Three boys from Upper Canada College and three girls from St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School took part in a March break exchange with six students from Kugluktuk High School in Nunavut.
The UCC students — Raphael Berz (Year 11), Roger Watts (Year 11) and John Papanikolaou (Year 9) — applied to participate by completing a short answer application form. They were accompanied on the exchange by Norval Outdoor School outdoor education instructor Katie Tanz, who organized it with assistance from UCC international exchanges and service trip coordinator Deirdre Timusk.
The Ontario contingent spent a week in Kugluktuk, a hamlet of about 1,500 people at the mouth of the Coppermine River in Canada’s far north.
“We learned to build iglus from an elder in the community who was actually born in an iglu,” says Tanz. “We took several trips out on the land, travelling by snowmobile to Bumper Lake, where we went ice fishing, and took a trip to historic Bloody Falls to enjoy the view.
“We learned to skin Arctic foxes from a local trapper, carve soapstone from a local carver, and sew with sealskin. The students attended classes with their exchange partners and also visited classes at the elementary school, answering questions about life in the south.
“As a thanks to the people of Kugluktuk, the students hosted and served a lunch for the entire community. In the evenings, the students learned to drum dance and tried their hand at some Arctic
Winter Games events, such as the high kick and stick pull.
“They stayed in homes with Inuit families and got to taste traditional foods such as muskox and Arctic char.”
In Ontario, the Kugluktuk students and their hosts visited Niagara Falls and met the city’s mayor. They also took part in a feast hosted by the Tungasuvvingat Inuit community in Toronto, attended Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors games, and shopped at the Eaton Centre.
On the educational front, the students: presented at an assembly; attended classes with their exchange partners; visited classes at the Prep School to answer questions from Year 2, 4 and 6 students; visited the Norval Outdoor School, where they learned to make maple syrup; and toured George Brown College.
Some students visited the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada with their host families. They also visited the office of a major donor to the exchange, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, hosted by senior vice-president of corporate development and Old Boy Don Allan ’74.
This is the third exchange between UCC and Kugluktuk High School. There was a canoe trip on the Coppermine River in 2010, and four students from each school took part in an exchange in 2016. This was the first time that a third school, St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School in Oakville, took part.
“The students got to experience the culture and people in a part of Canada that most Canadians never get the chance to see,” says Tanz. “The trip gave them exposure to life in Northern Canada, and the social, geographical and environmental changes that are taking place there.
“They also formed some real friendships with Kugluktuk students and got to share their own life and culture in Toronto with the visiting students.”
Berz is writing his Year 11 extended essay on food security in Northern Canada, so he interviewed Kugluktuk grocery store managers and spoke to residents about food access and prices. He also made this video of the trip to Kugluktuk.