Thank you for inviting me and my colleagues to discuss our experience in Nunavut.
Bruce and Mikle can answer questions about our experience in N.W.T. Bruce is our managing editor, and Mikle Langenhan is our associate editor for Kivalliq News with two newspapers in Nunavut. They're joining us today from Yellowknife.
My name is Casey Lessard. I was recently made editor of the Nunavut News/North. Nunavut News/North celebrated its 70th anniversary last year. It first covered all the Norwest Territories, and now we do distinct papers for Nunavut, N.W.T., as well as the Yellowknifer and community newspapers in Kivalliq and several towns in N.W.T..
I don't need to tell you that the community newspaper industry is in transition. For the vanguards in our industry, print is already a legacy product, as you've heard from Bert Crowfoot. On the flip side, we had a similar experience to what Mr. Waddell is talking about. For the longtime players, there was an uncertainty about whether their businesses could survive outside of a business model they understood.
I see in many small towns in southern Canada that newspapers don't even have a website or a Facebook page. This uncertainty is happening because a lot of people love print. I do too. The businesses that support us want metrics. They want proof that their money is working today. For us in the north, our bread and butter was once government advertising, but the N.W.T. government was the first to move away from print advertising, and Nunavut's government followed last year. Both still do some advertising, but it's a huge loss compared to what we had even four or five years ago.
It's a risky proposition for us and for other community newspapers to make a transition to digital. There is far less money in the game for the small players, the ones without the big chains backing them up. Our chain has eight newspapers, serving more than 70,000 residents. In Nunavut we have about 37,000 people who are spread out over one-fifth of Canada's land mass. We're a medium-sized chain covering a big space for a small number of people.
We still believe we are the voice of the small communities, but Facebook and CBC can now make the same claim. It's not exactly a level playing field to compete with them, though, from a financial standpoint.
Our overhead is extremely high. It includes rent for small offices in two communities in Nunavut costing about $5,000 per month as well as staff housing exceeding $10,000 per month total. Flights are expensive. For me to come here to Ottawa cost $2,500. For me to go from Iqaluit to Yellowknife is $3,800. Travel within Nunavut is also very expensive. At the extreme, a round-trip flight from Iqaluit to Grise Fiord would cost $5,000.
We translate as much as we can into Inuktitut, and our sister newspaper, Kivalliq News in southwestern Nunavut, is fully translated each week by Mikle, who is on our teleconference. The federal government's assistance through the Canadian periodical fund helps us offset some of these costs, and we do appreciate it. There are many ways it could be improved to help in our transition to digital.
I know some of the people in this room have prestigious degrees. Nunavut is a territory where few people have the ability to leave their own communities, let alone dream of attending university. A massive proportion of Nunavut's Inuit population, whom we serve, is on social assistance. The territory has Canada's lowest high school graduation rate and the highest unemployment.
The population we're trying to reach is 85% Inuit. They struggle to afford Internet access, the same access that keeps them in contact with family and friends. You'll often see people gathering at the library for the community access program waiting for a computer to use the Internet. The Internet is extremely expensive and slow.
For the people on the street, we are a bargain at $1 a week. We are the place people turn to find a new job or read news about their friends and relatives in their language. I see our pages cut out and posted on walls at schools and hamlet offices whenever I travel throughout Nunavut. You can't put a metric on what that means to people.
There are ways our industry is surviving. Free newspapers, special editions, and sponsored content are a few of them. In the end, we need to find a way to make money digitally before we lose the capital that community newspapers have built as a trusted source of local content, as Mr. Waddell said. We need programs that help build the digital infrastructure to help us grow our digital audience and to help our industry's veterans continue to tell the communities' stories.
There's a lot of capital that could just go down the drain of the people who don't have the current skills. That's all I have to say, unless you have any questions.