Dr. Larry Dyke and Miguel Lopez collecting water samples Dr. Larry Dyke and Miguel Lopez collecting water samples
© Parks Canada

Heather MacLeod
Interpretive Coordinator, Wapusk National Park

Lateesha Redhead and Dylan O'Nabigon at Wapusk National Park Leadership Camp Lateesha Redhead and Dylan O'Nabigon at Wapusk National Park Leadership Camp.
© Parks Canada

Summer 2015 marks the sixth year that Parks Canada has offered an exciting combination of interpretation skills, visitor experience training, leadership skill development and an introduction to field work for Manitoba youth in grades 11 and 12 at the Wapusk National Park Leadership Camp, held in the park. The camp began in 2009 with 5 students from Churchill, building to capacity in 2013 with 14 students. The range of communities from which the participating students come from has also increased. Students from Churchill, York Factory First Nation and Fox Lake Cree Nation continue to be the primary focus for recruitment, but participation has diversified to include representation from other northern communities, as well as urban, rural, francophone and new Canadians.

Wapusk National Park Leadership Camp 2015 promises to be another enriching experience for Manitoba youth. New this year is that students will fly to Churchill instead of travelling by train, resulting in the benefit of extending the camp to six days. Participants will be flown to Wapusk National Park (NP) where they will spend three nights at the Nester One research camp. When not camping in the park, students will be staying at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, experiencing the atmosphere of this world-renowned northern learning and research facility.

Parks Canada staff, community experts and facilitators, including a First Nations representative, will provide a wide range of exciting programs and activities during the camp, including hikes and presentations in Wapusk NP to learn more about the archaeology, wildlife, and research taking place. The Churchill experience includes, among many other activities, visits to Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site (including a beluga whale watching opportunity), a tour of the Eskimo Museum, and a presentation by a Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship Natural Resource Officer about the Polar Bear Alert Program.

Here, two past Leadership Camp participants from Winnipeg share their thoughts on the value of this experience...

Participating in the Wapusk National Park Leadership Camp in 2010 strongly impacted my perspective on sciences and the environment. I am currently in my third year of Engineering at the University of Manitoba specializing in Environmental Engineering. My experience at camp helped me to develop an appreciation for the various ecosystems this province has to offer as well as to look towards safe development and preservation in the future.

My experiences at the Leadership Camp helped shape my character and gave me the self-confidence to continue to try new things. While at camp, I was treated with respect and trust and given responsibility that helped me realize that I could be independent and confident with my decisions.
- Katherine Meese

I had never been up north. Prior to attending the Wapusk National Park Leadership Camp in 2012, I had only a vague concept of Canadian longitudes above Winnipeg. Sure, I had travelled, but to this day no place has left me so profoundly impacted as Churchill and Wapusk National Park.

The Leadership Camp immersed me in the northern community. I learned about local culture from community members. I met scientists dedicated to their research based out of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. I saw belugas and an abandoned rocket range; and I flew in a helicopter to a land that so few people have had the opportunity to set foot on.

These experiences impacted every participant in the camp positively. This program not only exposed me to aspects of our country I had never encountered, but also developed leadership skills that have followed me into other aspects of my life. Following the camp, I adopted a bigger leadership role in my high school and community. The camp was a major influence on my choice to leave home and study biology at Trent University. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I feel so privileged to have experienced a slice of northern life or if it’s just that nothing seems as daunting after you’ve strolled through polar bear country, but I have been able to navigate my young adult life with confidence, which I largely attribute to having had these experiences. I’ve since hiked the Mantario trail, gotten a pine tree tattoo and spent as much time exploring outdoors as possible. These experiences continue to have an impact on me everyday and I couldn’t be more grateful for having had them.
- Anais Giasson