Young Inuit from communities across Canada spent a week this month discussing issues of importance to them at a summit in Nain, Nunatsiavut.
The summit had several goals: give an opportunity for Inuit youth to gather and talk openly, learn leadership skills, build cultural connections and develop priorities for the National Inuit Youth Council.
Arviat’s Ruth Kaviok, 19, who leads the council, said each of the topics discussed at the summit – from suicide prevention to education and culture – were of equal importance.
Kaviok recently graduated from John Arnalukjuak High School. She was elected as president of the council earlier this summer.
“It was a really good experience,” she said of the summit.
“I’d strongly encourage any youth who are interested to attend in the future.”
More than 100 youth took part in the summit, which entered its 11th year this summer. The summit included five days of speakers, activities and entertainment.
As the summit opened, participants were welcomed by an uplifting message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“You’re not the leaders of tomorrow – you’re the leaders of today. You’re already making a difference in the lives of the people around you,” Trudeau said via video.
“You have immense power to make positive change and I have no doubt that each of you will find your own unique way to do it.”
Youth who attended the summit came from the four Inuit regions overseen by the council: Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.
Kaviok said she has found her confidence growing since joining the council and the summit was a way for her to voice her own thoughts and concerns.
“It really helps you to give voice to how you feel,” she said.
Kaviok says the summit was also important because it gave her a chance to listen to the concerns and desires of her peers.
“Being involved with the National Inuit Youth Council has helped me,” she said, “because I’ve been able to learn more about what youth want.”
Following the summit, Kaviok said the council will be developing a strategic plan based on what they heard from youth over the course of the week.
Although there isn’t a clear timeline for that plan yet, Kaviok said she expects it to be released soon.
The National Inuit Youth Summit ran from July 31 to Aug. 4.