Guest Post: Canada’s northern youth tighten their grip on the Arctic

By Dakota Erutse

In northern affairs there is no end to relationship among the young people.  Their concern for the northern homeland is genuine and warm to the touch. Their determination is precise in its delivery.  These impressions were made clear at a policy engagement workshop in Whitehorse on February 27, 2018. Global Affairs Canada coordinated a discussion among twelve youth on the international component of the Arctic Policy Framework.  These young people reflected a great deal of the northern community: the Carcross/Tagish, the Nacho Nyuk Dun, the Gwich’in, the Dene, the Inuit, and the non-Indigenous. Some of them were made to feel self-conscious by the meeting’s logistical setup.  The round-table was surrounded by rows of government officials from various federal departments, shouldering an innocent-but-heavy presence over the room. Not a far departure from the old state tactic in native affairs: overwhelm, then engage to the defeat of efficacy.  In spite of the high pressure and expectation, the youth voice turned out strong at the end of the day.

On the matter of policy, it seems that any northern youth would be reluctant to shake hands like a diplomat.  The challenge throughout the day was to expand the scope of concern from the domestic to the international. That is a difficult undertaking when there is global peace in the Arctic.  No questions on Russia, nor on the United States. It became too easy to see the proposed outcomes of the international component of the policy framework through the lens of northern Canada.

The youth expressed broad concern for climate change.  They desired better and more positive outcomes in the social and cultural dimensions of northern society.  The push to protect the environment was bolstered by a demand for more renewable and sustainable development across the Arctic landscape.  This was made all the more intriguing by a general statement of principle around the table: there is no opposition to traditional forms of resource development, provided that it is met with strong regulations and an equal effort to conserve the Arctic’s biodiversity.

The willingness to be bold in vision is not lost on northern youth.  They talked extensively on Arctic science and Indigenous knowledge. The value of Indigenous knowledge having been established, the group pressed for respect within the scientific community for Indigenous ways of knowing.  It comes under the recognition that our society values research, and the contributions of Indigenous people are borne naturally out of the very land being studied. The feeling that more could be done was felt strongly.

There came a demand for a university in Canada’s north.  Such an institution would bring obvious educational benefits to northern people, including long-term improved social outcomes.  The message was clear: young people from Canada’s north are returning home from southern institutions, and they are willing to ensure that the children are learning on the good intent of the society they were born into.

A new kind of Indigenous leader is emerging in the north.  She is a leader who is tough and hard, but all the more generous in her forbearance.  She has indulged in the educational riches of a university, and she is eager to understand the culture and history of her people.  She is able to connect with her fellow youth and build their activism. This is a leader who will assert herself as a vital force in Arctic affairs because her vision is for a stronger, more resilient society in Canada’s north.  This round-table made that clear.

Dakota is an alum of the 2009 Antarctic Expedition, from Fort Good hope, NWT, and is currently studying in Vancouver.


Additional information on the Arctic Policy Framework workshop
The Government of Canada and its Indigenous, territorial, and provincial partners are working together to co-develop a New Arctic Policy Framework.  This framework will provide overarching direction to the Government of Canada’s priorities, activities and investments in the Arctic until 2030. Once completed, it will apply to the territorial North, Inuit Nunangat, the Nunatsiavut region in Labrador, northern Quebec, including the territory of Nunavik, and northern Manitoba, including Churchill. 
Outside the formal co-development process, the Government of Canada has commissioned the delivery of a series of roundtable stakeholder discussions. The objective of these sessions is to gain insight into the interests, priorities and desired outcomes of partners and to identify possible areas for joint action to achieve shared goals. Information gathered during the sessions will be considered, along with information gathered at northern / regional multi-stakeholder roundtables, and through direct consultations with Indigenous governments and representatives (occurring), as the Government drafts the new Framework.
The roundtables are organized and delivered by Stratos Inc. on behalf of the Arctic Policy Framework Secretariat. 


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