The Humanitarian Award Presented by Music Canada recognizes outstanding Canadian artists and industry leaders whose philanthropic contributions have made a positive and long-lasting impact on Canada and around the world. This year, the award was presented to Inuk singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark for her commitment to improving the lives of children and youth in Northern Indigenous communities through the Arctic Rose Foundation.
The Inuit, First Nations and Métis youth population in the North face a series of structural inequities and barriers that significantly impact their health and wellbeing. Indigenous youth face the highest high school dropout rate and suicide rate in the country as well as disproportionate levels of food insecurity, poor housing conditions, and limited access to programs and support. Many of these youth also struggle with cultural disconnect, a result of intergenerational trauma and the erasure of Indigenous culture inflicted by Canada’s residential school system.
“How can we expect to ask our youth to be dreamers and pursue careers of their choice if we aren’t showing them? If we aren’t creating opportunities for them?”
– Susan Aglukark
At The 2022 JUNO Opening Night Awards Presented by Ontario Creates, Aglukark spoke about the significant role the arts have played in her own personal healing journey and her mission to aid today’s youth in their’s. “My work as a songwriter is focused on correcting the narrative, finding my own story, and creating safe spaces to heal and explore reconciliation. And I like to think the Arctic Rose Foundation, the work it does and support it provides, plays its own small positive role in that process.”
The goal of the Arctic Rose Foundation is to support Northern Inuit, First Nations and Métis youth, promote emotional and mental wellness, and connect them with their culture through intentional and adaptable arts-based programming. Youth are given a safe space and emotional outlet, access to Indigenous leaders and role models, and employment and mentorship opportunities to help them deal with barriers commonly faced in the North.
“Our youth and children need to see us working in our communities and reserves. They need to witness good things. Beautiful things. Healthy relationships for us, by us,” Aglurkark said. “How can we expect to ask our youth to be dreamers and pursue careers of their choice if we aren’t showing them? If we aren’t creating opportunities for them? Showing them living proof of healed, accomplished Indigenous artists, singer-songwriters, mixed media artists, painters, writers, authors, dancers actors, poets. These programs support them all.”
“In sharing our respective works, our journeys, and Indigenous ways that we share, we are also investing in and reinforcing other ways of succeeding. And our Indigenous children and youth want to succeed,” She continued. We have seen firsthand the benefits of these emotionally safe spaces. We know an emotionally healthy child or youth is well on his or her way to succeed. I am very hopeful for our future.”
Closing her speech, Aglukark thanked her family, all those who have contributed to the success of the Arctic Rose Foundation, and most importantly the children and youth who access the Foundation’s program and support systems. “It is your passion, your creativity, and immense potential that inspires us.”
Featured image: JUNO Humanitarian Award recipient Susan Aglukark. JUNO Opening Night Awards. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, On. May 14, 2022. Photo credit: iPhoto/CARAS