2017 Laureates

The sixth annual Arctic Inspiration Prize Awards Ceremony was held in Ottawa, Ontario on 31 January 2018 in conjunction with the Northern Lights Business and Cultural Showcase. A total prize award of over $2.4 million was shared amongst eight teams in three prize categories for their innovative plans to inspire change and improve the lives of people living in Canada's North.

$1 Million Category

Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project

Indigenous populations, compared to their non-Indigenous peers, are at higher risk for suicide, substance abuse, incarceration, and homelessness - with over 90% of the homeless population in the Northwest Territories being Indigenous. The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project is an urban land-based healing program targeting Indigenous men and women at risk of suicide and/or incarceration on the streets. They received the $1 million prize for their plan to combine Indigenous cultural education with traditional therapeutic interventions in a wilderness urban setting, with the goal of improving the mental health of at-risk Inuit, First Nation and Métis peoples through collaborative, culture-specific, community supported programs.

Nominator: The Honourable Glen Abernethy, Minister of Health and Social Services, Government of the Northwest Territories

Team Members: Be'sha Blondin, Jean Cardinal, Edna Elias, William Greenland, Rassi Nashalik, Donald Prince, Dr. Nicole Redvers (Team Leader), Magnolia A. R. Unka-Wool

AIP Category (Up to $500,000)

Our Families, Our Way: The Peacemaking Circle

The last 150 years has seen First Nations experience a violent, oppressive and traumatic colonial history that has eroded the blanket of loving relationships that protected and nurtured children for thousands of years. Residential Schools and child protection laws for more than a century removed children from families and community. By revitalizing the practice of peacemaking circles, this initiative will rebuild the reservoir of social capital needed so that communities can stand together today for their children tomorrow. With their $500,000 award, this project will introduce a fundamentally different approach to children and families at risk through a Family Act. This Act, built on traditional values, will empower the community to resume their traditional responsibility for children. By merging the best of old and new ways into an innovative peacemaking circle curriculum, the project's training of community members and professionals will generate capacity to work collaboratively to secure the best interests of all children.

Nominator: Sherry Campbell, President and CEO, The Gordon Foundation

Team: Mike Birkett, Ashley Carvill, Corinne Carvill, Dina Delaronde, Lori Duncan (Team Leader), Ann Maje Raider, Susannah Robertson, Beverly M. Sembsmoen, Thomas Shepherd, Judge Barry D. Stuart

The Qajaq Program

Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut has a rich qajaqing history, though it has not been mobilized in several generations. The Qajaq Program was awarded $140,000 to revitalize this valued tradition, by connecting young people with local knowledge keepers and elders to learn how to build and paddle their own qajaqs. Through this project, the youth of Chesterfield Inlet will build hand-crafted qajaqs based on the design that was used in the area hundreds of years earlier, and will also create a special qajaq that can be shipped to other communities as a teaching resource.

Nominator: Douglas Aggark, MLA Candidate in the 2017 Nunavut Election, Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet

Team: Simon Aggark, Louis Autut, Glen Brocklebank (Team Leader), Ana Leishman, Jolene Ippiak, Kevin Issaluk, Leila Paugh

Unaaq Men’s Association of Inukjuak – Intensive Traditional Program Development

With their $500,000 award, the Unaaq Men's Association of Inukjuak will work to address a variety of critical social challenges through the development of sustained, intensive traditional training programs that target youth participants by pairing them with elders and experienced hunters. The project will enhance the intergenerational bonds between elders and youth, promoting self-esteem, leadership, and pride, and actively disseminating traditional Inuit knowledge across the Nunavik region and Canada. Ultimately, the team will work to promote Inuit culture among the youth and broader community, to prevent social issues from mounting, and to provide further economic opportunities in line with traditional activities.

Nominator: Andy Moorhouse, Vice-President, Economic Development, Makivik Corporation

Team: Allie Aculiaq, Eric Atagotaaluk, Michael Kasudluak, Pauloosie Kasudluak Jr., Rhoda Kokiapik, Tommy Palliser (Team Leader), Eliassie Weetaluktuk

Youth Category (Up to $100,000)

Dene Heroes Publication Project

The Dene Heroes Publication Project was awarded $100,000 to build literacy and leadership skills among Indigenous youth and increase pride in the Dene people. A team of Indigenous youth will lead the annual development and publishing of a collaborative book about Dene heroes that will be distributed to all five communities in the Sahtu. The book will inspire Indigenous students, community members, and out-of-school youth to write about someone they admire of Dene descent with contributors interviewing elders, talking about heroic qualities, writing about their heroes, taking photographs, drawing pictures, and reading what others have written. Partnering with schools, community members will contribute their ideas, stories and pictures to be published in the book that will be distributed at a celebration in each community.

Nominator: Daniel McNeely, MLA Sahtu, Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories

Team: Theresa Blancho, Barbara Ann Gully, Sunita Marie Kochon, Mary-Anne Neal, Dakota Orlias (Team Leader), Martha Stewart, Isabel Tutcho

North in Focus: Nunavut, Our Land, Our People

Through the integration of prior experiences in mental health programming, the North in Focus: Nunavut, Our Land, Our People team will create new community member connections, research mental health resource needs and materials, and initiate collaborations with youth centres and schools. This work will support the development of an effective toolkit for mental health awareness in Nunavut that will see local youth, adults, and leaders involved in its development. Using the $20,000 Arctic Inspiration Prize award, this team will build its capacity to prepare a larger nomination in a future prize year.

Nominator: Duncan W. Phillips, Vice-President, Strategic Enterprises, Mitacs

Team: Ashley Cummings (Team Leader), Melynda Ehaloak, Gabrielle Foss, Eva Wu

Rankin Rock Hockey Camp

Rankin Rock Hockey Camp will develop youth leadership capacity in communities by giving youth a hands-on experiential learning opportunity as coaches and leaders of a hockey camp. The project received $80,000 from the Arctic Inspiration Prize to foster the development of young role models and mentorship and promote healthy, active lifestyles and decision-making. Not only will camp participants build their foundational skills for the upcoming hockey season, but they will - along with youth leaders, coaches and instructors - develop skills, knowledge and attitudes that support skill development, goal-setting, personal wellness, and self-confidence.

Nominator: David Ningeongan, President & Gabe Karlik, Executive Director, Kivalliq Inuit Association

Team: David Clark (Team Leader), AJ Curley, Keenan Eetuk, Connor Faulkner, Steve Faulkner, Panniuq Karetak, Aaron Kopak, Scott Kuksuk, Adriana Kusugak, Pujjuut Kusugak, Jon Maktar, Sidney Nichol, Stephane Nukapiak, Avaala Sabourin, Roger Tagoona

Rivers to Ridges

Research continues to highlight the benefits of children spending significant time building a relationship with the land. Rivers to Ridges was awarded $100,000 to open a forest school - a land-based education initiative - in Whitehorse, Yukon with an initial focus on preschool programming. With the intention of fostering a deeper sense of empathy, awareness, and community, this initiative will provide children with access to inquiry-based learning opportunities in outdoor spaces. The school will integrate First Nations knowledge and teachings through Elder involvement, and work to break down traditional barriers of accessibility for staff and participants. Rivers to Ridges will build capacity for outdoor learning opportunities for children across the Territory through educator training and mentorship. The school will empower a diverse range of Northerners to spend more time connecting meaningfully with the land.

Nominator: Remy Rodden, Manager, Environmental Education and Youth Programs, Department of Environment, Government of Yukon

Team: Erin Nicolardi, Emily Payne (Team Leaders)