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Nunavut youth bring the skills at best attended competition in 14 years

While the Skills Canada Nunavut territorial competition always demonstrates young Nunavummiut have abilities and talents, this year was extra-special.

Leannza Eleeheetok, of Gjoa Haven, won gold in the cooking competition with her chicken cacciatore.
photo courtesy Skills Canada Nunavut

Youth converged at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit April 27 and 28 in unprecedented numbers – 70 competitors from 14 communities compared to last year's 60 from 13 communities – and they demonstrated they know how to step up no matter what.

"The competition itself runs over two days and students have only eight hours to complete their projects, which are all taking place simultaneously," explained program coordinator Bibi Bilodeau.

But Bilodeau says the weather in Iqaluit meant competitors had lots of spectators.

"Usually the weather at the end of April is sunny, which means more families go out on the land on but, this year, on competition weekend, it was overcast with winds gusting to 60 km, so that likely increased our audience turn-out," she said.

"Which is exciting for the students, to have an audience, but also nerve-wracking."

Bilodeau also notes some stand-out competitors.

"For competitions like video production and photography, competitors only receive their final projects on the day of, so it was a competition first to have two competitors, Isaac (Strickland) and Jenny (Aqqaq)," whose teammates couldn't attend, Bilodeau said, "who didn't know each other and be from completely different parts of Nunavut, come together through their joint knowledge of film and editing and submit a beautiful film."

Jenny Aqqaq of Gjoa Haven and Isaac Strickland of Iqaluit managed to pull off a gold medal win for their short film When I Walk. The two teamed up when their teammates were unable to attend and will now compete together at nationals in Halifax May 27 to 30.
photo courtesy Skills Canada Nunavut

Strickland reportedly said he was apprehensive about working with someone he didn't know.

"(He) almost said no," said Bilodeau.

But it turned out to be the best experience he's had so far with Skills.

Strickland, who is from Iqaluit, and Aqqaq, from Gjoa Haven, won gold for their short film When I Walk. Together, they will go on to compete at nationals in Halifax May 28 and 29.

Bilodeau noted other highlights, such as: every member of Arctic Bay's small team received medals.

Meanwhile, Alaira Sallerina of Gjoa Haven was raced to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy at the beginning of the competition.

"(She) returned the next morning to finish her up-do in hairstyling," said Bilodeau.

Finally, all teams made it to Iqaluit on schedule.

This 14th territorial skills competition totaled 17 categories, including high school and post-secondary levels for carpentry, outdoor engine repair, graphic design and electrical installations.

"With a few exceptions, the territorial gold medalists will be moving on to the Skills Canada National Competition in Halifax May 27 to 30, representing Nunavut," said Bilodeau.

"The Nationals Skills Competition brings together students and apprentices from across Canada to compete in over 40 different trades and technology competitions, so this is a huge opportunity for Nunavut students to see what other careers are out there."

The team heading to nationals has yet to be finalized, but Bilodeau estimates at least 17 Nunavut youth will travel to Halifax, including four at the post-secondary level in electrical, carpentry, outdoor engine repair and graphic design.

As Bilodeau notes, with practice and perseverance, youth can achieve anything.


Arctic Bay's Cynthia Barnabus completes a manicure as part of the aesthetics competition, which led to a bronze medal.
photo courtesy Skills Canada Nunavut
Mallory Okatsiak, of Arviat, takes home a silver medal in the hairstyling competition.
photo courtesy Skills Canada Nunavut
Iqaluit's Samuel Kuluguqtuq wins gold in post-secondary carpentry. With this third territorial gold medal in hand, he will represent Nunavut for the third time at the Skills Canada National Competition.
photo courtesy Skills Canada Nunavut
Zedekiah Sammurtok of Whale Cove receives silver for his demonstration of how to make coffee cake in the job skill demonstration competition. Sammurtok also received a bronze medal in video production.
photo courtesy Skills Canada Nunavut
Iglulik's and Iqaluit's robotics teams were neck-and-neck all weekend. Iglulik's Lennie Kangak, left, and Lorraine Rhonda Ivalu take home silver and Iqaluit's Jacob Winford, Declan Robertson Laforet, Kyle Kalluk take home gold.
photo courtesy Skills Canada Nunavut
Medalists in Northern fashions hold up their sealskin vests they sewed. Hannah Aglak, the sewing facilitator, presented the bronze medal to Abbey-Rose Katsak of Arviat, left, gold to Kristal Etuk of Arctic Bay, and silver to Kendal Kuodluak of Kugluktuk.
photo courtesy Skills Canada Nunavut