Tuktoyaktuk teens will show their climate change doc at UN conference

The teenagers made their own 20-minute documentary on the effects climate change is having on their community. Now they'll share it in Chile at the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

7 teens made 20-minute documentary, which will air in Chile in December at COP25

Eriel Lugt working on the documentary Happening to Us, over the summer. The documentary is 20 minutes long and will be shown at a UN convention this December in Chile. (Weronika Murray)

A group of seven teenagers from Tuktoyaktuk has been invited to show a documentary they made on climate change at a United Nations convention this winter.

In June, the teens took part in a workshop where they learned how to film, edit and produce their own documentary. 

"It's pretty awesome because we could show people how we've been through so much," said 17-year-old Carmen Kuptana.

"[We] see the changes happening around here by climate change, and how it's ruining our hunting routes and how less and less we're getting our natural foods."

The teenagers are now fundraising for a trip to Chile to attend the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) in December.

The students range in age from 13 to 19. They call their video production collective Tuk TV, which produced the 20-minute long documentary. The teens called their film Happening to Us.

"Because it is happening to us," said 17-year old Eriel Lugt.

Carmen Kuptana is one of seven teenagers who made the documentary in Tuktoyaktuk. (Mario Di Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

"It's our culture that's being affected most by climate change … and it's our land too that's getting eroded and that's where our ancestors hunted."

They worked on it for most of the summer, filming their community, interviewing people like elders and hunters about the impacts of climate change, as well as federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Natan Obed, when they visited the hamlet this summer.

How the film came to be

Maeva Gauthier, a University of Victoria student pursuing her PhD on engaging Arctic youth on global change, said the film came out of her research project.

She visited Tuktoyaktuk last summer and heard students' concerns about climate change. The community is seeing coastal erosion to the point that houses are at risk of slipping into the ocean and will have to be moved.

Gauthier said she applied for a grant that paid for film gear for the students, and to hire someone to lead the film workshop.

Because it is happening to us.​​​​​​- Eriel Lugt, teenager

She calls it "amazing" that the students will get to show their film on an international stage.

"They are very talented … it's almost nurturing what they know and pushing them to learn more."

Gauthier said the students aren't stopping at one film. They are already planning their next documentary on microplastics, which they hope to start filming in March.

The community is seeing coastal erosion to the point that houses are at risk of slipping into the ocean and will have to be moved. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Gauthier said she's shown Happening to Us to some of her students in the South, who didn't realize the urgency of climate change.

"When they see that movie, it's a way for them to see something authentic, raw and very personal view."

The Inuit Circumpolar Council invited the teens to the UN conference and will be hosting the screening.

So far the teens have raised about $7,000 of their $45,000 goal, so four of them can go to Chile. The summit will bring together governments, international organizations and the private sector to talk about solutions to climate change — from renewable energy to sustainable agriculture.

The teenagers say they are excited for an experience that they never thought they'd have.