Arctic Youth Research Team meets at ArcticNet
By Felix Charron-Leclerc
Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative
Last May, a group of organizations named the Canada-Inuit Nunangat-UK (CINUK) Arctic Research Program announced the 13 successful projects funded under the in support of key themes related to climate change in terrestrial, coastal and near-coastal marine areas in Inuit Nunangat, as well as impacts on Inuit and community health and well-being.
The group is the result of a partnership between Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI), Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Parks Canada (PARKS) and the Quebec Research Fund (FRQ).
One of the research projects chosen by the group, “Carving out Climate Testimony: Inuit Youth, Wellness & Environmental Stewardship,” investigates innovative forms of adaptation essential to maintaining livelihoods and cultural continuity. The project explores how changes in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems (sea ice and coastal processes, freshwater, snow, permafrost thaw and marine ecosystem changes) impact mental health and welfare.
“Climate change is having a disproportionate impact on the Canadian Arctic, with temperatures rising twice as fast as elsewhere in the world,” the project’s preamble states. “This impact has caused warming of the oceans, a rapid decrease in the extent and duration of sea ice, and widespread thawing of permafrost. As noted by academics and health practitioners, these ecological changes have a direct impact on the mental health and well-being of Inuit communities.In this context, our project is particularly aimed at young Inuit (18-24 years old).
At the Conference of the Parties (COP26) in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, Brian Pottle, Chair of the National Inuit Youth Council, highlighted the need to understand the “increasing mental health risks” faced by young people due to the climate change.
The research project tries to solve this problem by using traditional Inuit teaching methods while involving the young people themselves to participate in the research, but also to be part of the solution.
“Through the use of Inuit storytelling methodologies, our project is elevating youth and local voices to identify impacts as well as solutions to address dramatic climate change in Canada’s North,” he said. “Furthermore, our project has designed new critical spaces and established the necessary collaborations for young people to disseminate this knowledge to policy makers, academics and the general public.
“Our project takes a phased approach that empowers Inuit youth from diverse regions. In the first stage, we are focusing on Tuktoyaktuk, piloting our approach alongside young leaders and with the support of Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation (TCC). In the second stage, our team will engage youth in the three other regions of Inuit Nunangat where our team has existing connections: Kuujuaq, Makkovik and Kangilliniq.
The research team, led by Dr. Jen Bagelman and Dr. Karla Jessen Williamson, is meeting with other research project groups at the ArcticNet conference in Toronto December 5-9 to share their findings and discuss possible solutions for arctic regions.
Dr. Ingrid A Medby is participating in the research project and is looking forward to visiting the ArcticNet conference again, after her previous participation in 2014.
“It brings together in one place a range of people who really care about the Arctic region – people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to chat in person very often,” she said. . “As such, it is an important place to share views, experiences and knowledge for attendees – and to get to know others who also share common interests.”
Félix Charron-Leclerc is a Reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative with NUNAVUT NEWS. The LJI program is funded by the federal government.
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