Hilda Snowball.
© Alistair Maitland

Hilda Snowball is part of a generation of emerging northern leaders working to address economic, social and political transformations taking place in the Territories and Inuit Nunangat. At the age of 31, Snowball is on her second term as the Mayor of Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik – an Inuit village located on Ungava Bay near the Quebec-Labrador border.

Snowball is a Jane Glassco Northern Fellow; participating in a two-year policy program of The Gordon Foundation. The program engages northern leaders between the ages of 25 and 35. Over the last decade, the Fellowship has worked with more than 30 change-makers involved in building a strong North.

Snowball first heard about the program from one of her former teachers. She was inspired to connect with other leaders and to gain new skills and perspectives about policies in communities across the North.

Leena Evic teaches the Jane Glassco Northern Fellows about qulliq lighting as part of their August 2018 Gathering in Iqaluit. © Jamie Griffiths / Chickweed Arts

The current cohort of Jane Glassco Northern Fellows has gathered twice — in Whitehorse last winter and Iqaluit this August. Author and activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier was the Mentor for their recent gathering in Iqaluit. As part of the gathering, Fellows met with leaders including Mayor Madeleine Redfern, Premier Joe Savikataaq and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk.

The Fellows will meet two more times in 2019 and develop policy papers and recommendations on timely and important northern issues. Snowball’s policy work is focused on developing Inuit-run family and youth services in her home region of Nunavik.

In late August, we spoke with Snowball about her experiences with the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship program and to learn more about the focus of her policy research.

Above & Beyond: What does developing northern policy “for the north, by the north” mean to you?

HS: In my point of view, there are a lot of policies that are made without properly consulting the North. I want to focus on making recommenda­tions and changes that I think would fit [Nunavik]. It is very important that policies which are
developed are informed by discussions with communities.

A&B: How would you describe your research focus so far during the Fellowship?

HS: My research focus is on family services in [Nunavik]. We are in Quebec and we are following the Quebec law — for example the Youth Protection Act. From the stories that we’ve heard from those who are under the youth protection system — the families, the parents — we’ve heard that the law doesn’t fit into our communities.

I want to focus on this because as a community [Kangiqsualujjuaq] we have started the Family House (Note: also known as Qarmaapik House). It is a program that will prevent children from going into the youth protection system and supports parents in any way possible. I want to focus on that and how Inuit values can be best implemented [in family services] so children are prevented from going into the foster care system.

A&B: Are there specific skills or valuable knowledge that you’ve been learning? Or that you hope to learn as you complete the Fellowship?

HS: This is a very challenging research project that I am trying to do. I am looking forward to how it will turn out. Hopefully the recommendations I am making will be looked at so that we can as a community have the support we need to implement our vision.

Hilda Snowball (front row, fourth from left) at the Whitehorse gathering. © Alistair Maitland

With the Family House project in our community, we are already seeing that the community itself must take responsibility and control if we want a better future for our children.

We as a community, or as parents, must become responsible. Part of the research will identify solutions to help parents so they can meet the basic needs of their children based on Inuit values. The Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship Program will help me.

A&B: A big part of the Fellowship is working with a mentor. Do you mind telling us a little about who your mentor is? And what made you want to work with her?

HS: My mentor is also my mentor in my position [as mayor]. Her name is Maggie Emudluk and she was a former mayor in my community and she is a municipal councillor. She was the Chairperson of Kativik Regional Government for many years.

I wanted her to be my mentor because I have already been working with her and she is very knowledgeable about what is going on in our region. I chose her because she is a great support for me in what I am doing in my position [as mayor] as well as in this Fellowship. I am looking forward to working with her on the project for the Fellowship.

A&B: Would you recommend that other Northerners apply to join the next cohort of Jane Glassco Northern Fellows?

HS: Yes! It is good to see what there is out there. If it was not for the program I do not think I would have seen or met people in other regions who are facing similar challenges as I am facing here. It is good to have a network. I really do recommend this program to the youth in my community. Hopefully there will be a lot of young people from Nunavik who will apply for the next cohort.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq addresses the Jane Glassco Northern Fellows at a reception during their August 2018 Gathering in Iqaluit. © Jamie Griffiths / Chickweed Arts

To learn more about the Jane Glassco Northern
Fellowship program, please visit gordonfoundation.ca/initiatives/jane-glassco-fellowship/

The Gordon Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to protecting Canada’s water and empowering Canada’s North. The Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship is a crucial part of the Foundation’s mission to promote innovative public policies for the North and amplify Northern voices.