Duncan McCrostie is a second year UAlberta Political Science Major. He recently returned from attending the Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus conference in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
As a post-secondary student I believe it is very important to always be looking for learning opportunities outside of the classroom. One organization I have been involved with for almost a year now is Global Vision. It is a non-profit organization based out of Ottawa that aims to give Canadian youth opportunities to grow their leadership and entrepreneurial skills through conferences and missions in Canada and abroad. This October, they planned a mission to Iqaluit, NU from October 28 to November 1. I was fortunate enough to have been selected to attend their Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus (AYAC).
At AYAC, 30 students gathered from various provinces, along with 15 students from the territory of Nunavut. We spent four days in Iqaluit listening to various keynote speakers, doing different cultural activities, and competing in group challenges. We spent time discussing among the youth, as well as with community leaders, the different issues that the North faces today, such as education, food security and environmental changes. During my four days in Iqaluit, I spoke with a number of leaders from their community, including NU MLA Keith Peterson (a University of Alberta alumnus) whom I met while at the NU Legislative Assembly.
Having an opportunity to be in Canada’s North allowed me to make a personal connection not only with the people and land but also with the issues. Walking through the town of Iqaluit gives one a first-hand experience of the extreme lifestyle people face every day. The city of Nunavut is not very large, with a population of around 7000. It is on the southern tip of Baffin Island and at the head of Frobisher Bay (which connects to the Arctic Ocean). You can walk from the shore to downtown in around 10 minutes. Going into their only chain general store, NorthMart, and seeing a two-litre orange juice for $28, puts food security right in front of you. Meeting Inuit youth from across Baffin Island in their territory was a unique experience as well. Although Nunavut accounts for almost 20% of Canada’s landmass, few people have actually experienced the territory. I can now say I have experienced a part of Canada’s North and tried to contribute to the many issues facing the people of Nunavut during my short time there during the Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus. This was a unique opportunity that was not only educational but also exposed me to a distinctly Canadian culture.
Interacting with students from across Canada during the conference was an invaluable experience. Coming from Western Canada, you realize that there are many differences between peers that are from Nunavut, Quebec, the GTA or the Maritimes. However, these differences are good — they expose you to the many perspectives of Canadians. Most insightful was hearing Inuit student’s perspectives on these issues and hearing them contribute to the dialogue; especially considering English is their second language. Being able to create relationships with students from across Canada is a very special experience.
I was very fortunate in that I was able to raise most of my conference costs from different grants found here at the University. I would like to thank Dr. Allen Ball and the Arts Faculty for the Student Life and Learning Enrichment Fund. I would also like to thank Dr. Roger Epp and the individuals at the Canadian Circumpolar Institute for the Northern Research and Travel Grant. Finally, I would like to thank Political Science Chair Dr. Lois Harder and the faculty for their assistance as well. There is funding out there, but you need to look for it!