Geographer Awarded Arctic Inspiration Prize

Jan 15th, 2014

Janet Harron

Geographer Awarded Arctic Inspiration Prize

SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik: the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) of the Nunatsiavut Government and its principal research partner Dr. Trevor Bell of Memorial University’s Department of Geography, will share the 2013 Arctic Inspiration Prizealong with two other Canadian research teams.

Established in 2012, the $1,000,000 prize was designed for those research teams who have made a substantial, demonstrated and distinguished contribution to the gathering of Canadian Arctic knowledge and have proposed plans to implement this knowledge for real world applications for the benefit of Arctic Peoples.

The SCI team after receiving the Arctic Inspiration Award. Back row, from left: Isabella Pain, Darryl Shiwak, Trevor Bell, Tom Sheldon and Christina Goldhar. Front row: Charlotte Wolfrey, Daniel Pottle, Dorothy Angnatok and Carla Pamak.

The announcement was made on December 11 at a ceremony in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Memorial University is very proud of the socially responsible leadership that Dr. Bell has exhibited,” says Dr. Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor of Memorial University. “His work has a unique intellectual signature of innovative interdisciplinary research that distinguishes him from his colleagues and characterizes a particular and distinctive approach and contribution to many fields.

"He has worked closely with the Nunatsiavut Government as a principal investigator and partner on a range of environmental and community projects and has helped secure external funding for research activities in support of these initiatives.

"On behalf of the Memorial University community, I offer my sincere congratulations to Dr. Bell and his team on this great accomplishment.”

For SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik, the knowledge-to-action (K2A) planfocuses on housing solutions for Nunatsiavut communities. It proposes to build and monitor a pilot multi-unit residential dwelling for Nunatsiavummiut that is culturally relevant, affordable, energy efficient, technologically smart, and adapted to new climatic and environmental realities. 

The K2A plan integrates expert knowledge of current housing challenges, local knowledge of housing needs and preferences and professional knowledge of construction methods and materials to build modern healthy housing as a cornerstone of sustainable communities in Nunatsiavut.

 “Healthy homes in Nunatsiavut (InosiKatigeKagiamik Illumi) is only one of many research projects that fall under the umbrella initiative of Sustainable Communities,” explains Dr. Bell. “This initiative began at the community level and emerged from a multifaceted, holistic strategy to build sustainable Nunatsiavut communities. AngajukKâks (mayors) and local councils were frustrated with the status quo and the inability to make progress on chronic issues; they unanimously decided to try something different, to forge a comprehensive, inter-departmental, multi-disciplinary research program to help develop and guide a new approach for building Nunatsiavut communities.”

Dr. Bell, who is considered a principal research partner and champion by the Nunatsiavut Government, believes that the focus on local priority issues, recognition of the value of research and the close links between researchers and decision-makers at all levels in the region have been a key element in the success of SCI.

“The initiative has received the full support of the Nunatsiavut Government and  has had immediate impacts on policy and decision making,” he points out. “The executive council of the Nunatsiavut Government recently voted unanimously to have the approach of the Sustainability Communities Initiative mainstreamed through the entire government in order to respond effectively to outcomes and findings.”

SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik is an outstanding example of using research for the betterment of Inuit,” notes President Sarah Leo in a statement released December 12. “I want to commend the dedicated team of professionals for their hard work with this initiative, and to thank them for making this award possible.”

The success of the Sustainable Communities Initiative has attracted attention from a variety of government departments on both federal and provincial levels. Dr. Bell has presented to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Health Canada, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Canada’s national Inuit organization, and to the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (who are establishing building programs in Cambridge Bay).

“For the past decade or so I have worked closely with northern communities and regions on co-designed research projects that address the challenges of climate change and promote and evaluate adaptation actions,” says Dr. Bell. “Working with the Sustainable Communities team and Nunatsiavummuit has been the most rewarding and transformative of my academic career. Our action-oriented research is affecting meaningful change in a remote area of our province that has experienced rapid political, socio-economic, climatic and environmental changes in recent decades. Winning the Artic Inspiration Prize is wonderful recognition of the value of applied and engaged research, especially research that directly affects quality of life in communities. I hope it inspires our early career researchers at Memorial to engage communities and regions with their knowledge and expertise.”

This winter Dr. Bell and the SCI team will analyze recent housing assessments and gather input from the communities on how new Nunatsiavut housing should be designed and built.