In its fifth year, the Arctic Inspiration Prize has grown into a charitable trust and is taking steps to give more ownership to Northerners. 

Kevin Kablutsiak

'It’s really exciting, we’re going to be moving in a new direction,' says Kevin Kablutsiak. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)


"There's a real Northern ownership now," says new executive director Kevin Kablutsiak, originally from Nunavut's Arviat and former host of CBC's Qulliq.

"It's not just the south helping the North, it's really Northern people that are coming together to make this their own."

The prize, co-founded by Sima Sharifi and Arnold Witzig in 2012, was established to support Northern groups working towards a better Canadian Arctic. 

To date the prize has awarded $4.5 million to 11 different teams.

The organization is now appointing a new board of directors, made of people based in various Northern regions.

"It's really exciting, we're going to be moving in a new direction," says Kablutsiak.

'Life changing'

The new six-person board will include N.W.T.'s Candice Lys, the executive director of FOXY, an organization that works to educate young women across the North about sexual health.

"The Arctic Inspiration prize was life changing for both myself and the organization," says Lys.

FOXY Arctic Inspiration Prize

'The Arctic Inspiration prize was life changing for both myself and the organization that I founded,' says FOXY's Candice Lys. (submitted by AIP)

The prize allowed FOXY to achieve its dream of expanding their work and establishing SMASH — Strength, Masculinities and Sexual Health — a parallel sexual health program for young men, she says.

The funding helped the group talk to people across the North, organize think tanks and bring stakeholders together to develop the program collectively.

Now as a member of the board, Lys wants to help others realize their dream projects.

"I hope to see a lot of really innovative ideas — ideas that are really outside the box — and focus on what we need to do for our Northern communities," says Lys.

'Part of the North's identity'

To make that dream possible, Lys and Kablutsiak want to make their organization a household name.

"We want the Arctic Inspiration Prize to become a big part of the North's identity," says Kablutsiak.

students of Nunavut Sivuniksavut

The students of Nunavut Sivuniksavut will be once again performing at the Dec. 8 award ceremony in Winnipeg. (submitted by AIP)

The organization has made already tremendous strides, expanding its network of ambassadors and prize partners in the North, he adds. And as more people learn about the prize, more nominations are coming from the North.

Each year, between nine and 30 teams are nominated for the prize which includes a base award of $1 million. Kablutsiak says with contributions from Aboriginal organizations, industry and government, the total award this year will be larger than that.

The nomination deadline for the 2016 prize is Sept. 30. This year's award ceremony will take place in Winnipeg on Dec. 8.