Ikaarvik was created in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, and is administered by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. It began from the recognition that, while there is a lot of research happening in the North, there is often a disconnect between that research and the Northern communities. Northern communities are rarely directly involved in developing research questions and methodologies and are often not engaged in the research as it is conducted and results are interpreted. As a result, research is often not as relevant for northern communities as it could be.
Sixty percent of Nunavummiut are under the age of 30. Youth are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but are becoming the leaders of today. Working with Elders and other community leaders, youth are on Hamlet Councils and Hunters and Trappers Organizations; they have opinions and perspectives and a desire to contribute something of value to their communities.
At the same time, scientists and researchers are beginning to recognize the importance of working with northern communities as they develop and conduct their research. Youth are in the perfect position to represent their communities’ needs while having the interest and developing capacity to ensure that the research is effectively connected and communicated to the community.
Ikaarvik works with youth in Northern Canadian communities to identify the strengths of local knowledge and the strengths of scientifically-derived knowledge, and to explore how the two can work better together to address issues of local relevance to communities. The youth work with their communities to identify issues that could be addressed through Inuit Knowledge and scientific research and then work directly with researchers and community leaders to address one or more of these issues.
Ikaarvik is about giving youth the opportunity, confidence and experience to help their communities work effectively with researchers to meet the communities’ own local needs. As a result, northern communities are able to play a more active role in research being conducted around them and the research is of more local relevance. Researchers benefit from having local “champions” for their research, more robust data that incorporates Inuit knowledge, practices and values (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit), and a better understanding for their research’s relevance in the North.
In Inuktitut, Ikaarvik means “bridge”. It was named by youth in Pond Inlet, Nunavut who were seeking to create a program to bridge the North and South, as well as to connect Inuit Knowledge with science and research.