Introduce yourself, where you’re from and where you are now:
For sure! Hey! I’m Manus Hopkins, sometimes known as CuddleBunny from the metal band, The Animal Warfare Act. I’m a musician and a writer, and I grew up in Whitehorse, Yukon. I’m currently out in Toronto studying journalism at Ryerson University.
How did you come to live in the Yukon? Were you born here?
I wasn’t born in the Yukon, but I have lived there since I was only a few months old. My family is from Toronto, and my parents got offered jobs in Whitehorse back in ‘99 and decided to move there for a year or two. For whatever reason, they just never ended up leaving.
What do you think of life in the Yukon in general?
I’m really thankful to have grown up in the Yukon. I actually developed a much bigger appreciation for it once I left. I think it’s important for people to get out of their hometowns and experience life somewhere else, even if they do end up going back. But the Yukon is a really amazing place and I’ve had a lot of incredible opportunities growing up there that I don’t think I would’ve had anywhere else.
How was your life here?
Obviously anyone’s life has its ups and downs, but in general, the Yukon was a great place for me to grow up. I started playing music early on in my life, and was in a real band playing shows around town by the time I was 15. Just being in Whitehorse where people are friendly and like to help each other out really made this possible. I wouldn’t have made nearly as many friends in the music scene somewhere else where people are only looking out for themselves. Music has always my main passion and hobby, so being in a place where I was able to get a proper start in it was amazing.
What do you think is the biggest downfall/problem for youth in the Yukon?
This is a really complicated issue because there are so many sides to it, but I think youth not being involved in expressive outlets is a huge downfall. I wrote a piece in Up Here Magazine this past spring that focused on marginalized youth not being able to access outlets like sports, music, and arts, mainly because so many youth services are based in Whitehorse and living in the communities can be isolating. But I think the problems run even deeper than that.
For a lot of youth, money is an issue, and government funding is not always easy to get and not always guaranteed. There’s also just the matter that some youth might not feel comfortable or know how to get involved in things like those outlets. That’s probably one of the more simple aspects to fix, but it’s definitely something that needs to happen. Not everyone has the confidence to just go join a club or take up a hobby. There just needs to be some help getting kids involved in healthy activities.
Then of course, mental health is a huge issue in any place like the Yukon as well. Being dark and cold so much of the year and having spirits dampened and activities limited can be really detrimental to youth mental health.
How would you like to see this issue being addressed?
There needs to be more happening within the education system, firstly. I graduated high school in 2016, and at that time conversations about de-stigmatizing mental health issues were just starting. That’s a great thing, but so much more than that needs to happen.
The odd presentation or motivational speech isn’t enough—mental health needs to be part of the school curriculum. Learning to look after your mental health isn’t something you should have to do by yourself, or go out yourself to find help with when you’re a teenager.
The school system is perfectly capable of fostering skills in young people and helping them to get involved in healthy outlets, whether they’re athletic, creative or anything else.
This last bit is something schools do already, but all these things need to become primary focuses, because in the long run it’s going to be just as important as having the knowledge or whatever you need to land a good job.
From a youth perspective, what do you think of the mental health services and access to youth services in the Yukon?
Mental health services should be easier to access. The older generation doesn’t generally take mental health as seriously as they should, so a lot of youth have found themselves in a position where they’re told to just go talk to a school counsellor, and there’s help way beyond that they need and don’t know how to get.
I’m sure there are great services, but for youth there should be easier ways to access them, or better ones that are easy to access.
What do you think of the education system in the Yukon?
I don’t think the education system is terrible—but there are times I feel it’s a bit out of touch with today’s youth. The world is a much different place, economically, environmentally and socially, now than it was when the people who make the school curriculum entered adulthood. I think it could benefit more from some legitimate youth involvement and more engagement with and a better understanding youth issues.
I remember being in high school and seeing these presentations that were meant to scare us into never partying, which to be blunt, were fucking stupid. If people want to party, or have sex, or use drugs recreationally, they’re gonna do it. It’s much more important that youth are taught to do it safely than told not to do it at all.
