U of O student Sara Dubé talks experience in the Arctic, getting involved

The North—what do you know about it? Maybe you’ve been there before? Perhaps you’re studying it? Or, like me before this summer, maybe you don’t know more about it than what you’ve learned in school and occasionally in the news.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert on the North to be a member of Parks Canada’s Northern Engagement Team or to go on an expedition with Students on Ice. You only need to love learning, and be willing to share what you’ve learned. The more you learn, the more you’re able to share the North with others, and the more you keep learning.

I spent the summer of 2017 learning about and discussing climate change, northern ecosystems, Inuit culture, and life in the far North. It’s a dynamic part of Canada, rich in nature, culture, and history, and my team and I worked to convey that through educational presentations and activities that highlighted Parks Canada’s northern protected places, as well as the Inuit culture surrounding them.

My favorite moments were sharing Inuit legends with one of my northern colleagues at Inspiration Village in Ottawa, and the giant “Jenga” that we played at the Canadian Museum of Nature to demonstrate the fragility of Arctic food chains, in which each block represented an animal or element supporting the northern food chain.

When the game fell, it was reconstructed by discussing the essential role of each element for the stability of the food chain, especially now that the climate at the poles is changing faster than anywhere else.

Sharing myths and stories brought the North and the South closer together. It was moving to see visitors immersed in the Inuit world for a story and then reflecting on the role that stories have in their own cultures. Often, the stories also opened the door to a discussion about history and modern life in the North.

Going North

The highlight of my summer was visiting the Arctic with Students on Ice (SOI). My team and I sailed from Resolute Bay, Nunavut, to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, passing through Sirmilik National Park on Baffin Island in Nunavut, and stopping in communities such as Pond Inlet in Nunavut and Uummannaq in Greenland to better understand the environmental and social challenges that communities in the North face. Since it was summer, the weather was similar to spring in Ottawa. We saw both ice on the water and flowers on the tundra!

Through workshops with experts and elders, excursions, and participation in traditional Inuit activities, we increased our understanding of the ecology of the Arctic and the existing social dynamics.

What I hold on to most from the expedition is how important it is to come together to reconcile our past and create a fairer future. Knowledge and ideas were shared between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, youth and elders, and people from around the world, all of whom felt strongly about protecting the land and caring for one another.

Now, we share what we learned through media, social networks, and at public events in our respective regions to better equip us to solve the challenged the world faces.

Information and applications can be found on Parks Canada’s Northern Engagement Team website and Students on Ice website. You can also follow Parks Canada on Facebook at Parks Life for the latest news and employment opportunities.