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A bridge to the North

by Gregory Todaro November 10, 2015
A bridge to the North

Concordia student part of 2015 Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus

Concordia anthropology student Andrew Fitzsimmons left Ottawa on Oct. 29 for a five-day trip along with 30 other members of the 2015 Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus.

Fourth-year anthropology student Andrew Fitzsimmons. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Fourth-year anthropology student Andrew Fitzsimmons. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

“Early in the morning, we got up, grabbed our bags, and flew up to Iqaluit,” he said.

The caucus was organized by the Canadian non-profit organization Global Vision. Fitzsimmons and other ambassadors from Southern parts of the country met with leaders and youth ambassadors from the North to discuss problems the North is facing such as food security and climate change and come up with potential solutions for those issues. This caucus also hoped to bridge the gap between the two communities.

After landing in the capital of Nunavut, the caucus met with the territory’s legislative assembly.

“They were in session,” said Fitzsimmons. “We were actually recognized by the assembly, as well as the education minister [Paul Quassa] … and the Premier [Peter Taptuna].”

From there, the group went to Inuksuk High School to visit with government leaders on food security.

“One of the typical issues you hear often about in the North is food prices,” Fitzsimmons said. Other than increasing the subsidization of food, one potential solution could be to find a way to increase traditional hunting practices.

“More and more youth live a life just like ours,” he said. “It’s hard to schedule hunting with things like school when you have a five-day-a-week school schedule.”

“Hunting is also very expensive,” Fitzsimmons added. “There’s costs of traveling … bullets, time to practice, and then you need to know how to process the food.”

The group also discussed the possibility of creating a “family partnership” where a family in the South would send food up to a family in the North in exchange for traditional knowledge, stories and any goods they wished to send.

Later during the trip, the caucus met with the territory’s education minister, Paul Quassa. Fitzsimmons said Nunavut is currently considering building a university. Canada is currently the only northern country without a university in the arctic, Fitzsimmons said. He also said the territory is still working on improving its education program.

“They’re using the Alberta curriculum in Nunavut right now,” he said. “They have some mandatory, Nunavut-only requirements … but one of the goals maybe one day would be to have their own curriculum.”

Fitzsimmons also said other education issues include high school graduates’ lack of college preparedness and the territory’s relatively low graduation rate.

During their time in Nunavut, Fitzsimmons and the Southern ambassadors also spoke to their Northern counterparts about issues like the territory’s suicide crisis and issues exacerbated from climate change.

Fitzsimmons, who is in his fourth year studying anthropology, said this experience and his time as a co-op intern for Parks Canada has inspired him to continue learning and working with Canada’s North.

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