiar thing about this country is just how uninformed most Canadians are about anything in the North.

It’s likely that other Arctic countries, such as Norway and Russia, understand Northern Canadian issues better than southern Canadians themselves.

The extent of many southerners’ familiarity with the North seems to be as the poster boy for climate change.

It’s nice for Northerners to be treated as a vital part of Canada and catered to once in a while.

The Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour went well beyond even that spectacle and truly inspired many residents of the Western Arctic. It helped connect our country and its people, especially ones who are often forgotten about.

There’s little use in pitting one project against another and arguing about which deserves funding and which doesn’t, but money aside, the record should show that this was a positive event for the North and more like it would be welcomed.