Skip to content

learning to lead

September 1, 2015

I’m getting ready for a delicious learning curve, on my way to dance, pause, reflect, connect and show up more fully present and open-hearted in life. Here is some of what inspired me today.

How to inspire people who want what you offer to actively choose it – useful ideas for marketing, from biology, about decision-making and communication on this TEDx talk by Simon Sinek * – apparently dreams (the “why”) are more important than plans (the “how”), or even the “what” we offer. (Canadian politicians could learn from this as our federal election approaches. I want to hear about what they dream of us becoming together, not just dry plans – where’s the “why”?)

Useful tips for social media presence that can connect us with employers/supporters/allies in ways that represent us well on this week’s CBC ‘s Under the Influence podcast. Which got me checking my own public persona on Facebook, where I was pleased to revisit this…

… poetry. Listen to this incredible, moving call to action, spoken from mother to child, breathe it through your being, and pause. Let it settle. Yes.

Now, what matters more than anything to you? (If you work as a helper, why? What dream do you have for the people/world you serve?) Breathe that in. Let it move you, literally. How does your deepest longing, your most particular delight, the thing you wish to live through in this lifetime, move your body? Breathe. How do you picture it, in your mind? What few words call it back through you? How directly can you communicate that to people who share your dream, whether they know it yet, or not? What images keep you aligned with your own intentions?

When I was nursing, the people who could communicate a “why” that I shared were the people I bonded with the most in our shared work. It was easier to work effectively in peace through struggle, knowing we were united in respect for one another’s callings, in the spirit of our work, in doing our best for that higher purpose, although the system may not have been cooperating. It was being human among humans, intending dignity and well-being for all of us. It helped me to stay well, to do more with less, and to see beauty where I might otherwise just have seen absence or obstacle or lack.

So please, stay in touch with your beautiful intentions, and speak them out, move or collage or write them out, show us, so we can be inspired by you.

* Thanks to the Soul Motion School for sharing this talk.


sleep, work, colour

May 25, 2015

Stepping out into pale bright stillness at 1:30 a.m, it feels like a good time to get up for a few hours of work. Why do we insist on working 8:30 – 5 instead of with the timing of the land and our own rhythms?

Ruth Stewart’s 2011 collection of yarn dyed the colours of water seems inspired by that kind of attentive living. Here’s some, the colours of spring runoff.

6a00d8341c03c153ef014e5fc18541970c-800wi 6a00d8341c03c153ef014e5fc18a11970c-800wi

More examples of that colourplay is here:

I am longing to see colours other than snow and sand. Lately yellow has returned to Iqaluit, as ground minerals stain meltwater, which freezes smooth or windblown under my house and on the shoreline. Away from the roads, tough and tender wintergreen leaves are purpling underfoot. I want to do my thinking out there walking the slushy land, whenever the light entices. A cubicle and clock just don’t inspire the same quality of reflection.

it’s the people

November 18, 2014

Visitors to Iqaluit are sometimes (understandably) shocked to see a masked man patrolling town, often armed with a shovel, never wearing a winter coat. His name is Polarman, and he is known for clearing snow off driveways and stairs and standing up against bullying.

When I’m not in the Arctic, people who don’t know the North ask me why I live here. It’s hard for me to answer that simple question. “It’s complex,” I say, and often leave it at that.

One of the reasons is the people and our connections with each other.

I’m going to miss everybody waving at me as I walk down the street up here. Down south it’s going to be like being a total stranger again. I’ll have to gradually build up my reputation again. – Polarman

So I’m sad to hear that one of the first people I ever had a conversation with here is leaving Iqaluit. You made this a friendlier place for me, Polarman. May you be happy in the South.

Thanks for the interview, Anubha and Sara.

challenging stereotypes with accordions and stethoscopes

October 13, 2014

Good afternoon! We are not beggars. We are Roma medical students.

Combining performance, activism and public health service, med students in Romania challenge stereotypes about Roma people. From a tent in the city, med students offer tea, health care, and an image of Roma which counters stereotypes about “gypsies” and “travellers.”

It is important for you to know that the gypsies do not always ask for something, they can also offer. Today we are offering medical consultations free of charge…

My heart swells with pride in the dignity and creativity of my fellow health care professionals, working to heal society.

Please share your favourite examples of anti-racist images and resources. Just as the med students advised about drinking enough water, we can nourish ourselves with life-affirming, accurate images and flush out the toxic images we’ve absorbed along the way.

on language

August 5, 2014

Thank you, CBC, for sharing 2 great ideas for decentring dominant cultural ways of communicating. These inspire me to wonder about ways for Inuit and non-Inuit to look together about how language helps and hinders our efforts to understand each other and work well together.

The first inspiration is an effort by journalists on both sides of the current conflict in Gaza to identify language that is neutral and accurate for informing people about events and dynamics there. Listen here as editor Naomi Hunt describes the process of making The International Press Institute’s “Use with Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” and alternatives to some of the contentious terms.

Hunt’s goal with the report is for journalists and audiences alike to recognize the impact certain “loaded” words can have on how a conflict is perceived.
Words like “murder” or “caught in the crossfire” have been given the alternative “kill” as to not imply any guilt or innocence about those being killed or those committing the act. Yet there are 21 words in the glossary for which the team of journalists could not agree on a substitution.
“I think what’s important in those cases, is not that their use necessarily be avoided completely, but that when those words are used that the context be explained,” she says.
“They should explain the sourcing of some of the language that they use so that audiences are aware of what those meanings may be loaded with.”

