The Chinook Project began when a chance conversation between two old friends who met on southern Baffin Island revealed the significant need for veterinary care in many northern communities. Veterinary care is difficult and in many cases impossible to obtain in northern communities. Major centres like Iqaluit and Yellowknife have resident veterinarians, but other northern communities must fly their animals—at considerable, often prohibitive, cost— to these centres. The lack of veterinary service means that most northern communities are left to cope with canine overpopulation, disease, and parasites—from these problems stem a host of others: dog aggression, threats to humans, neglect, and abuse.
The Chinook Project was founded by Dr. Lisa Miller and Dr. Jane Magrath (both former faculty members at UPEI). A generous grant from the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre allowed us to pilot the Chinook Project in the summer of 2006, and further grants, donations, and in-kind support have allowed the Chinook Project to continue to serve one or two remote, northern communities each summer since then. Typically, the Project sees 60-70% of the community’s canine population; at the end of summer 2016 (11 years), the Chinook Project had treated over 1700 dogs in 11 different northern communities (19 clinics) .
Students who participate in the Chinook project not only gain valuable veterinary experience, but they also become stronger, more confident writers. While participants are in the North, they keep personal journals. In the year following their experience, they work to turn portions of these journals into publishable, creative non-fiction pieces. Although sometimes they don’t at first think so themselves, most of the Chinook students are competent and creative writers.