Okalik: You’re never too young to help your people

Premier Paul Okalik told Baffin youth this week that no one is too young to help Inuit — as long as they’re willing to persevere.



POND INLET — You’re never too young to help your people.

That’s the message that Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik delivered on the second day of the Baffin Regional Youth Council’s annual general meeting in Pond Inlet this week.

Okalik did not promise new government funding during his visit with the youth delegates.

Instead he offered his own story, a story of a young Inuk who persevered and went to work for Inuit.

Okalik described his decision to attend university, then law school, and the challenges he faced as an Inuk student.

“There was no other Inuk. There was no one I could look up to as an example, I had to use myself as an example,” he said.

Okalik told delegates he later turned down the southern jobs he could have had to return to the North and work with Inuit.

“I could have moved anywhere, but I stuck to my dream of helping my people. I returned to Iqaluit.”

He then gave up on his fledgling law career to run for a seat in the Nunavut legislative assembly, where he says, he can help all Inuit — not just those who can afford to hire him as a lawyer.

“I have been told time and time again, I’m too young. I want those people who say I’m too young… I want them to see what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve helped my people,” said Okalik, stressing that any Inuk can do the same.

“Even though you’re young, your ability to help people is what will help you succeed. Don’t let anyone say you’re too young.” Okalik said.

But Okalik urged the youth delegates to further their education.

He said the government would like to hire Inuit from the communities, but it can’t hire those who don’t have a proper education. Okalik said he and his cabinet are working to make education more accessible to Nunavummiut.

Delegates applauded as Priscilla Allurut, the youth representative for Arctic Bay, said Okalik isn’t too young to represent Nunavut and shows youth it’s “not impossible to go anywhere.”

Okalik was one of three Nunavut ministers scheduled to speak at this year’s Baffin youth AGM. Culture Minister Donald Havioyak and Education Minister James Arvaluk also made the trip to Pond Inlet.

During the AGM, youth delegates from communities across the Baffin region set out their goals for the coming year, exchanged information and elected members to their executive.

The week-long meeting gives youth good information, one delegate said.

“It’s important to have a meeting, because we have to know what’s going on and what the other communities are doing, said Lucy Mary Qavvik, a youth representative from Sanikiluaq.

William Amagoalik, a member-at-large from the High Arctic said he wants delegates to leave with a better understanding of what’s going on.

“What I would like to see is to have every youth delegate have more information on the youth of Baffin Island and what’s going on — and to get the youth to speak out,” Amagoalik said.

Delegates also draft a working paper to direct the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s youth department on projects for the year and held workshops on issues such as suicide prevention and youth employment.

This year’s draft working paper included plans for a Nunavut Youth Day, continuation of the Nunavut Youth Abroad program, an AIDS awareness program, a peer counselling program, and a Qikiqtaaluk Youth Wilderness School.

Delegates can fine-tune or overhaul the proposed working paper at the AGM.

Delegates were also scheduled to elect a new president and vice-president to the council’s executive.

This year’s AGM marked the first time that representatives of the territorial government sat at the table for the entire meeting.

Two representatives from CLEY sat, but did not vote, during the proceedings. BRYC vice-chair Roger Alivaktuk said their presence should make a difference.

“It will be one step forward. Instead of us always having to talk to government of how the meeting went, it’s better that they are sitting with us throughout the whole meeting,” Alivaktuk said.

Havioyak said the results of the AGM will help guide his department as it develops policy.

“Because of this new department, we’re starting from scratch. We want to address their needs by listening to them at the beginning of drafting of policies,” Havioyak said.

During his presentation, Havioyak told delegates he wants to guarantee future youth-elder conferences and he said his department would help to pay for future AGMs.

Havioyak’s department donated $100,000 to each of the three regional youth councils to help pay for AGMs and other programs.

Once those AGMs are complete, Havioyak said his department will start developing youth policies and guidelines to apply for funding.

Havioyak also revealed seven youth-related priorities and asked for the council’s input.

They are:

youth employment and entrepreneurship;
helping smaller communities of less than 1,000 people;
youth healing workshops;
capital for youth centres;
youth and elders co-operation;
Inuktitut language development and training.
Council chair Laisa Audlaluk, asked if capital funds would be available to build youth centres. Havioyak said it would take more than 10 years to meet each community’s demand and said there was too little funding.

Youth delegates were scheduled to elect a new president and vice-president Friday.

Share This Story

(0) Comments