Ten young people from Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon are in Ottawa this week to learn about federal policy development as part of the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship program.
The two-year leadership development program, which began in 2010, is aimed at Northerners between the ages of 25 and 35 and is funded by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Charitable Foundation.
"It strengthens leadership skills in the participants," said Clara Wingnek, from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. "There's not a lot of avenues for young people, such as myself."
For the next four days, the 10 young leaders will be able to discuss their goals for improving policies affecting Northern Canada.
On Thursday morning, the group kicked off the "jam-packed" trip with a tour of Parliament and a meeting with Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson and Senator Charlie Watt from Quebec, said Jessica Black, a fellow from Iqaluit.
"They recognized us in the Senate, which was a really surreal moment," Black said. "It's reassuring because it tells you that from their vantage point they see us as Jane Glassco fellows and we're trying to make an effort in making some real substantive policy changes in the North."
A chance to make a difference
The future Northern policy makers say they're excited at the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of the House of Commons, the Red Chamber and national aboriginal groups, but even more so, they are anticipating how the knowledge they gain may eventually help people back home.
"I think it's very essential that Northerners and Nunavummiut are part of the decision-making process around policies that will inevitably impact the communities in which they live," said Black, who is interested in justice issues.
In Nunavut, Wingnek says the decisions made by local groups and councils are far from the mind of average residents.
"It's not really a priority and it doesn't really occur that much in the community where I came, where politics is discussed," said Wingnek.
"Going home and initiating those discussions among young people would be one of the first steps."
How to make policies work
Angela Nuliayok Rudolph, from Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, says fellows have already gotten some important tips from their meetings with Patterson and Watt.
"They talked about how policies are enacted in the government," she said. "They really taught us the processes or the approaches we should take, so that the policy issues that we work on don't just sit on paper."
The 2015-2017 fellows come from across the North.
- Meagan Grabowski, Whitehorse
- Melaina Sheldon, Teslin
- Samantha Dawson, Whitehorse
- Catherine Blondin, Yellowknife
- Dawn Tremblay, Yellowknife
- Jordan Peterson, Inuvik
- Thomsen D'Hont, Yellowknife
- Angela Nuliayok Rudolph, Gjoa Haven
- Clara Wingnek, Cambridge Bay
- Jessica Black, Iqaluit
Tomorrow and over the weekend, the fellows will get the chance to ask questions of Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, and meet MPs on Parliament Hill.
They will also attend a session led by former prime minister Joe Clark and Tina Keeper, both board members at Canadians For a New Partnership, which aims to build partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous communities.