Volunteers are the NWT’s beating heart

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Go to any community in the Northwest Territories and one will quickly learn its beating heart belongs to volunteers.

Whether it’s making free lunches at the Inuvik community kitchen or helping to raise money for the local curling club, as citizen of the year Paul Delorey did in Hay River, volunteers are typically few but their efforts are immeasurable.

Most people are busy enough in their day-to-day lives so it takes an extra special sort of person to give up their evenings or weekends to take part in activities that make their communities better. It’s through our volunteers and the good deeds they perform, that civic life is built.

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs has been recognizing volunteers in the NWT for 28 years. This year, 25 nominees and counting are in the running in four categories: Outstanding Youth, Outstanding Elder, Outstanding Individual and Outstanding Group.

The deadline for nominations is April 12 so if you know somebody deserving of the award don’t delay in submitting their name. Even if they don’t get selected this year, it’s important to take stock and note how many people are being recognized.

Data on volunteerism efforts in the NWT are scant. The most recent information from Statistics Canada dates back to 2010, and unfortunately, the data is not flattering. According to the numbers, the Northwest Territories had the lowest volunteer rate in the country that year – tied with Quebec – at 37 per cent, down nine per cent from 2007.

Anecdotally, the figure doesn’t seem right. In a territory as vast and remote as the NWT, where co-operation and generosity have long been essential features in communities throughout the North, the stats seem suspiciously low.

It wouldn’t be the first time Statistics Canada produced data about the territory that was way off. See the population figures from 2001 where hundreds, and possibly thousands of people were missed during that year’s census report.

Statistics Canada did do a province by province volunteerism comparison for 2013 but excluded the territories. It seems high time that they tried again.

In the meantime, give MACA a ring and let them know about somebody who cares about their community. And let us know too. We will be happy to share their story.

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