Featured Fellow: Candice Lys


Healthy sexuality for young Northerners

At a talking circle outside Yellowknife, a teenage boy speaks about the ways his father taught him to be a man — to ignore pain and punish vulnerability. “I didn’t know there was another way until now,” he tells his peers: “I’m going to be a different kind of father.”

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Sitting at the back of a classroom workshop in a Nunavut town, a wary high-schooler suddenly perks up. “That’s me,” she thinks, as the facilitator — a person who looks like her — talks openly and positively about LGBTQ+ issues. “She’s telling me I exist.”

A Yukon teen doesn’t know what to say about condoms to her boyfriend — so she doesn’t say anything. At a role-playing workshop, she brainstorms with her peers to come up with the words, and the courage, to speak up: “I can tell him what I need.”

These youth, living in far northern, predominantly Indigenous communities, are changing their own and their communities’ mindsets about wellbeing and sexuality. And they’re doing it with the support of FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth) and SMASH (Strength, Masculinities, and Sexual Health) — arts-based programs to foster mental and sexual health across the Far North.

Well over 65% of the region’s teens have been touched by the youth-led, peer-to-peer programs, which are shaped by Indigenous perspective on the land, arts and culture.

candice lys foxy
FOXY and SMASH are the brainchild of Dr. Candice Lys, Ashoka’s first Fellow from The Northwest Territories. She provides the sexual education she wishes she’d had as a teen. And she’s thrilled to see how her work is changing lives every day, creating the next generation of leaders in Canada’s North.

Dr. Candice Lys

Yellowknife, Yukon



Our youth are healing themselves, their families, and their communities. It’s really amazing to watch them begin to understand themselves as powerful agents of change.”

Dr. Candice Lys, Ashoka Canada Fellow

As recipient of the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize, Candice’s crucial work embodies First Nations leadership in designing strategies to preserve and promote well-being and helps youth to better understand themselves as healers and powerful agents of change. We are honoured to support Ashoka Canada’s role in accelerating the impact of Candice’s work.”

Dani DeBoice, Senior Advisor
Community Investment, Suncor Energy Foundation

Highlights from the Network

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“It means we’re doing our job”

New study shows that FOXY holds promise as an effective method of delivering sexual health information and promoting agency for young women in Canada’s Far North.

Everything I thought I knew about teenagers

Ashoka Fellow Candice Lys, founder of FOXY and SMASH, shares the profound findings of five years of working out on the land with northern youth.

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“The naked truth”

Northern Public Affairs correspondent Jerald Sabin speaks with FOXY’s executive director Candice Lys about sexual health in northern Canada, participatory research, and winning the Arctic Inspiration Prize.

A million-dollar idea

FOXY co-founder Candice Lys on winning the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize — the first time in the prize’s history that the entire amount is gone to a single Laureate.

Mentoring the next generation of social entrepreneurs

“Being involved with Ashoka means that I can call up another Fellow and have a real conversation about what it’s like to live, work and breathe as a social innovator running a not-for-profit. We can talk about ideas, and those ideas turn into real-life prototypes and projects. It has been incredibly helpful.”

Candice Lys, Ashoka Canada Fellow