What did you do while you lived in the Yukon? Go into jobs/hobbies/passions:
I used to play in a band called Warrmauth when I was a teenager. We did a lot of gigs in Whitehorse and even played Atlin Music fest one year, which was sick. That was always my main hobby and passion as a teen. Aside from that, before I went away to study journalism, I landed an awesome gig writing for What’s Up Yukon. I’m still doing that, actually and I really love it.
How and why did you get into those jobs/hobbies/passions?
I recognize that I’m very fortunate and privileged to have had the opportunities I did growing up in the Yukon. I’ve been taking music lessons since I was really young, and I met some other musicians through the band program at my school that I started to play with in high school. So I’ve been doing music as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t actually something I decided to go into myself, since it was my parents who put me in lessons back then.
With writing, I actually only sort of went into that because I found out I was good at it. I was never a math or science kid, but English was my strong suit in school. I always felt pressured to go to university for something, so I thought I’d better go do something I’m good at school-wise. After that I started to genuinely enjoy it and took an interest in journalism, because I could do music journalism and still be a part of that whole world if I wasn’t successful as a musician.
Where have the activities/jobs that you did in the Yukon taken you in life? Do they apply to your current occupation?
So writing definitely does, because What’s Up Yukon was the first magazine to ever publish my work and I have a strong portfolio built up because of it that I can use to get my work in other magazines.
There might be a day where music takes me somewhere in life, but if it ends up just being a hobby forever, I’m ok with that. I love maki music and I love playing shows and there’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing people enjoying my music and my shows. It’s also really cathartic to me. Playing music relieves a lot of tension for me and just makes me feel energized and at peace, which is totally an amazing thing.
What/who inspires/motivates you?
Probably not surprisingly, I get inspired and motivated a lot through music! I also like to plan to do at least one thing I can get excited for every day. Just knowing there’s something cool I’m gonna do makes me want to get out of bed in the morning and go do it, you know?
How and why did you leave the Yukon?
I left the Yukon to go to university and to experience life outside my hometown. I still go back to the Yukon every Christmas and summer and I really love doing that, but I just got to a point where I needed to step out on my own and make a big change. Being from the Yukon will always be a huge part of who I am, and I couldn’t see myself ever not wanting to back there.
How is life different outside of the Yukon?
It’s really different! And it was a huge adjustment that took me a long time to make. Toronto is such a different place, so some thing were expected, but one thing I didn’t think about that turned out to be a huge adjustment was getting used to being around so many strangers. In Whitehorse, even if you don’t know people, there’s still some familiarity about them. Now in Toronto, I’ll walk by hundreds of people a day that I’ll never see again, and nobody smiles or says hello!
Where do you want to see yourself in the next 10 years?
Whether I have to get some real job to pay the bills or not, I know I’ll definitely still be making music. I plan to record new music every year and start touring around a year after I finish school in 2021.
I’m not too worried about having a house and a wife and kids or anything like that. I just want to be doing things that make me happy and putting good energy out into the world while I’m doing that. It’s just about being true to yourself and not trying to cram yourself into a box because someone else says you have to. It’d be nice to be financially stable, but it’s more important than I follow my dreams. I owe it to my younger self to at least try.
What is your message to youth in the Yukon?
I would love to say, it’s really important to find out who you are, and who you want to be, and work everyday to be that person. That’s something that you should decide totally on your own too! Don’t try to be someone to impress anyone else, because you‘ll know that’s not you, and later you’ll regret the time you wasted when you could’ve been doing the things you really want.
The photo of me onstage with striped pants was taken August 9, 2019 at the Local Bar in Whitehorse by Delaney Arrell.
The one of my whole band at the Cheeseburger Picnic was taken July 29, 2019 by Sebastian Lapres.
The one of just me at the cheeseburger picnic was taken by Mikaela Kruse
The one of just me was taken in Montreal on October 13, 2019 by Charlotte Van Randen