With the COVID-19 pandemic, the water emergency, the housing, health and mental health crisis, and suicide, it is no wonder youth struggle to rise above their realities in Canada’s most northern communities.

Statistics show that mental health among Inuit youth is considered a public health emergency, with suicide rates among the highest in the world. Overall, Nunavut’s suicide rate is 100 per 100,000, ten times higher than the rest of Canada.

“Considering these ongoing struggles, celebrating youth who overcome obstacles and flourish despite adversity is essential,” says Sarah Arngna’naaq, Chair of the Nunavut Law Foundation.

The Upinnaqtuq Award celebrates youth who embody peace, leadership, conflict resolution or who made substantial efforts to change their attitude and behaviour to become role models. Uppinaqtuq means to celebrate and be proud of a person’s accomplishments.

The Nunavut Law Foundation created the Award program and is a non-profit whose purpose is to manage a fund to support important law-related projects and initiatives in Nunavut. The organization receives funding from the Law Society of Nunavut, representing all lawyers practicing in the territory.

For its 9th year, the Foundation recently awarded students and youths in each region across Nunavut. This year, the awards are in honour of Justice Beverley Browne. Justice Browne passed away in 2021 and was the first senior judge in the Nunavut Court of Justice.

“Justice Browne demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the community and had a strong commitment and passion for working with youth,” says Sarah. Many of Justice Browne’s initiatives focused on increasing the education and knowledge of the justice system for youth.

Nalini Vaddapalli, Administrator with the Nunavut Law Foundation, reports an unprecedented number of nominations for this year’s awards.

“Part of the reason for the increase in numbers is because of the combination of the past two years. However, it is also a reflection of how youth are stepping up and overcoming challenges. The numbers reflect how youth are giving back to their communities,” says Nalini.

There were 17 recipients of this year’s Upinnaqtuq Award. Nominations were open to students enrolled in grades 6 to 12 or Youths between 10 to 20 years old. Monetary scholarships were given to students and youths 14 years and older; students and youth 13 years and under received a gift of their choice up to a maximum amount determined by the Board. Winners are:

Gabe Allen from Kimmirut

Atuat Aliyak from Rankin Inlet

Alex (Anaviapik) Angnetsiak

Ruben Dewar from Iqaluit

Lia Dimitruk, from Cambridge Bay

Hailey Hachey from Baker Lake

Rayen Havioyak from Kugklutuk

Hailie Kaurayok from Arviat

Kassidy Kennedy from Baker Lake

Romeyn Kritaqliluk from Arviat

Andy Saagiaqtu from Kinngait

Jovon-Jake Sanertaut from Kuggaruk

Johnny Padluq from Kimmirut

Joyce Tunnillie from Kinngait

Kiersten Williams from Iqaluit

Gregory Wiseman from Rankin Inlet

Katie Yu from Iqaluit

Read more about the winners at nunavutnews.com/marketplace.

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