08/20/2013 05:00 EDT | Updated 10/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Canada's North: Challenges and Opportunities

There is no doubt that the landscape -- environmental, social, and political -- in Canada's North is changing.

In the same year that Yukon celebrated its tenth anniversary of devolution, the Northwest Territories achieved an agreement of its own. Calls for negotiations to resume in Nunavut are gaining strength. The governance framework is increasingly allowing the people of the North -- the youth of the North -- to chart their own course. Taking advantage of this changing landscape will take strong leadership by those who understand the needs of northern communities, and are armed with the skills and knowledge to bring about their vision.

In 2010, 12 young northerners embarked on this journey through the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship, an initiative of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, which has spent the last 25 years investing in programs that "empower Canada's North." Representing communities from Old Crow to Nain, the Fellows spent two years travelling to and learning about each other's homes and cultures, and the issues they face. In a country where north/south linkages are strong, not only between Canada and its neighbour, the U.S., but also between northern communities and southern Canada, this fellowship provided the opportunity to link Canadians spread across the vast North from east to west. Through seeing and talking about the different parts of the North, they developed a deeper understanding of the issues that sparked their individual passions, be it the stewardship of natural resources, the state of education, or economic development. They also worked on a group project, identifying the experiences and characteristics common to successful northern leaders; the kinds of leaders they hope to become. They concluded:

"Perhaps among the most valuable lessons we have learned is the power of partnerships and the strength that comes through fellowship. We have come to understand in a way that we maybe did not appreciate before that, together, we are strong -- strong in two worlds -- and the solutions we seek rest with us."

This summer, the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship seeks a new cohort of Fellows, specifically young northerners with an interest in the challenges facing their communities, and a desire to develop the skills, contacts, and resources necessary to spur change. If you are or know that person, you are encouraged to apply. If not, stay tuned because it is these fellows who will build a strong North which is guided by and benefits those who call the region home.