Arviat filmmaker receives Governor General award for volunteering

Ethan Tassiuk has volunteered with the Arviat Film Society since he was in Grade 9, and has brought attention and open discussion about issues like bullying and sexual health through film and television.

Ethan Tassiuk was nationally recognized for his work with the Arviat Film Soceity

Ethan Tassiuk is recognized for his volunteer work in Arviat with a Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers awarded by Governor General Mary Simon. (Governor General of Canada website)

A young film artist from Arviat, Nunavut arrived in Ottawa to receive a Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers from Governor General Mary Simon on Thursday.

Since he was in Grade 9, Ethan Tassiuk has used film and television to combat systemic social issues in Arviat. 

"We should be educating for all those who are curious about filming, about storytelling, about just engaging the communities for their health and safety," he said.

Tassiuk, 23, spoke with CBC News from the Iqaluit airport while on his way to Ottawa to accept his award. He said he was nervous, but excited to be recognized for his volunteer work.

The Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers recognizes outstanding volunteer work of Canadians across the country.

Tassiuk is active in the Arviat Film Society, where he's advocated for youth and helped open up discussions on issues like sexual health and bullying.

The film society is a student-driven non-profit, guided by educators and mentors in Arviat.

In his first videos, he spread an anti-bullying message, while speaking about his own experiences with bullying.

With the society he's made creative videos, told stories and worked with universities conducting research projects.

In 2014, he started interviewing people about sexual health in Nunavut.

Tassiuk said those projects are a way to get young people to talk about important issues in the community. 

In her remarks, Governor General Mary Simon said "volunteers are the backbone of communities across this country, providing support that may not otherwise exist."

"All of you being honoured today met challenges head-on, addressing the greatest needs in your communities by giving of your time and expertise. You have made a difference with your outstanding devotion, dedication and commitment," she said.

Simon said she was grateful to learn of the stories of volunteers like Tassiuk. 

"You have done good in your communities. You continue to do good. You shape our society through your actions and stories, helping others because it's the right thing to do."

Interviews by Amy Tucker, written by Avery Zingel