During the final days of the Students on Ice Antarctic expedition in January 2000, the student participants, who were primarily Canadian, put their heads together and began to reflect on their experiences.
The result was the Canadian Youth Statement on Antarctica. Then in July 2001, the statement was presented to decision makers at the Meeting of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The statement included recommendations for how Canada’s role in Antarctica should evolve. Ratifying the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was one of the recommendations.
By December 2002 Students on Ice had launched its third Antarctic expedition, during which Geoff Green and a small group of students from across Canada called the then Minister of Environment, David Anderson, via satellite phone from a glacier off the Antarctic Peninsula.
The students on the call were Stevie Amarualik from Nunavut, Alysia Garmulewicz from British Columbia, Hank Vincent from Manitoba, Vincent Archembault-Bouffard from Quebec, and Sonya Bell from Ontario.
Although the purpose of the call was to congratulate the Minister on ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, near the end of the call Sonya asked the Minister about protecting the Antarctic environment, and he responded enthusiastically.
On December 1, 2003, Canada ratified the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
“It was within a few months that it was actually ratified and it blew our minds,” says Sonya Bell, who is now a journalist who covers politics. “It was definitely a moment of ‘oh we can make a difference,’ and that was kind of a turning point for me knowing that being involved with politics would be a worthwhile pursuit.”