Arctic Inspiration prize awards $2.6M for innovative programs

The Arctic Inspiration prize ceremony was held Wednesday night in Ottawa.

Since 2012, the organization has been handing out cash awards for innovative programs that help find solutions to the challenges of living in the north.

Former Nunatsiavut president Sarah Leo was on the prize selection committee.

“We look at something that’s sustainable, we look at something that’s innovative we look at somethings that’s for northerners by northerners that will have an effect on northerners,” said Leo.

In total Arctic Inspiration handed on $2.6 million in prize money.

The winners of the million dollar top prize was Northern Compass which was born out of the Northern Youth Abroad program.

The organization supports students transitioning to post-secondary institutions in the south.

“When you got through stories of individual northern youth their experiences going through college or university, you’ll know there’s a need,” said Karen Aglukark who is with Northern Compass. “I’ve gone through university and I have to say without a doubt, the supports that I got through northern youth abroad, I’m almost certain that I wouldn’t have made it through.

“I was very lucky and knowing that I know that every other youth should have access to some kind of support in that way.”

The Resilience Training and Healing program was named runner up and awarded $410,000.

It supports the training of young wildland firefighters in the Yukon.

The team also received a surprise donation of $600,000 by the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Melanie Jolie.

Team leader Chad Thomas recently returned from Australia where he studied Indigenous firefighting techniques.

He said the money will help them become the best Indigenous firefighters in the world.

“When you really think about it we need to be bringing that traditional knowledge into that equation. First Nations need a seat at the table while government agencies are coming up with decisions on what to do to protect the forests and that’s not happening,” he said. “And I bet you if you had more First Nations at the table there’d be some smarter decisions being made.”

Inuk singer Susan Aglukark was also in the winner’s circle.

She’s part of the Kamajit Program and was awarded $450,000 for its initiative dedicated to helping high school students.

“So were going to create partnerships with high schools so that grade 12 students can spend the morning, come in we’re going to feed you breakfast, you’re going to have access to washing machines and dryers, we’re going to collect clothing so that you have access to clean clothing,” she said.

“Access to showers so you can wash everyday. Your going to get lunch and then your going to go to school to finish grade 12 in the afternoon.”

In all there were eight winners.

Reporter / Ottawa

Originally from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi on the eastern coast of James Bay, Quebec, Jamie has lived in Ottawa since 2015. Trained in journalism at Carleton University, he has worked as a freelance print journalist and as a writer/researcher for the Cree unit of CBC North out of Montreal. Jamie was hired as the reporter/correspondent for the Ottawa bureau in October 2019.