Arctic Symposium ‘96

 August 30, 2019
Posted by smiklosovic

In 2019, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the NWT Recreation and Parks Association by looking back at the people, events, programs, and projects that have made the NWTRPA what it is today. In our last post, we met the people who served as presidents of the NWTRPA from 2004 to today (we recognized the presidents from 1989 to 2004 in this post). Today, we re-visit an event that was a defining moment for the NWTRPA, Arctic Symposium ’96.

Twenty-three years ago this month, around three hundred delegates from across Canada landed in Yellowknife for “three days of events exploring issues about parks, protected areas, and outdoor recreation!” Arctic Symposium ’96 was a collaboration between the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) with administrative support from the City of Yellowknife and the NWTRPA. NWTRPA Board President Tony Kulbisky and Treasurer Brian Kelln served on the Host Committee as the Civic Delegates Chair and NWTRPA Liaison, and Children’s Activities Chair, respectively.

The symposium was preceded by a National Forum on Youth, which was coordinated by Tony Kulbisky and chaired by Dr. Ian Reid (University of New Brunswick) and Tony Rabinovitz (University of Ottawa). Delegates at that event included nine youth from nine different communities in Nunavut, including Sanikiluaq, Kimmirut, and Taloyoak, who were part of the Nunavut Youth Leaders in Training Program (NYLIT). The NWTRPA was the lead organization on NYLIT, a ten-month pilot leadership training program for young people in the soon-to-be independent territory of Nunavut. Youth who participated in the program were well-positioned to contribute to discussions at the forum, which focused on how to improve programs and services for youth.

Arctic Symposium ’96 officially kicked off with “Melt the Ice Mingle,” a social event at the Explorer Hotel organized by the NWTRPA. Event attendees were treated to Arctic Games presentations and jazz music. They went home with a shooter glass that featured “the NWTRPA logo, the host community logo, and the wording ‘Melt the Ice Mingle 1996.’” (If you still have your glass, we would love to see it!)

For the next three days, delegates heard from a variety of different presenters on the related themes of conservation and recreation. Keynote speakers for Arctic Symposium ’96 included Vicky Gabereau, host of the daily CBC radio talk show, Gabereau (1985-1997), and Naula Beck, a futurist and economist.

Given the size and organizational requirements of the symposium, the NWTRPA decided not to host its own conference in 1996. They did, however, organize an awards luncheon during the gathering. Amongst others, Peggy Curtis, a long-time physical education teacher, councillor, and recreation leader in Inuvik, was celebrated with the Honorary Life Membership Award, while Jonah Koonark, the arena facility manager for Pond Inlet and the first graduate of the Recreation Facility Operators Program, was recognized for Facility Excellence.

A second round of awards was handed out at a banquet on Saturday evening. That night, NWTRPA President Tony Kulbisky was presented with the Claude Langelier Award, which recognized a young professional for “outstanding achievement in the parks and recreation field.”

The NWTRPA records indicate that the event was a success, though helping to host it was a lot of work for the largely volunteer organization. Not surprisingly, the NWTRPA board and the organization’s one and only staff member, took a bit of time to rest and recover in the fall of 1996. Nevertheless, the event was important in raising the profile of the still youth NWTRPA. The event also inspired the formation of a local CPAWS chapter, which remains in operation today.