2020 Finalists

Members of the Arctic Inspiration Prize Regional Selection Committees for Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Inuit Nunangat met in November and selected ten nominations as finalists for the 2020 Arctic Inspiration Prize. Ranging in scope and focus, each and every project demonstrates the potential to generate lasting impact across Canada’s North. Laureates in all three prize categories will be selected from these high-quality nominations by the National Selection Committee and will be announced in February, 2021 at the 9th Annual Arctic Inspiration Prize Awards Ceremony.

$1 Million Category

Ilagiitigut anngiangijaqatigiinnirq ilurqusivuttigut

Every Nunavimmiut has been directly or indirectly impacted by substance abuse. For a long time, the focus of addiction intervention has been the substance itself, or in other words, the symptom of the problem, rather than the root cause. This project proposes to address substance abuse by focusing on intergenerational trauma, the reclamation of Inuit identity and culture, and connection to the land. The project would bring together elders, addiction counsellors, hunters, scholars and community members to create a marriage of best practices in the field of addiction and Inuit traditional knowledge regarding individual and collective wellness. The activities would take place in a 32-bed facility, providing opportunities for families to heal as a whole, by addressing intergenerational trauma in an age-appropriate manner.

Team Leader: Jessica Tooma, Coordinator of the Inuit Values and Practices Department, Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Center

Nominator: Christine Barnard, PhD, Executive Director, ArcticNet

“Imaa, Like this”: Children and Youth Expressing Themselves Through Music

Inspired by the El Sistema program where positive social change arises through children learning to play music together, this program would operate as a free, intensive daily after-school music program. Sistema shares Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) principles such as: Tunnganarniq (inclusion), Piliriqatigiingniq (collaboration), and Pilimmaksarniq (developing skills from mentoring and effort). The program would create much needed culturally relevant music education resources for children, and build capacity to increase access to music education opportunities across Nunavut. “Imaa, Like This” would also employ Inuit youth as music instructors, mentor Inuit youth musicians to become community music leaders, and provide professional development opportunities for Nunavut educators and post-secondary students on integrating traditional Inuktut music into their programs.

Team Leaders: Naiome Eegeesiak and Darlene Nuqingaq

Nominator: Adam Arreak Lightstone, MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak

Northern Centre for Justice, Dignity and Leadership

Violence against Indigenous women and girls is an epidemic in Northern Canada that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through education, advocacy and partnerships, the Centre will aim to shift the service delivery field towards one that is dignity-driven, grounded in Indigenous knowledges and based on the strength of Indigenous women and gender diverse people. As a cornerstone initiative, the Centre would offer an Indigenous-led education program for service providers (12-weeks online training, one-week land-based training) that provides a new understanding of violence along with skills and knowledge to implement this learning. Participants from agencies in the Yukon, community organizations, and First Nations would learn from Indigenous leaders, women and subject matter experts, gaining the insight and tools to uphold dignity, build safety and promote change within institutions.

Team Leader: Ann Maje Raider, Executive Director, Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society

Nominator: Chief Doris Bill, Kwanlin Dün First Nation

AIP Category (Up to $500,000)

Dene Ahthít’e: Rebuilding the Indigenous Economy in the Dehcho

This program will seek to re-establish an Indigenous economy in the Dehcho Region of the NWT, primarily in Edéhzhíe, an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) established by the Dehcho First Nation in 2018. Dene Ahthít’e plans to deliver 5 core programs: (1) Language/Culture; (2) Youth/Learning; (3) Healing; (4) Hunting/ Sharing; and (5) Partnerships/Tourism. These component programs address the legacy and lasting effects of colonization, cultural genocide, intergenerational trauma and economic dependency by re-establishing Dene values and laws as guiding principles for economic development, livelihood generation, and entrepreneurial development. The project’s expected outcomes include increased local employment, culture and language revitalization, entrepreneurial opportunities, social welfare system and criminal justice system diversions, improved health and education outcomes, climate change adaptation and monitoring capacity and increased visitors and tourism revenues.

