Guest author Justine Aman (ArtSci’18) writes about her experience with Global Vision’s Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus in Iqaluit. Her trip was sponsored in part by the Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund.
With exams looming and the end of the semester imminent, it is with a grateful and slightly stressed out heart that I am writing about an incredible experience I had the opportunity to partake in. For a week this past March, I took part in Global Vision’s Arctic Youth Ambassador Caucus in Iqaluit, Nunavut, a mission which brings together 50 Canadian youth leaders (25 from the North and 25 from Southern Canada). Global Vision (GV) is a national not-for-profit charitable organization, founded in 1991 by former Member of Parliament, Terry Clifford. GV has organized this Caucus every year since 2010 with the purpose of fostering a dialogue on the unique issues faced by Canada’s North. The roundtable topics this year included food security, health care, environment, poverty, and education.
Even though temperatures averaged -50 C, the passion and intelligence of the youth leaders was enough to warm your soul (even if your ears remained frozen). Conversations were engaging and insightful, with members of Nunavut’s government as well as Elders and community leaders all participating with the goal of furthering awareness, sharing experiences, and promoting knowledge. Eight-five per cent of Nunavut’s population is Indigenous and many of the most northern points of Canada have a majority Indigenous population. Because of these demographics, the Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants in the Caucus emphasized the importance of culturally appropriate solutions. The open and supportive environment allowed for constant dialogue and exchange of ideas. At the same time, we made connections and developed friendships with some of the most incredible people, who, without this program, would have remained strangers.
Although the Caucus had clear overall goals, GV encouraged its ambassadors to identify individual areas of interest, allowing for a personalized experience with relevant take-aways. For me, as a third-year sociology student, I integrated my interest of population health and health-care quality to expand my knowledge of these topics within the context of Northern Canada. It was a first-hand look at Canada’s North and the role that social and physical determinants play in determining the health of Canada’s most northern populations. While there, I took the opportunity to observe and educate myself about some of the barriers and enablers impacting the addressment of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Indigenous peoples. I drew upon these observations to supplement a final project, in which I created a health-care intervention program that addressed these factors through the collaboration of Western medical techniques and traditional Indigenous medicine.
As you can imagine, a program that can break down geographical barriers within our own country to create cross-Canada dialogue costs a lot more than your average exam snack haul. I have been, and continue to be, absolutely blown away by the generosity of individuals, various community groups, and Queen’s University that made this dream a reality. Departmental support and the Principal’s Student Initiatives Fund are just a few of the many ways that Queen’s supports its students and, without which, I would have been unable to participate in this program. I have brought back the knowledge and experience I gained during my time in Nunavut and have prepared presentations for various community groups – all to keep the conversation going. I cannot wait to see where the future takes me and how I can continue to use this experience to strengthen North-South dialogue and to encourage youth to become community leaders.
Justine Aman (Artsci’18)