TEAM NUNAVUT MEMBERS
- Dr. Liz Bartlett, Langley BC
- Dr. Brigitte Rudolf, Burnaby BC
- Dr. Ursula Craigdallie, Vancouver BC
- Barb Ashmead, Assistant, Qualicum BC
- Aliesha Timms, Veterinary Technician, Squamish BC
- Caitlin McLagan, Assistant, Vancouver BC
- Donna Lasser, Veterinary Technician, Team Leader, Hope BC
- Isabelle L'Hebreux, Veterinary Technician, Calgary Alberta
- Allison McLean, Veterinary Technician, Glenwalter Ontario
- Annette Pecak, Veterinary Technician, Ontario Chapter Coordinator, Cambridge Ontario
- Christine Robinson, Veterinary Technician,Ontario Chapter Coordinator Cambridge Ontario
After greetings and introductions, the seven British Columbia team members tackled the daunting task of distributing all of the medical supplies amongst themselves. Suitcases were open on the floor near the Air Canada ticket booths as we attempted to meet the fifty pound per person baggage weight allowance, ten pounds less than we were previously permitted. After an uneventful check-in, we boarded the "red-eye special" to Ottawa where we joined up with our remaining four team members the next morning at 7:30 a.m. Isabelle had safely survived her sleepover on a bench at the Ottawa airport.
Going through Security at the Ottawa Airport, Annette, Caitlin and Donna were pulled aside and given a “frisking”. We had a few questions about the vaccines we were carrying in the insulated bags, but otherwise our check-in was problem-free. On our flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit (approx. 3 hours) we were assigned seats where we were not sitting together as a group. This turned out to be a positive thing as several team members sat next to some very informative and interesting persons. Barb, for example, made a very important connection with the lady next to her, a lady from Iqaluit who volunteers with an animal group there and is working towards bringing a CAAT team to that community in the very near future. First Air was the airline we flew on from Ottawa to Iqaluit and from Iqaluit to Igloolik. We were very impressed with the level of service we received from First Air. The Flight Attendants were very friendly and attentive, we were given free hot meals, including a warm chocolate chip cookie part way through the flight. And as the plane begins it’s descent they hand out candies for everyone to suck on to help with the ear problems which often go along with landing.
First Air has been one of our main sponsors for this project, discounting our flights (eleven seats) by up to 75% of the regular cost. A huge thank you to First Air for doing this for us. Flights to northern Canada are very very expensive normally and this makes it difficult for CAAT to work in the Northern remote communities which so desperately need our assistance.
When we landed in Iqaluit we were surprised at the “smallness” of the community, considering it is the Capital City of Nunavut. The airport terminal building is bright yellow in colour. We were met as we entered the terminal building by a reporter from CBC North radio, and Donna and one of our veterinarians, Brigitte Rudolf, were interviewed. It will be aired this week on several news broadcasts all over Nunavut. We then had time to walk across the street to the Art Gallery and see some of the native arts and crafts from the area. At 1:00 p.m. we were met by another reporter, this time one from the Nunatsiaq News, the primary newspaper of Nunavut. Christine, Donna and Dr. Liz were interviewed for this article, and had our photo taken. The weather in Iqaluit was sunny but very chilly, probably close to five degrees Celsius. We could even see our breath. We quickly put on our sweaters and jackets as we slowly tried to acclimatize.
At 2:00 p.m. we boarded a smaller, turbo-prop plane for the last leg of our journey to Igloolik Island. The flight was two and a half hours in length. We were amused by our flight attendant who was a male dressed in coveralls who was both our baggage handler/flight attendant. He handed out snack lunches to us during the flight as well as the candies again on our descent into Igloolik. Igloolik Island is in the Canadian Arctic and we were impressed by the isolation of this community. The airport is very tiny with a gravel landing strip. While the team waited for their baggage and supplies to be taken off the plane, we all had our team photo taken in front of the “Welcome to Igloolik” sign, surrounded by Inukshuks. Our contact in Igloolik, Barb Pimlott, greeted us and our baggage was then collected and loaded onto the back of a pick-up truck and we were transported into the hamlet of Igloolik. Stephen and Lazarus, two employees from the Hamlet, helped to transport all of us women to where we would be staying.
Barb and her husband, Mark, fed us a delicious meal as we sat outside around a bonfire (they burn old hydro/telephone poles here, as trees cannot grow here), overlooking the water – ice floes as far as the eye can see. It was quite amazing to see. We were then introduced to Jay and Marin, a couple from Ontario who are working in Igloolik and went for a walk out to where their sled dog team was kept. We vaccinated and dewormed all eight dogs, beautiful dogs. The sled dogs in Igloolik are very unique as they are some of the only Canadian Inuit dogs remaining in the Canadian Arctic.
Several of the team stayed up late and visited together. While we were chatting, the doorbell rang and a lady from the community came in with a baby on her back and two other young children following behind. She had crocheted a hat and made a couple of other handicrafts she was hoping to sell to us. Her English was excellent as well and we were told that the children are schooled in their native language, Inuktatuk, until grade three, and then from then on they are taught in English. The children are so lovely with round, chubby faces. Our first night in the Arctic Circle was a bit challenging trying to sleep, as the sun doesn’t set. We will need to get used to sleeping in the sunlight during our stay here.