IN CHARGE OF
IN CHARGE OF OUR LIVES
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.”
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.
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
FOXY and SMASH
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.”