A newly-minted group of 13 youth from across the territory — diverse in both background and age — have been selected to advise the government on how to tackle climate change in the Yukon.
“I’m excited to talk about the Yukon-specific climate change effects, like the effects on different wildlife, like the collared pika and caribou,” said 23-year-old Alyssa Bergeron, who is representing Watson Lake on the government’s new Youth Panel on Climate Change.
The formation of the panel fulfills a commitment in Our Clean Future, the government’s current strategy document for climate change and green energy that was released in 2020. The current panelists will have a term lasting a year and attend monthly virtual meetings and three in-person meetings.
A number of the panelists, including 25-year-old Sruthee Govindaraj, referenced the work of Greta Thunberg in demonstrating how important — and powerful — youth voices can be on climate change.
“It has to be a global effort,” said Govindaraj, who has a background in biology and is currently studying climate change at Yukon University.
“I’ve traveled all around the world and met a lot of people and a lot of youth that are very passionate about climate change and protecting the environment in the future. When I came back home, I was like, ‘This is my home, I need to protect it, and I’ve got to do what I can,’” she said.
Other individuals from Whitehorse on the panel include 21-year-old Abeer Ahmad, 15-year-old Bruce Porter, 24-year-old Jasmine Bill (who is also a member of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation), 23-year-old Jagger Jamieson (who is a member of Champagne Aishihik First Nation), 12-year-old Sarah Booth, 14-year-old Sophie Molgat (who is also from Nak’azdli First Nation in northern B.C.) and 12-year-old Koome Marangu.
Representing Mayo and the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, 23-year-old Kadrienne Hummel said she has attended a climate action conference in the past and was particularly interested in the effects of climate change after a canoe trip with CPAWS Yukon on her traditional territory.
“Being that I grew up in a rural community and not in Whitehorse, I can kind of see more of an impact. There’s less people around and more wilderness close by,” she said.
“I think that for First Nations people, they find a lot of their empowerment from the wilderness and from the outdoors and being able to practice their cultures,” she explained. “Maybe because of the loss of a species or something else, it’s kind of scary to think that all these people with these traditional ways of life won’t be able to pass it on to their children or their children won’t be able to pass it on.”
Others from outside Whitehorse include 20-year-old Azreil Allen representing the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation and Haines Junction, 20-year-old Lexie Braden in Dawson and 17-year-old Min Stad from Carcross.
Minister John Streicker, who attended the first meeting along with the premier, said ultimately it will be up to the youth on the panel to decide how they want to influence the government — whether they host a summit or prepare a final report.
“I think what they will do is they will offer us advice or suggestions about how we can improve the climate change strategy,” he said. “When I was talking with him, I said, you know, ‘Feel free to tell us where this should be better.’”
Asked how the government will ensure their voices get heard on a policy level, he said he believes the group won’t shy away from expressing themselves if that doesn’t end up being the case.
“I’m not saying that we’ll be able to deliver on everything. But if they don’t see some sincere efforts on our part, I think that they would hold us to account,” he said.
“You could tell that they brought a range of perspectives and you could tell that they all shared a passion for making sure that we as a territory move in a more sustainable path.”
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org