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Mayor's youth council sworn in
Cambridge Bay makes 2017 year of the youth

Beth Brown
Northern News Services
Monday, February 6, 2017

Cambridge Bay has a new kind of council in the hamlet. Six young people from the community took an oath of office at a swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 23, marking the establishment of the Cambridge Bay mayor's youth council.

NNSL photo/graphic

Cambridge Bay has a new mayor's youth council. Front, from left, are Courtney Nakahok, Shania Angohiatok, Charmaine Panegyuk, Thomas Kaohina and Calvin Ehaloak. Back, from left, are councillor Andrea Omilgoitok, deputy mayor Joe Ohokannoak, mayor Jeannie Ehaloak, councillor Sarah Janke, councillor Jamie Taipan, and councillor David Kaosoni. Absent are youth council members Carter Lear and Sasha Evetalegak. - photo courtesy of Marla Limousin

"We want a better community and a better lifestyle for the kids and the teenagers," said youth councillor Charmaine Panegyuk, 15.

The council was created by the mayor and sanctioned by council to represent youth issues and ideas in the community.

"The RCMP came and swore them in as youth council, very similar to a hamlet councillor being sworn in," said hamlet senior administrative officer Marla Limousin.

"Their role is (to be) the definitive voice of youth in the community that will have a direct relationship to the hamlet council," she said.

Panegyuk is joined by Sasha Evetalegak, Carter Lear, Thomas Kaohina, Courtney Nakahok, Calvin Ehaloak and Shania Angohiatok.

"We want to train them as leaders and spokespersons for their peers, and then we are going to work with them throughout the year on anything they want to tackle," said Limousin.

Panegyuk said the youth council is creating an opportunity for ongoing youth issues to be addressed.

"Other people have been wanting to do something like this but just haven't had the chance."

She wants to establish programs and safe spaces in the hamlet so youth can reach out when they need help, or when situations at home are unstable.

"There is the youth centre, and the game hall and sports going on at night, but we also want them to have a place to go after midnight," said Panegyuk.

Other youth councillors want to focus on reducing marijuana use and alcohol abuse in the hamlet.

Panegyuk would also like to see more activities in place for younger children.

"Kids are getting bullied and having nowhere to go. We're all trying to come up with programs for the kids."

The council is funded by $5,000 donated by the Ovayok Broadcasting Society in December, and $2,000 donated by the Crystal Serenity cruise ship in the summer.

The hamlet has also named 2017 as the year of the youth. The council created a list of guiding principles for the year of the youth and for the hamlet council as it moves to support youth initiatives in the Cambridge Bay.

They are as follows: "We the hamlet council believe youth have an important voice that should be heard; youth must be valued, respected and supported; youth can and do make an essential difference; youth and community can work together; and, youth and community can both learn from each other."

The youth council is having its first official meeting this week, though the students have already met for an introductory session.

"The response from the youth in that first meeting was very positive," said recreation director Fred Muise.

Organizers told the youth they were there to support the new group and enable its success, but that ultimately the youth were to take ownership of the council.

"There is a wide range of youth with different interests and different perspectives," said Muise.

"It was really exciting to have the first discussion, to hear their thoughts and ideas, and see their faces light up when we (told them), 'we want to hear your voice and we want you to be at the table.'"

The youth will also be heading to Yellowknife this month to take part in a leadership training program.

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