Edmonton woman among those chosen to 'Indigenize the Senate'

An Edmonton woman has been chosen as one of only 10 young Indigenous leaders in the country to make special presentations to the Senate.

Jacquelyn Cardinal says she hopes to help shape Canada's future

Jacquelyn Cardinal will make presentations to the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on June 7. (Jacquelyn Cardinal)

Jacquelyn Cardinal always had big dreams for the future, and now will get the chance to share her vision for the country with the Senate.

Cardinal, 26, given the name Flying White Eagle by her grandfather, is one of 10 people from across Canada chosen to make presentations to the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

"It's completely humbling," said Cardinal, 26. "It was amazing to be nominated in the first place, and actually being selected was just awesome."

She made the final cut after being nominated along with more than 100 other young Indigenous people as part of the "Youth Indigenize the Senate" initiative.

"The majority of the Canadian Indigenous population is under the age of 30, so we're a huge group and it's important that we're represented," said Cardinal, a member of Sucker Creek First Nation in northern Alberta.

Now an entrepreneur in Edmonton, Cardinal is co-founder of the tech company Naheyawin, which is involved in marketing, graphic design and web development.
Jacquelyn Cardinal's digital agency Naheyawin helps Indigenous companies get off the ground, and also works in marketing and technology development. (Jacquelyn Cardinal)

"It's really around helping facilitate communication between Indigenous and non Indigenous folks in the city and provincewide," she said. "As well as just helping Indigenous companies actually get started."

She intends to tell the Senate committee about the need to maximize the use of technology to help Indigenous companies grow and to create jobs for a new generation.

Cardinal acknowledged the work on reconciliation and healing in the country is imperative, but said many people are already making a difference in that area.

That's partly why she's taking a different focus by trying to generate new opportunities for young people.

"How do we take what we had before? What we were able to save from what has happened over the last 100 years and be able to build new stories, new ceremonies, new ways of living."

Inspired by Cardinal's drive and charm, Mariah Samji was one of the people who nominated her for the Senate program after hearing about it through social media.
Senator Lilian Dyck says the committee is keen to hear from young Indigenous leaders. (Senate of Canada)

"She does so much for the community, and is so passionate about helping and making sure that everyone has a voice," Samji said.

The chair of the Senate committee, Lilian Dyck, said the young Indigenous people will appear as witnesses at a regular meeting on June 7, and what they say will be influential.

"Everything they say will be recorded and transcribed and will become part of a report that we will be producing down the road," Dyck said.

That report will look at improving the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

While Dyck said the report may be 18 months away from being released, it may have directives for the federal government to follow.

Cardinal said she's proud to be a part of any strategy that finds ways to empower young people.