Nunavimmiut youth share their ideas for Quebec youth strategy
“A whole new wave of young leaders waiting to take their place"
Nunavimmiut youth hope to see some of their realities reflected in Quebec’s new youth action strategy, after a provincial consultation group toured parts of the region Oct. 10 and 11.
Parti Québécois MNA Léo Bureau-Blouin, who is parliamentary assistant to Quebec Premier Pauline Marois on youth issues, led the consultation to Kuujjuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq last week to hear youth groups describe the region’s priorities.
Bureau-Blouin said those discussions touched largely on access to education and health services, suicide prevention and the preservation of Inuit culture.
And those issues are that much more urgent, given Nunavik’s high percentage of youth, Bureau-Blouin said, compared with southern Quebec, where seniors are a growing percentage of the population.
“In Nunavik, it’s the complete opposite — in some communities, 65 per cent of the population is under 25 [years of age],” Bureau-Blouin said. “It’s really a quite different situation.”
And along with that high population of youth is “a whole new wave of young leaders waiting to take their place.”
But more of those youth need to succeed in education before they can get there, Bureau-Blouin heard at meetings in Kuujjuaq and at the Parnasimautik youth conference in Kangiqsualujjuaq.
“One of the main concerns coming out of this is the drop-out rates,” Bureau-Blouin told Nunatsiaq News. “Even when people get to secondary 5, they have to move south [to go to college].
Some Nunavimmiut suggested opening satellite college campuses in Nunavik communities or offering on-line courses in the region.
But Bureau-Blouin acknowledged the region doesn’t necessarily have the infrastructure to support some of those ideas.
“So I think we have to think about this if we want to see Inuit leaders,” he said.
One young woman who made an impression on Bureau-Blouin during his visit: Kangiqsualujjuaq mayor Hilda Snowball.
At 25, Snowball is one of the province’s youngest mayors.
Snowball is a good example of the newest generation of Nunavimmiut to enter politics in the region, said Jennifer Watkins, a Kativik Regional Government councillor who hosted the Quebec delegation.
“A lot of us do feel that our challenges are overwhelming, but we have hope,” said Watkins, 30.
“I’m very proud of our young people,” she added. “We’re very grateful to have had the opportunity to have [Quebec] hear our input, that will hopefully be shared in the next strategy.”
Quebec’s youth action strategy was first drafted in 2001, consolidating all government policy targeting young people.
The PQ government committed to renewing its youth policy last year, launching a travelling consultation last spring.
The input gathered on the tour will be handed over to the National Assembly before the end of the year. Bureau-Blouin hopes the policy will be adopted by 2015.
Following his 2012 election, Bureau-Blouin, now 21, is the youngest person ever to be elected as a member of the National Assembly.