North

8 teams split $2.6M Arctic Inspiration Prize for 2020

A Nunavut and Northwest Territories program for university and college-bound youth and a mental health program for Yukon firefighters came out on top.

Nunavut- and N.W.T.-based Northern Compass comes out on top

Members of Northern Compass, the 2020 winner of the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize, accept their award cheque at a ceremony in Ottawa on Wednesday night. (David Thurton/CBC)

A program that helps northern youth in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories succeed in university and college life has won the Arctic Inspiration Prize's top award — $1 million.

Northern Compass collected the big payout in Ottawa on Wednesday night. The Arctic Inspiration Prize is an annual award that provides funding for innovative projects in the north.

With the money in hand, one of the Northern Compass team leaders Karen Aglukark said she hopes the lasting legacy of the program will be to make college and university degrees an ordinary event for northerners. 

"I tell people that I am in university — everyone is very proud and excited, and it is a big deal, and it is exceptional and outstanding," Aglukark, a student at the University of Ottawa, said.

"I don't want that to be the case. I want it to be that any high school student in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories thinks, 'I can go become a doctor if I wanted to. It's normal.'"

Northern Compass aspires to help more youth in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories feel confident and supported as they transition from high school to post-secondary school.

Fellow Northern Compass team leader, Rebecca Bisson, said northern youth face a range of challenges when they leave smaller communities and move to big cities. Aside from homesickness, campuses and big cities sometimes overwhelm students who move from the North. Bisson remembers picking up a student from Yellowknife and dropping them off at Algonquin College in Ottawa. Northern Compass won this year's $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize. 0:56

Fellow team leader, Rebecca Bisson, said northern youth face a range of challenges when they leave smaller communities and move to big cities. Aside from homesickness, campuses and big cities sometimes overwhelm students who move from the North. Bisson remembers picking up a student from Yellowknife and dropping them off at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

"We arrived at a residence room, with no sheets on the bed, no towels and no food at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night," Bisson said. "And I thought, if this was me I would book my flight home, immediately."

Helping Yukon firefighters battle trauma

While Northern Compass doesn't serve youth in Yukon, the territory didn't leave Wednesday night empty-handed.

Yukon's Resilience Training and Healing Program received $410,000. Chad Thomas, team leader for the project, said the money would create preventative and healing programs among youth and wildland firefighters as they respond to hazardous incidents like wildfires, floods and search and rescue.

"That takes a toll on all of our firefighters," Thomas said. "They see traumatic events. So we need to be helping them along their path. We need to be giving them traditional healing methods, not just Western healing methods."

The Arctic Inspiration Prize bills itself as the largest annual prize for northerners, awarding up to $3 million. Typically, one organization wins $1 million, and then several other prizes up to $500,000 and $100,000 are doled out each year.

Here are 2020's other winners:

Laureate catergory winners

  • With the help of $450,00, the ᑲᒪᔩᑦ Kamajiit will tackle high school dropouts and suicide in Nunavut communities. 
  • Dehcho: River Journey's, which walked away with $370,000, will use elders, archival material to create a multimedia project that will showcase a century worth of changes along the Mackenzie River: from the Dehcho down to the Beaufort Delta.
  • The Nunavut Law Program won $140,000 to provide a "Nunavut-based legal education to Nunavummiut," a news release said.

Youth catergory winners

  • The Baffin Youth Outdoor Education teaches youth traditional activities and takes them on adventures on the land, including dog sledding.
  • Trades Tradition preserves and develops skills such as hunting, sewing, drum-making, and drumming within Pangnirtung, Nunavut.
  • The Yukon Youth Healthcare Summit aim is simple — get more Indigenous youth to post-secondary school and particularly to become nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals. 

About the Author

David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.