It was just a couple of words uttered in a national sports broadcast over the weekend, but they caught our attention.A Toronto-based sportscaster was introducing a supposedly heart-warming piece about a trip to Nunavut by some athletes – accompanied by the Stanley Cup – in what was obviously a public relations initiative by sponsoring companies.
None of that really bothers us. Everyone is welcome to visit the North.
However, the sportscaster’s intro mentioned how the trip was to help those “less fortunate.”
What exactly did that mean?
Well, according to the best we can determine, less fortunate in the context of the sports report partially means someone who lives in the North.
Well, isn’t that just dandy?
It’s not that we didn’t know that many southern Canadians have a deep misunderstanding of the North. For people who have moved to the North, all we have to do is talk to our friends and family in southern Canada to discover how little they know about this part of Canada.
A few years ago, we were giving our mailing address to a friend in Ontario, and he thought it was shocking and hilarious that the Hay River postal code began with the letter ‘X’. We believe it was so shocking because ‘X’ perhaps suggested that Northern Canada was at the far end of the planet – end of the alphabet, end of the world.
It is small little things like that – a “less fortunate” remark, if you will – that seem to indicate what people really think about the North, if they think of it at all. Only a few will tell you straight out, the rest sort of let their opinions slip.
There is really no point to listening to what politicians say about the North. They only speak in prepared remarks, full of platitudes and vote-getting strategies.
Instead, you have to listen closely to what southerners say in their unguarded moments to really get an understanding of their misunderstanding of the North.
Obviously, there are challenges in the North – the high cost of living, the limited access to services, the vast distances between communities, the unforgiving climate, and many other things that we really don’t have to explain to anyone living here. No one is going to argue with the fact that it is sometimes not easy to live in the North.
However, we would obviously rather live here than anywhere we can think of in the south. Why else would we be here?
There is something invigorating about living close to nature, surrounded by one of the last wildernesses of the world.
It’s an area where you can sometimes be travelling – on the land or by highway – when the thought hits you that there might not be another person within 50 miles. There is something special about that.
And we are living in an area where indigenous culture is as strong as anywhere in North America.
We may face challenges in the North, but we are not “less fortunate” just because we live here.
Very much to the contrary, we feel very fortunate to be here.