Tosh Southwick is one of two Yukon representatives on the task force. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Tosh Southwick is one of two Yukon representatives on the task force. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Input sought on post-secondary education in the North

Task force launches website

A task force appointed to recommend post-secondary education improvements in the North is moving into the public engagement phase of its work.

The task force’s website and Facebook page went live this week, inviting feedback from northerners about post-secondary education in the North.

“We’re very excited,” said Tosh Southwick, one of three Yukon representatives on the task force. “We are working on being really flexible in how we hear from people given the complexities with the pandemic and the vast area we are working across.”

Southwick is a co-owner of IRP Consulting who previously worked as the associate vice-president of Indigenous engagement and reconciliation at Yukon University. She’s a member of the Kluane First Nation.

The second Yukon representative is Melanie Bennett, who works as the executive director of the Yukon First Nations education directorate and is a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation.

Florence Kushniruk, the post-secondary program officer at Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, is the third Yukon representative.

In a May 18 interview, Southwick said the task force, made up of members from across the north, has been meeting weekly since late last year when it was formed.

She said she wanted to be part of the task force because she believes post-secondary education has the power to be transformative in the North.

It has worked to ensure residents can have their say in a variety of ways with the website providing options ranging from a survey to uploading video, audio, or documents, as well as being able to register for an online discussion. There’s also a place for southern institutions to provide input.

“The experiences and ideas of northerners will drive our recommendations,” said task force member Jodie Lane, from Newfoundland and Labrador. “We need to hear from people, and not just the bad experiences, but the good ones too, especially if ideas being tried out in one place could be more widely applied in the North.”

Southwick said as the task force’s work moves into the public engagement phase, she’s anticipating issues around housing, cultural relevance, research, student supports and upgrading will emerge.

A date has not been set for public input to be submitted. As Southwick said, there’s a number of different factors that will impact that. In the Yukon, for example, summer can be a difficult time to reach people and then when fall rolls around it is hunting season for many.

Once a date is decided, it will be posted to the website.

Following the public engagement phase, the task force will go through the input received, working toward a final report with recommendations to be released toward the end of the year.

The final report and recommendations of the task force are due out at the end of the year. The project was established by the federal department of Northern Affairs.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Correction: an earlier version of this article erroniously stated that there are only two Yukon task force members. There are three Yukon representatives.