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Ambassadors address Arctic issues

Two Queen’s University students are hoping to make an impact on the Arctic as they attend the first ever Arctic Council Youth Ambassador Summit taking place in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Kristine O’Rielly (MASc) and Erinn Drage (Artsci’17) are two of only 60 young adults across Canada chosen to take part in the summit.

Hosted by Global Vision from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, the summit will see ambassadors from the southern part of Canada and youth from the north meet to discuss Arctic resource development, sustainable circumpolar communities and Arctic shipping.

Erinn Drage (l) and Kristine O'Rielly are joining 60 Canadian students in Iqaluit.

“Two summers ago I spent time in the Arctic as part of the Students on Ice program,” explains Ms. O’Rielly. “Spending time there, I really became passionate about the polar region. Sustainability is a big issue in the Arctic and this summit will give me an opportunity to talk about solutions and policy with other students across Canada.”

The summit provides students a chance to learn more about the challenges in the North and discuss issues facing students living in Northern communities with their peers.

“I have been to Nunavik (Arctic Quebec) – I taught health to high school students,” says Ms. Drage. “I want to attend the summit and focus on social issues in the north, of which health issues are a big part. As an environmental scientist, environmental issues are important to me too and I want to apply what I’ve been learning in class at this summit.”

Recommendations from the summit will be presented to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister for the Arctic Council, and other senior government officials. This gives both Ms. O’Rielly and Ms. Drage extra motivation.

“We are the future of this country,” says Ms. Drage. “The impact of our current practices on the environment will be seen more in our generation than any other. We need to make changes, we need to protect our future.”

“The Arctic is the fastest changing environment in the world and we need to protect that,” says Ms. O’Rielly. “Companies are going to have to listen to the First Nation point of view and we can provide ideas for policies to make that happen. The Arctic is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting the world for future generations.”