Environmentally conscious youth now have an opportunity to participate in an international virtual conference.

The Arctic Coalition Council is hosting its first conference, called Breaking the Ice, to address social, economic, and environmental issues in Arctic regions. Youth between 15 and 30 years old are encouraged to represent the Yukon’s interests.

The Yukon College will be hosting the Whitehorse contingent on February 1 and 2. From the college, participants will engage with youth across Canada, in Finland, and other locations. While the spots for Whitehorse youth are full, there is the possibility that Old Crow, Inuvik, and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation will be participating and youth from those communities are invited to contact the local organizer, Jenna Gall.

Jenna Gall is the Northern Canada outreach director for the Arctic Coalition, and currently a fourth year environmental science student at the University of British Columbia. The Saskatchewan native has spent time living in Whitehorse and Pangnirtung, Nunavut, studying the environment in these communities. She is one of the first members to join the Youth Arctic Coalition when it was formed, and will play an active role in the conference.

“We are the future and if our voices can be heard, it will help bring about change,”‘ she says.

The conference aims to address eight major topics: food security in the North, energy exploration, culture and languages, health and well being, human rights of indigenous groups, Arctic contaminants, education, and Arctic sovereignty

Gall is also determined to help a wide range of Northern youth tackle pertinent issues related to Canada’s polar regions.

“I realized there was a gap in our outreach,” Gall says. “We were so focused on getting youth participants from all eight Arctic states — but I urgently brought it to my colleges attention that Arctic Canada is incredibly diverse.”

Gall believes that some provincial governments are not fully aware of issues in the North and are not addressing them. Additionally, territorial governments could be doing more, and the Federal government’s current plan for the North is rapid resource exploitation, she says.

The Breaking the Ice conference aims to create more awareness in the federal and provincial governments.

“There is not enough listening to traditional knowledge and the governments all need to remove their paternalistic governing style of the North,” Gall says.

Prior to the conference, online workshops will be held to provide background information about the conference topics.

The conference will feature prominent guest speakers including Geoff Green, who is the Officer of the Order of Canada and founder of the award winning organization Students on Ice; Martin Von Mirbach, director of World Wildlife Foundation’s Canada Arctic Program; and Johnny Issaluk, traditional Inuit athlete and cultural mentor.

The event will be hosted in Ottawa, using Cisco Web Ex software. There will be “hubs” located in various cities including Whitehorse, Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Helsinki.

More than 120 youth have registered to participate in the conference, and although the spots in Whitehorse are full, youth can still participate online.

To register to participate, contact Jenna Gall by email at CanadaOutreach@YouthArcticCoaltion.org or by phone at 250-826-7571. For more information about the Youth Arctic Coalition conference go to www.YouthArcticCoalition.org.