‘True North Rising’ by Whit Fraser: book review

by Jim Moore

Local resident Jim Moore was Assistant Deputy Minister for Northern Affairs for six years. He later served as executive director of the Inuit Tapiirit Kanatami for a further six years.


I have not started and completed a book, whether it be fiction or an historical account, in two or three years. I’m not sure why — perhaps an inability to focus or maybe too much time on the iPad. This book — True North Rising — I completed cover to cover in less than three days.

Whit Fraser was a CBC Northern Service and the National reporter and journalist based primarily in the Arctic, including Iqaluit and Yellowknife beginning in 1967, Canada’s centennial year, and stretching through the next two decades. He was also the CBC anchor in Calgary for some years.

During that time he travelled throughout the vast reaches of the Arctic from east to west. He reported on the stories of interest to the population of the Arctic and southern Canada. Whit spent a good deal of his life in small aircraft, smokey tiny meeting rooms and hotel rooms or homes in virtually every small hamlet throughout the Arctic. He met, interviewed and often befriended many if not most Inuit and First Nations leaders and politicians of those times.

True North Rising chronicles how the author and the CBC established timely and effective news reporting broadcast throughout the Arctic and to the South by selecting the issues/events and personalities of importance to the peoples living in the Arctic and ensuring the stories were told in the many languages of the Arctic and of course English.

Without giving away too much of the story there is a fascinating chapter which tells the history of the Berger Inquiry and his 2-year cross-Arctic inquiry into the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. Whit spent that same two years travelling with and reporting on the Inquiry.

So why is it I could not put this book down for long? For starters, I was fortunate enough as a federal public servant to spend the better part of my career working with and for the First Nations and Inuit of Canada during the time when Whit Fraser was broadcasting in the Arctic. His stories are factual. His depiction of the Arctic leaders and characters he met as outstanding, insightful and astute individuals is remarkable, and echoed by others who had the privilege to meet them.

He captures the essence of the cultural, economic and political tumult of those years. He pays tribute to the progress made by the people’s of the Arctic but does not gloss over the problems and issues that plagued Inuit and FN communities in the Arctic, then and today.

Whit Fraser has offered us a sweeping history and story of the development of the Arctic.

He is a gifted storyteller. His style of writing captivates the reader. The book is a compelling read. Best of all it’s a love story — from a journalist who clearly loved and still loves every minute he spent and continues to devote to the Arctic and its peoples. I hope this book finds its way into your home and that of every library and school in Canada. It deserves that kind of attention and exposure.