Our History

The journey to establishing a Representative for Children and Youth in Nunavut speaks to the determination of many Nunavummiut!

Nunavut officially became a territory in 1999. That same year, Debbie Gray, a Cambridge Bay teacher, first made the case for a territorial child advocate. She felt an independent advocate could help the government meet children’s unique needs. The then-mayor of Cambridge Bay, Keith Peterson, soon raised the issue publicly. In response, the new Government of Nunavut began exploring the idea in 2000. It agreed children’s needs required special attention and support. But it did not immediately commit to creating an independent office.

Over the next nine years, subsequent governments continued work on the issue. A Children’s First Secretariat was created. This government working group later expanded to include NGOs and became known as Nunavut’s Promise to Children and Youth.

Then, in 2009, the government, under then-Premier Eva Aariak, released its Tamapta Mandate (2009-2013). This document identified the creation of an independent child and youth representative as a key project. This was a major step forward. The Government of Nunavut had now made a clear commitment to establishing an independent Representative for Children and Youth.

After this priority was identified, the Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs led a steering committee of different government departments and other key stakeholders, including Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. Many meetings and consultations were held. These included work with Tuttarvit, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Katimajiit, youth coordinators, other Canadian youth advocacy offices, UNICEF Canada, community health committees, various front-line workers and the public.

In 2012, the first draft of the Representative for Children and Youth Act was completed. About a year later, on September 17, 2013, the RCY Act was passed in Nunavut’s legislature. On June 2, 2014, Nunavut’s first Representative for Children and Youth, Sherry McNeil-Mulak, was appointed. The RCY's office officially opened its doors on September 30, 2015.

Between 1999 and 2015, many Nunavummiut – from government leaders and employees to members of the public - contributed their passion and gave their support to the eventual creation of our office. So many that not all their names can be listed here. However, some key figures and organizations included MLAs Keith Peterson, Rebekah Williams, Ron Elliot and Johnny Ningeongan, Brenda Jancke, Elwood Johnson, David General, the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.

Our team feels privileged to bring life to the hard work of those that came before us!