Jaxson Khan’s recent trip to Iqaluit was the start of a dialogue – one he hopes brings about positive change, not only in Canada’s Great North, but across the nation.
Khan, a third-year Global Studies student at Huron University College, recently travelled north with Junior Team Canada, a program that leads trade and development missions with young Canadians, aged 15-25. The mission, organized by Global Vision, a not-for-profit organization, met in Nunavut at the beginning of the month to discuss issues such as resource development, language preservation, safe shipping and building sustainable communities.
With Canada chairing the Arctic Council, Junior Team Canada aims to represent a youth voice, meeting with businesses, political and educational leaders in the north to learn more about the cultural heritage of the Inuit people, the challenges they face and to look for innovative solutions to emerging Arctic issues.
Khan was joined on the mission by fellow Western students Connor Lyons, pursuing a dual HBA and Political Science degree, and Aaron Joshua Pinto, in his fourth year of an International Relations and French degree.
“Imagine approaching a small town in (Northern) Ontario of 30,000 and suggesting they immediately take on the responsibility of protecting a unique language and culture, constructing and maintaining a health and education system, tackling rampant substance-abuse and mental-health issues, all while maintaining a complicated and nuanced relationship with the federal government,” Khan said of his recent trip.
“Change in the north is daunting and complex, but from what we saw in our short time amidst its beautiful landscapes and resilient people, it begins with young people.”
On Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Junior Team Canada also met with Colin Carrie, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Environment; Ryan Leef, MP for the Yukon; and Marc Garneau, Liberal Foreign Affairs critic.
Khan said the opportunity to go on the mission is as important for the young Canadians going, as it is to young Canadians in the north.
“(Youth) have no input up there on how things transpire. There’s a complex and complicated, nuanced relationship with federal government and an important role of the elder, and an ongoing body of knowledge,” he explained.
“There’s no formal venue for youth, no opportunities for young people to share their knowledge and opinions on the issues.”
He added the mission was a great opportunity and the beginning of a youth dialogue dealing with issues unique to northern communities he hopes continues.
“It’s about youth working together. One of the most fundamental things to create is a north-south dialogue. Youth voices are sometimes marginalized and youth don’t really have the opportunities to be heard. This (mission) was to ignite a fire to spark a conversation, to share our voices and to work together to a better society. The youth voice is a starting point for future cooperation,” he said.
“It will be powerful for the north, having young leaders up north, for culture renewal and Arctic sovereignty.”
As for the benefits to young Canadians across the nation, Khan said, going forward, missions such as this will inform youth of the country’s diversity, of the multifaceted issues that face a varied population.
“This was an opportunity to connect the south and the north. It’s valuable for everyone across provinces, to emphasize the inclusiveness of the Canadian identity,” he said. “Our identity is diverse, but coming together in that sort of forum, it gives us the space to connect with being Canadians and being young people.”
Terry Clifford, former educator and Member of Parliament, founded global Vision in 1991. Previous Junior Team Canada missions went to more than 35 countries, among them Brazil, South Korea, Vietnam, Colombia, Peru, Germany, China and England.