BAKER LAKE, NUNAVUT
Baker Lake in Inuktitut is Qamanitjuaq, “Where the river widens”. It is a typical Nunavut mining town about 300 kilometres inland from the coast of Hudson Bay and accessible by water via Chesterfield Inlet. The town expands along the edge of its namesake lake, with streets leading up from the shoreline. It is quiet and friendly, despite a full-scale gold mine operating outside the town; you would be hard pressed to find an evidence of it if you are standing in the centre of town. A large bypass road loops around north of town, with access to the dump, sewage disposal, fuel depot, barge dock and the 110-kilometre road to the Meadowbank mine. Meadowbank mine is only in production until 2018. Many families are entrenched in the wage economy, and trained for mining jobs. Agnico Eagle is already looking at opening a satellite operation, Amaruq, 50 kilometers northwest of the Meadowbank mine.
In the meantime, the community is struggling with another exploration project- a uranium mine proposed by the French company Areva. It is controversial and received so much criticism locally that many refuse to speak on record about it. After the mine closes, people will be going back to the way it was in the early 2000s. It is not going to be good; easily 300 people will be looking for jobs in the community overnight. Since the mine’s opening, crime and suicide rate doubled in Baker Lake. 2100 Inuit call Baker their home. Around 300 non-Inuit live in the community.
The founder of Saint Paul Catholic Mission in Baker Lake is Father Marcel Rio. He came in 1927 from Brittany, France. The Inuit greatly respected and loved him. He passed away in 1992. The first time I went to Baker Lake on Bishop Rouleau’s request was to celebrate Holy Week with the community, as they had no priest in residence. It was like a “parachute ministry” where you stay with people, you get attached to them and to the place, and then you leave.
I am happy to inform you that Bishop Tony Krotki entrusted me with pastoral mandate to serve community in Baker Lake together with Sr. Fernande Rivard. Our priority will be to form local Inuit leaders for service in their community, start catechism and formation for the adults, AA meetings, Sunday Liturgy, and evening prayer of the Rosary. The mission building and the church are in poor condition. Slowly we will try to improve what we can with the help of our benefactors.
We would like to offer a welcoming, loving and prayerful presence. These people carry the stigma of past abuses. Their trust in the Church and its representatives is gone. I know that our efforts will not be enough. We need your prayer, support, and faithfulness in journeying with us. Hopefully, people who left our church can return to the community where they will always find His understanding, mercy, and forgiveness through our loving, inclusive, non-judgemental attitude.
Sr. Dorica Sever, fmm
Whale Cove, May 6 2018