The population in the North has a very different age structure compared to the rest of Canada. According to the 2006 census, Canada’s population of those under the age of 15 is 17.7%, whereas the number is just under 20% in the Canadian North. More specifically, Nunavut’s population under the age of 15 was an overwhelming 33.9 percent. Overall in Canada, the age of the population is increasing, but in the North, the age is decreasing.
There are many implications of the age structure in the North leaning heavily towards the younger side. For one, a younger population requires heftier investments in social infrastructures and social programs, such as daycare services, and larger classroom space for elementary school students. As this younger generation grows and gets older, investments will then have to be redirected starting with high school, post-secondary facilities, and eventually skills training and job creation services. Housing and health care for families with children will also be in demand (Gionet 59). The North having a younger generation can have positive effects. In general, the younger generation acquires superior education, and are able to obtain employment in the public sector and with corporations as well as the government. The Nunavut government employs more Inuit people than any other sector of the Nunavut economy (Bone 8). This will produce more government agencies for job creation and a more active role of the government to help the North with their difficulties.
The increase in the younger generation can have social implications regarding Aboriginal and Inuit customs and traditions. In a study conducted on Nunavut residents about areas of improvement, 81.2% indicated respect for Inuit values, and 76.5% for teaching of Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun (Henderson, “Cultural Renaissance…” 73). Many of the social and cultural norms have changed over the years, with the elderly Aboriginal people relying entirely on hunting, fishing, and trapping, and had no exposure to mainstream society when they were younger. They now currently watch television and surf the Internet along with their children, who have very little exposure to the critical economic foundations of the past that was the cultural focus of traditional society. Changes in economic activities also had weakening effects on other traditional preferences, values, and practices. Traditional patterns of authority, such as respect for elders, were challenged by new forces, and single-parent families were becoming common, whereas it was rare in traditional Inuit society (Bone 84).
Another example of lost traditions is the knowledge of food and cooking transmitted within households across generations. In a study about food insecurities among the Nunavut population, younger people are losing nutritious value in their meals due to not being taught how to prepare healthy meals, instead using store foods to cook unhealthy meals (Ford and Beaumier 49). The lack of funds to purchase store food as well as limited access to traditional food causes food insecurities. Daily contact by a household with extended family, as well as participation in traditional food-sharing networks, help households cope with shortages or limited access to store food. The findings of a food study in Clyde River, Nunavut support “the call for a more nuanced understanding of food security in Arctic communities, one that takes into account both the underlying social dynamics and the socioeconomic context of the food