Ulukhaktok/Holman – Kyran Alikamik knows first-hand the barriers of travelling in the North. That’s why the Grade 9 student from Helen Kalvak School in Ulukhaktok highlighted the issue during the Youth Parliament program in Yellowknife earlier this month.
“It affects constituents here very greatly,” Alikamik said. “It’s just a really big barrier.”
Alikamik was one of 19 Northwest Territories youth who were chosen to participate in this year’s Youth Parliament, which began on May 8.
After doing research to compare air fare prices, Alikamik said even he was surprised at what he found.
A return flight from Ulukhaktok to Yellowknife on First Air costs more than $3,700 while an Air Canada return flight from Edmonton, Alta. to Beijing, China can cost less than $1,000.
The high ticket price means people in the NWT’s northernmost communities are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to travelling, Alikamik said. Families in different communities wanting to visit simply can’t afford the travel costs.
“The main thing is visiting family members from other communities, and also travelling to other towns for sports such as basketball,” he said.
Alikamik recently faced the problem as a member of the school’s basketball team. The team wanted to participate in the The NWT Power Corp Junior Cager basketball tournament in Yellowknife in February.
“We had a team of seven. I didn’t get the actual cost, but I heard it did cost a lot,” Alikamik said.
“We were very lucky to be able to go there. I chose to speak about that because it not only affects me but many other people.”
Nicolas Kopot, teacher and basketball coach, agreed.
“We had to fundraise
a grotesque amount just to be able to put a small team together to send them to Yellowknife,” he said.
Kopot said Alikamik’s strong sense of justice – as well as his dedication to learning – were just two of the reasons he was chosen to represent the school during the Youth Parliament program.
“He’s extremely well spoken, he’s articulate and well-read,” Kopot said. “It’s amazing to see this kind of maturity and wisdom in a young man.”
As Youth Parliament members, each student acted as a representative for their constituency. In Alikamik’s case, he represented Nunakput, the constituency of MLA Herb Nakimayak.
They each spent three days preparing for the Youth Parliament Model Session, which took place on May 11.
Alikamik said he learned a lot about how the legislative assembly works, as well as how to create an effective argument.
“This experience was very fun and debating is also quite fun,” he said. “It’s very important.”
One of the most demanding aspects of debating is being able to respond without necessarily having the information readily available, Alikamik added.
“Speaking off your tongue instead of something being written is also difficult,” he said.
Now that he’s returned to Ulukhaktok, Alikamik said his advice for other students looking to participate in the Youth Parliament program is to do research on topics affecting their constituency well beforehand.
“If they were selected, I would advise them to be extra prepared and make sure you refine what you write all the time, if you don’t do that you’ll run into a lot of trouble,” he said. “You barely have time to refine your work. That’s the main thing I’d tell them.”