Team Leader: Herb Norwegian, Chair, Edéhzhíe Management Board

Nominator: Grand Chief Norman Yakeleya, Dene Nation

The First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun’s Indigenous Food Sovereignty Hub

This project proposes to plan, design, and build a multi-building food processing facility via a community training and mentorship program that provides individuals with on-the-job training. Once built, the Hub hopes to focus on the sharing of traditional knowledge and skills, as it pertains to food sovereignty, through the development and provision of workshops, mentorship opportunities, and the use of communal facilities and tools. This would allow for individuals to gather and use traditional food processing methods in commercially certified, inspected, and food safe environments, with the ultimate goal of reducing barriers to accessing healthy and culturally relevant foods while empowering individuals to design their own paths toward food sovereign futures.

Team Leader: Sonny Gray, Owner and CEO, North Star Agriculture

Nominator: Albert Drapeau, Executive Director, Yukon First Nation Chamber of Commerce


A persistent problem confronting Inuit communities is food security. Store-bought food is expensive, and many Inuit children show up for school hungry. Lack of access to country food has implications for Inuit culture, traditions and social relations. This project proposes to develop a new model of social economy and food sovereignty anchored in the protection of Aviqtuuq (the Boothia Peninsula). It aims to address food security through sustainable and innovative harvesting, and the processing and use of country foods, all guided by Inuit values. It hopes to provide local incomes, contribute to healthier diets, and help preserve local knowledge.

Team Leader: Jimmy Oleekatalik, Manager, Spence Bay Hunters and Trappers Organization

Nominator: Frank Tester, Professor Emeritus, School of Social Work, The University of British Columbia; Adjunct Professor of Native Studies, University of Manitoba


Inuit communities have some of the highest rates of hearing loss in Canada and throughout the world, particularly among Inuit children. Incidents of hearing loss can be traced to respiratory diseases, noise exposure such as shotguns and snowmobiles and repetitive middle ear infections. Undetected, even a mild hearing loss caused by a middle ear infection can delay the development of speech and language skills in children and impede their success in school. This project aims to bridge the gap between educational and health care services by giving community members access to educational resources about hearing loss and facilitating access to hearing care. It also hopes to address the root causes of hearing loss by focusing on hearing loss prevention. It aims to reduce the long-term impacts of hearing loss and improve the well-being and social integration of hard-of-hearing individuals.

Team Leader: Tunu Napartuk, Director, Complementary and Compassionate Services, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq

Nominator: Michael Gordon, Director General, Kativik Regional Government

Youth Training in Ethical Knowledge Sharing and Co-production to Advance Northern, Indigenous-led Conservation and Stewardship

In the face of the climate crisis and the global pandemic, Indigenous communities across the North recognize the urgent need for training and research that supports adaptation and sustainability. This project will aim to build intercultural research collaborations, knowledge transfer and mobilization, skills and capacities through Indigenous Guardians and similar stewardship programs working in partnership with the next generation of northern leaders. The project also aims to train a generation of youth to design and deliver relevant research projects using Indigenous research methods, community-based research methods, and ethical approaches to knowledge sharing between Indigenous and Western ways of knowing.

Team Leader: Norma Kassi, Co-Research Director, Canadian Mountain Network

Nominator: Grace Southwick, AIP Ambassador

Youth Category (Up to $100,000)


Artspace will seek to offer arts programs in the evenings and weekends, as well as daytime drop-in space, that cater to youth, individuals experiencing homelessness, and professional artists. Artspace will also aim to run regular community events such as art galas and art competitions which will create a stronger sense of community among all Yellowknifers. Through all of its activities and events, Artspace plans to emphasize community capacity building. Artspace is a space for relationship building, mentorship opportunities, economic, social and cultural development.

Team Leader: Cat McGurk, President of Makerspace YK

Nominator: Rebecca Alty, Mayor of Yellowknife

Western Arctic Youth Collective

During a pandemic, youth coming together to support one another is more important than ever. This project would create a network of allies and supporters of youth that have an understanding of each other's worldviews and experiences. They would help create a collective impact for northern youth groups to meaningfully lead and create initiatives in their communities that are grounded by shared values and principles, and help them network with organizations outside of their northern regions.

Team Leader: Alyssa Carpenter, Co-Founder/Project Director

Nominator: Natasha Kulikowski, Mayor of Inuvik