North·Profile

'A total surprise' says Yukoner Nicole Edwards of GG award

Nicole Edwards won the Governor General's Meritorious Service Medal for her work in developing youth services in Yukon.

Edwards awarded Meritorious Service Medal for serving Yukon youth

Gov. Gen. David Johnston presents the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) insignia of the Meritorious Service Decoration to Nicole Edwards in a ceremony on Dec, 8, 2016. (Sgt Johanie Maheu / Rideau Hall)

Nicole Edwards couldn't believe it when she found an email from the Chancellery of Honours in her inbox telling her she'd won a Governor General's award.

"I thought it was spam, or a hoax," she said. "I thought the Chancellery of Honours was looking for funding or something? I had no idea. But then I did some background and found it's the Governor General's office."

"It was total surprise," she said.  

Edwards won the Meritorious Service Medal for her work with the Bringing Youth Toward Equality (BYTE) organization in Yukon. It delivers programming specifically for Yukon youth, creating workshops on issues such as safe partying, combating isolation and healthy relationships.

Edwards started the organization in 1998 after finding there were few services for youth in the North at that time.

"There was a void, a real gap, and a real need for a youth voice," she said. "There was something for adults, something for children, but nothing for youth."

Edwards came north from her home in northern Ontario. She'd begun doing non-profit work there, but felt she could have a bigger effect in Yukon. She felt there was more room in the North to do innovative work.  

Looking back on those early days, Edwards remembers the young people themselves were the driving force behind the first Yukon Youth Conferences and BYTE.

"They weren't clients. We weren't providing services. The youth were volunteers, making their own decisions," Edwards said. "It's amazing when given responsibility and a true voice how young people can rise to the occasion."  

This is one of eight northerners who received awards from the Governor General this month. CBC North will tell the story of each person and the work they've done for their community and territory.

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