Young, passionate and well-spoken, students from across the territory took their seats at the legislative assembly on Thursday, May 11 for a Youth Parliament session.
Thursday was the culmination of a week of drafting and discussing motions, meeting with MLAs and getting a firsthand look at the democratic process. Nineteen youth in grades nine and 10, each representing one region of the territory, took part in the 15th annual Youth Parliament.
For many of them, the issues they advocated for hit close to home. Angus James Capot-Blanc from Fort Liard, representing Nahendeh, gave an impassioned speech on the mental health crisis in his community.
“It is spreading fast and it’s affecting mainly the youth in the communities, which is pretty sad because that’s our next generation,” he said during a break in Thursday’s session.
Myha Martin, a resident of Inuvik representing Inuvik Twin Lakes, described how elders are suffering from cultural loss and addictions, something she wants to solve by creating more work and travel opportunities throughout the region.
The effects of travel costs for remote communities was a huge concern for many of the youth, including Kyran Alikamik from Ulukhaktok. “I just think it’s very unreasonable,” he said of the $4,000 cost of airfare from his community to the territory’s capital. Another danger Alikamik warned about is drug trafficking and consumption, in particular substances laced with fentanyl .
For Alikmak, the experience of territorial politics weighed heavily on him. “I’m experiencing it right now and I’m sitting on the chairs and I feel like there’s a lot of pressure. I can make a decision but that can also influence others decisions, right?” he said. “Me making decisions for a quite large population is too much pressure for me, a little too much.”
While Alikmak said Youth Parliament has made him realize politics is not for him, others plan to continue after this experience. Capot-Blanc said politics is one of his passions, along with playing music, singing and repairing things.