By Felix Charron-Leclerc
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
This past May, a group of organizations named the Canada-Inuit Nunangat-United Kingdom Arctic Research Programme (CINUK) announced the 13 successful projects funded under the in support of key themes connected to climate-driven changes to the terrestrial, coastal and near-shore marine environments in Inuit Nunangat, as well as the impacts on Inuit and community health and well-being.
The group is the result of a partnership between Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI), Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Parks Canada (PARKS), and the Fonds de Recherche du Quebec (FRQ).
One of the research projects chosen by the group, “Carving out Climate Testimony: Inuit Youth, Wellness & Environmental Stewardship”, studies innovative forms of adaptation key to continued livelihood and cultural continuity. The project explores how changes to terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems (sea-ice and coastal processes, freshwater, snow, permafrost thaw, and changing marine ecosystems) impact mental health and well-being.
“Climate change has a disproportionate impact on the Canadian Arctic with temperatures rising twice as fast compared to elsewhere in the world,” states the project preamble. “This impact has caused warming of the oceans, a rapid decline in sea-ice extent and duration, and widespread permafrost thaw. As academics and health practitioners have noted, these ecological changes directly impact the mental health and well-being of Inuit communities. In this context, our project particularly focuses on Inuit youth (18-24 yrs).”
At the Conference of the Parties (COP26) in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, Brian Pottle, president of The National Inuit Youth Council, emphasized on the need to understand the `increasing mental health risks’ facing youth due to climate change.
The research project is trying to tackle this issue by using traditional Inuit ways of teaching along with involving the youth themselves to take part in the research, but also to be a part of the solution.
“Through the use of Inuit-storytelling methodologies our project elevates youth and local voices to identify impacts as well as solutions to address a dramatically changing climate in Northern Canada,” he said. “Moreover, our project has designed critical new spaces, and established the necessary collaborations, for youth to disseminate this knowledge to policy-makers, academics and wider public.
“Our project takes a staged approach which empowers Inuit youth across diverse regions. In the first stage, we focus on Tuktoyaktuk, piloting our approach alongside youth leaders and with support of Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation (TCC). In the second stage, our team will engage youth in the three other regions of Inuit Nunangat where our team has existing links: Kuujuaq, Makkovik and Kangilliniq.”
The research team, led by Dr. Jen Bagelman and Dr. Karla Jessen Williamson, is meeting with other research project groups at the ArcticNet conference in Toronto from Dec. 5 to 9 to share their findings and discuss possible solutions for Arctic regions.
Dr. Ingrid A Medby is taking part in the research project and is eager to visit the ArcticNet conference again, following her previous attendance in 2014.
“It brings together a range of people who really care about the Arctic region in one place – people who might not otherwise have the chance to discuss in person very often,” she said. “As such, it is an important place to share views, experiences, and knowledge for attendees – and to get to know others with shared interests too.”
Felix Charron-Leclerc is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with NUNAVUT NEWS. The LJI program is federally funded.