In late November of last year, the Law Society of Nunavut (LSN), in partnership with the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), ran a pilot program for a capacity-development initiative aimed at Inuit youth in the community of Hall Beach.
Over three days, students from middle school to high school grappled with challenging ideas about citizenship and the legal system as a whole. While the programming varied between the age groups, each had a chance to ask tough questions about what they expected of their representatives at each level of government and what their own responsibilities were to ensure the future shape of society reflected their vision.
The end product of the exercise was a sizable number of letters directed at the Prime Minister’s Office, the territorial legislature in Iqaluit, the local mayor and even the Governor General. The three attached samples indicate a range of concerns with the local community, specifically on the availability of quality facilities for youth. As is a concern across the North, a large youth bulge has not been met with commensurate investment in facilities and upgrades to ensure safe and productive activities are available to all. The lack of such programs has been noted as factor in a range of issues stemming from youth disengagement with civic and community life. The much heralded launch of the new recreational facility and pool in the territorial capital, Iqaluit, is a positive step in the right direction, but it does not address systemic issues in smaller communities that have not seen adequate support.
Both administrators and teachers were impressed with how the short program was able to evoke some strong reactions in students. As opposed to prior generations, digital media has made youth very knowledgeable of amenities that other Canadian children enjoy. It was encouraging that even young students were able to identify and discuss this disparity without resentment, but rather with a mature sense that resource allocation is a matter of political decision-making and that is something that citizens can influence. This is the motivation of the many letters that were sent out from the program and the few examples you see attached below. The excitement at the prospect of the Prime Minister himself seeing their urgent requests for an improved Youth Center in their small community was palpable. Even a cursory acknowledgement of their concerns calling out loudly from their isolated Arctic alcove would do wonders to bolster these young voices as they seek to find a way to shape the future of their communities.
Adil Ali Khan, Law Society of Nunavut