A Whitehorse rock musician is part of a non-profit that has won a $1-million prize for its plan to promote sexual health across Canada’s three territories.
Graeme Peters, the guitarist and singer for Speed Control, is a member of FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth) which won the prestigious Arctic Inspiration Prize last week in Ottawa.
The prize awards $1 million each year to groups working on important issues in Canada’s Arctic. This is the first time the prize has been awarded to a sole recipient, and Peters said he’s excited to bring its leadership programs back to the Yukon.
“It’s needed just as much here as it is anywhere else,” he said.
Created in 2012, FOXY teaches sexual health to young women across the Northwest Territories. It also runs on-the-land peer leadership retreats throughout the summer. Peer leaders then go back to their communities and act as role models to other women.
Peters met FOXY co-founders Candice Lys and Nancy MacNeill during the Folk on the Rocks music festival in Yellowknife, N.W.T. last summer.
“We were talking about what Speed Control was doing in education and how back in the day I used to be Captain Germ Fighter. I’d go to every elementary school in the territory and teach kids how to sneeze in their elbows and wash their hands.”
Beyond the club shows and tours, Speed Control also offer “RAWK Camps” where they provide new instruments to kids in communities and teach them how to create music.
“We were comparing stories and they told me what they did, and I nonchalantly said that they should expand it to men, and it should come to the Yukon,” he added.
About a month and a half later, Peters got a call from MacNeill, who asked for his resume. She thought he had an excellent idea and wanted his help to work on a research project. It turned out to be award winning.
Peters said he plans on flying to Yellowknife next month to watch the non-profit’s workshops firsthand.
Then he’ll help Lys and MacNeill create a curriculum that can be rolled out across all three territories, to both men and women.
It’s important to break down barriers when it comes to sex, he said.
“I just know that when I had sex-ed in junior high and high school, it was a lady showing us slides of what sexually transmitted diseases looked like if left untreated and how terrible sex was,” he said.
“Everyone will have sex, it’s part of culture. It’s about creating awareness of what not to do, like don’t use Vaseline on condoms because they’ll explode and you’ll have babies.
“A lot of people get shy when talking about sex but if we can get people comfortable about it, we can break down barriers and then education will flourish.”
The rates of sexually transmitted infections are much higher in the North than elsewhere in the country. A 2011 report found that Yukon’s chlamydia rate was double the national average.
Those infections are easily preventable, said Peters.
He said he’d like to create a community-based workshop program for Yukon men based on the one used by FOXY, but make it more “guy friendly.”
His background as a rocker might come in handy, too.
“I can sing rock songs about anything, why not do it about sex education?” he said, adding he believes the program could be implemented in the Yukon as early as the spring.
A solar energy project from Old Crow also made the shortlist for the Arctic Inspiration Prize.
The project would see the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation partner with Yukon College and Sea Breeze Microgrid Systems to use solar panels to offset the use of the remote community’s diesel generators.
“The proposed project would involve the training of community members to manage and maintain the new technology and create job opportunities in addition to providing an environmentally sustainable model for clean energy that could be applied across the North,” according to the Arctic Inspiration Prize website.
Contact Myles Dolphin at