David Simailak Hired as Project Director for the Inukshuk Project

Event Date: Friday, November 3, 1978

David Simailak hired as the Project Director for the Anik-B Inukshuk Project. He would be in charge of a 3 year, 1.9 million dollar, project designed to improve northern television service and lay the groundwork for an Inuit communications system.

Regional Co-ordinators were hired from each Inuit region except Northern Quebec who had their own project (the Naaklavik II), with a staff training program scheduled to be carried out in Frobisher Bay.
Prior to this project Simailak had set up Baker Lake’s community radio station, one of the first in the north.
Television was first introduced to the north through CBC’s frontier coverage package, which allowed the delivery of southern videotaped programming to twenty-one northern communities. There was no northern content: CBC’s priority at that time was to extend its southern coverage area into the north, not to develop a northern-based service for northerners.
It is difficult to gauge the impact that the sudden introduction of southern broadcast services had on language, culture and day-to-day life in the traditional settlements of the Arctic. Some communities, such as Igloolik, initially voted to refuse television through a series of hamlet plebiscites, fearing irreversible damage to their lifestyle. Many national and regional Aboriginal organizations voiced the same fear, and insisted that native people had the right to define and contribute to any broadcast service distributed in their homelands.
The newly formed Inuit Tapirisat of Canada was determined that Inuit would not become just a new market for existing southern services in English and French: they insisted that communities should be permitted to define their own communications environment, and that Inuit should be able to contribute to the Canadian broadcasting system in a significant way. One of ITC’s first major policy statements called on the federal government to ensure Inuit control over the expansion of radio-telephone, community radio, videotape, and newspaper services into the Arctic.
In 1978, the federal Department of Communications (DOC) launched a program to test satellite applications, using the newly launched Anik B satellite. One area of particular interest to the government was the potential application of satellite technology to enable production and distribution of programming in the Arctic. The Inuit Tapirisat of Canada recognized an opportunity, and launched the Inukshuk Project.
Inukshuk linked six communities: Iqaluit, Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Baker Lake, Arviat, and Cambridge Bay. By today’s standards this proto-network was primitive: video and audio signals were broadcast by satellite from Iqaluit, and received locally in the remaining five communities. Sound was fed back from the communities to the studio in Iqaluit by phone line. Viewers were thus able to see what was happening in the Iqaluit studio, and hear audio from the other participating communities.
As the Inukshuk Project took shape, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) responded to northern and Aboriginal concerns by appointing Rheal Terrien to head up a committee mandated to investigate the extension of broadcasting services to northern and remote communities. After hundreds of interviews and community consultations, the Therrien Committee recommended in 1980 that that satellites be used to relay Canadian television programming to the north, and that “…urgent measures be taken to enable northern native people to use broadcasting to support their languages and cultures.”
The release of the Therrien report coincided with the scheduled conclusion of the Inukshuk project. It had been a success by any conceivable yardstick. Community interest and viewership had been high, many Inuit had been trained in basic television production, and the project had proven that a northern television network was technically and administratively feasible. Based on the project’s success, and armed with the recommendations of the Therrien report, ITC won a three-year project extension for Inukshuk, and began to plan a longer-term broadcast solution for the north.
In 1981 the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) was incorporated, and licensed by the CRTC to produce and distribute Inuktitut-language television programming.