“If we can have journalists and other people who speak about the conflict, understand that the words they use impact the way that people view the conflict and understand the conflict, and in fact that some of that language may cause people to turn away and just stop listening, then that would already be a great success.”

I loved imagining journalists with different perspectives on the conflict working together on this project, although in fact, groups of Israeli and Palestinian journalists worked separately to come up with these lists.

The second inspiration is a restaurant which requires diners to order in sign language. (Also on the theme of relating to other realities, is this restaurant staffed by people who are blind.) So often people with less comfort in the dominant cultural group work harder to promote comfort for those they are communicating with, (as when at my local building supply store today, English with a sprinkling of Inuktitut was used by folks whose primary languages were French, Inuktitut or English) while those with more ease make less effort. But by sticking to one language, we lose ways to understand and express ourselves.

I’m reminded of two experiences I’ve had as a hearing person among deaf people. On a Vancouver bus, I was struck by the beauty of a group conversation with hands like dancing birds – the lively expressions of speakers and listeners giving each other their fully engaged attention. As a child, I remember being a little intimidated by being whacked often by non-hearing schoolmates. Other hearing kids and I spoke of deaf kids as violent. Thinking back to the attentiveness and lively expressions of the signing people on that bus, I think how that touch was used to get our attention when we were looking somewhere else – which was most of the time.

So how could we play together with language in Inuit lands? We have language classes available during the daytime for people whose work and finances permit, and many social opportunities to speak simply together. I’d love to see more small groups gathering just to share words together – or radio programmes like Word of the Week on CBC’s C’est La Vie. These could also help to share understandings between speakers of the various dialects of Inuit language, or speakers from different generations and places. So many possibilities for communicating differently together, and for understanding each other with more nuance and accuracy.

together in history, together for our future

June 23, 2014


Why is it important to work on community mental health for all communities? So that we are more free to engage together in struggles and celebrations which affect us all. Why is it important to engage in change processes? Because a sense of individual and collective empowerment is good for our mental, spiritual and community health. There are other reasons, of course, but these are particularly strong motivators in my work.

This morning I read this article: For Land and Life: 25 stories of Indigenous resilience that you might’ve missed in 2013

cultural stereotypes and poster animals

February 26, 2014

Inuit respond to a southern zoo’s attempt to (mis)appropriate Inuit language & culture and market Nature as a cute, controllable commodity.

The Toronto zoo held a naming contest for this polar bear cub. But they didn’t go to speakers of Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun or Greenlandic Kalaallit Nunaat when they chose an “Inuit” option.

Name the polar bear cub 'Mamaqtuq' - 'Tastes Delicious'


From Nunatsiaq News :

Searik … zoo officials say, is Inuit for “beautiful” — a fitting name for an Arctic creature that has captured a southern audience.

But something sounded off to Piita Irniq when he heard the name Searik. A former Commissioner of Nunavut, who also served as the Government of Nunavut’s deputy minister of culture and language, posted the Toronto Zoo’s naming contest to his Facebook page this week, asking Inuit friends where this word came from.

The response? It’s not a word – not in Inuktitut, anyway.

An Inuit-initiated petition proposes the contest be dropped and the cub be named ‘Mamaqtuq’ – ‘Tastes Delicious.’ Here is the petition text:

Recently the Toronto Zoo issued an apology for a naming ‘mishap’ where after extensive ‘research’ they proposed ‘searik’ which means “beautiful in Inuit” as a potential name for their new polar bear cub. After public outcry, the Zoo learned that this name was not “Inuit” – or more proprely Inuktitut – for anything but only after another ridiculous experience of the north being used to promote southern enterprises (promote TO zoo) while being completely misrepresented.

We believe that as a token of furthering understanding of Inuit culture, the Toronto Zoo should forego any further naming competitions – and the risk of any further misinterpretation – and name the polar bear cub Mamaqtuq, meaning delicious. This would be a step in the right direction to “reach out and make this right” as the senior director of marketing and communications stated after the naming controversy. Polar Bears are very beautiful animals, but lets not forget that they are also a wonderful source of food for many Inuit communities. We feel that in the spirit of education, which is one of the main purposes of zoos, the name Mamaqtuq would more properly inform audiences of how northern communities who interact with bears most, and know bears best perceive them – as food. We thank the Toronto Zoo for understanding that buildling relationships with communities can test one’s values and we hope that with this new name that the many people that go see the bears can come away with a deeper understanding of the beautiful relationship that northern communities have with polar bears.

We also hope that in the future southern enterprises will engage in a tad more community consultation before engaging in name contests that serve to promote and by extention profit off of Inuit culture and language…there definitely is an element of that going on here too.

You may disagree, you may think this is ridiculous, you may google Inuit culture and say that wikiAnswers says that all this is wrong…tukisiliqpalliajutiqqai

The zoo has apologised and removed the definition from the Searik option. Misunderstanding remains about natural human-bear relationships and about language and meaning.

Canada’s national identity has been formed from natural images and stereotypes. It’s time we got beyond them. When we blunder, may we always be met with such good-humoured clarity.