The territory's first Youth Panel on Climate Change presents their recommendations to the Premier Sandy Silver along with ministers Nils Clarke and John Streicker in 2021. The members of the second panel for 2022 were announced April 6. (BYTE/Submitted)

Ten youth named to Yukon’s next climate change panel

Ten members selected from 26 applicants

A new cohort of young leaders are beginning work as the territory’s Youth Panel on Climate Change.

The Yukon government announced April 6 the 10 youth who will be part of its second panel after the first group wrapped up its year-long effort in 2021.

“Once again, we are seeing another talented group of young Yukoners who want to make a difference in their communities,” Environment Minister Nils Clarke said. “I hope this experience will empower them and provide opportunities to help them become our climate leaders of tomorrow. As our clean future is really theirs, it is important that youth play a role in shaping it.”

Serving on the panel for the coming year will be Han Shier, Keegan Newnham-Boyd, Koltun Jim, Maddy Mead, Natilee Thompson, Preet Dhillon, Sasha Emery, Paul Caesar-Jules, Toshibaa Govindaraj and Tyra Gill.

The 10 members were selected from a field of 26 youth, ages 13 to 25, who applied to be part of the panel. BYTE – Empowering Youth and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Yukon led a review of the applications, bringing forward the recommendation on the final list of panel members to the Yukon government.

“BYTE was truly blown away by all of the incredible applicants for the 2022 cohort,” BYTE panel coordinator Emily Ross said. “We are so excited to be working with these 10 panelists and to support them in their visions for climate action in the Yukon.”

In an April 7 email correspondence, Ross said those wanting to be part of the panel were invited to submit written applications about themselves, the communities they wanted to represent as well as answering questions about what they hope to bring and take away from the youth panel.

BYTE and CPAWS representatives worked to find 10 youth who reflected cultural, regional, gender, age and experience diversity from around the territory, she said, noting it was an “incredibly tough choice” to select the final 10.

Biographies for each of the panelists are available on the panel’s webpage .

Four panelists belong to Yukon First Nations – Jim is a Champagne and Aishihik First Nations citizen and member of the Wolf Clan; Caesar-Jules is also a member of the Wolf Clan and works in the Liard First Nation Language Department; Gill is a member of the Selkirk First Nation; and Thompson is from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Teslin Tlingit Council where her family is originally from.

In their biographies, each member highlights their interest in addressing climate change and learning more about the environment.

“I am excited to meet other young people in the territory passionate about climate change, and to exchange perspectives and ideas with them,” Govindaraj said in a statement.

As Shier commented: “I look forward to working with this panel of passionate, motivated Yukon youth to advocate for climate action.”

The establishment of the panel comes from a commitment outlined in Our Clean Future: A Yukon strategy for climate change, energy and a green economy.

With members of the second panel now in place, the Yukon government says it is supporting the leadership of more youth as they “step forward as the next generation of leaders.”

The panel will take part in a number of activities centred on the Yukon’s ambitions for climate change, energy and a green economy, it was noted.

It’s anticipated the work will help the 10 members gain skills and experience they can bring to their schools and communities to help address climate change.

“Congratulations to each of the youth climate leaders who were selected to be part of the second panel,” Premier Sandy Silver said. “Climate change remains our biggest challenge as a territory. It is important that we include the perspectives of youth in the actions we take to address climate change that will affect them the most. I look forward to meeting with the panel and reviewing their recommendations on how we can create a more sustainable territory for future generations.”

In addition to the individual work of members, the group meets once a month virtually and in person three times a year with members receiving a monthly honourarium and being reimbursed for travel and other eligible expenses.

Ross highlighted BYTE’s work as a youth-led organization.

“BYTE supports the panel in several ways – helping to organize meetings and events, providing communications support, logistics like booking venues and accommodations – but one really important part of the youth panel’s mandate is that it is self-led,” she said. “So the youth panelists themselves are responsible for deciding what issues they want to learn about and explore, what they want their climate action to look like, how they want to engage fellow Yukon youth. BYTE is here to help make their vision a reality.”

As with any project, Ross said there was much to learn from the experience of the first youth panel. BYTE has worked to implement a number of suggestions for the second panel, including making the second cohort a smaller group to “make it easier to accomplish some of the work that the youth were trying to do together.”

It’s for that reason the second panel has three fewer members than the first.

The first panel wrapped up its one-year term by presenting a series of recommendations to the Yukon government in late 2021.

The recommendations centered on education, capacity building, land use planning, Indigenous sovereignty, local transportation and food production, knowledge acquisition and policy creation, and addressing the impacts of mining and the extractive industry.

The territory issued a response to the recommendations in March highlighting efforts underway in each area.

Both the recommendation and response documents are available online.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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