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Youth leader wants Inuit on Prime Minister's Youth Council

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweets he will work with National Inuit Youth Council to ensure Indigenous youth in remote communities - with limited internet speeds - have the opportunity to participate.

But online meetings a barrier to Inuit youth, says National Inuit Youth Council president Maatalii Okalik

Maatalii Okalik, president of the National Inuit Youth Council, says holding meetings of the Prime Minister's Youth Council by online conference will unfairly penalize Inuit youth you live in areas with poor internet access. (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami)

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed details of the new Prime Minister's Youth Council yesterday, he used a medium most youth are familiar with — a Q&A on Twitter, with short videos. 

But for Maatalii Okalik, president of the National Inuit Youth Council, the approach highlights a flaw in the prime minister's plan.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter Tuesday to announce details of the new Prime Minister's Youth Council. (Twitter)

"With our bandwidth and limited resources across Inuit Nunangat, I don't think that Inuit have the same opportunity as other youth Canadians to participate in this process," said Okalik. 

Starting this Friday, youth between the ages of 16 and 24 will be able to apply —  online — for the Prime Minister's Youth Council. 

The group will advise Trudeau, who is also the youth minister, on employment, education and other issues important to young Canadians. 

The new council will meet several times a year, but only some meetings will be held in person. 

"Those meetings that aren't in person will require video conferencing technology," said Okalik, a virtual impossibility for many young people in Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Inuvialuit region.

Prime minister responds to internet concerns

Trudeau answered Okalik's concern on Twitter, by saying "we'll be working with organizations like yours, Maatalii, to make sure we connect with everyone."

Now, Okalik means to ensure that isn't an idle promise. 

She says she has been in contact with staff from the prime minister's youth secretariat, who have lined up a meeting for next week. 

"There are so many Inuit youth across Canada who have lived experiences, who contribute to their respective communities in a very meaningful way and who deserve a place at that table," said Okalik. 

Despite her reservations, Okalik says the youth council is an important step in fulfilling Trudeau's promise of nation-to-nation relations with Indigenous people in Canada. 

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