3 young leaders appointed to empower Indigenous youth across Canada

Three young Indigenous leaders have been appointed to gather input from Inuit, Métis and First Nations youth across Canada about programs that can support and empower them.

Maatalii Okalik, from Nunavut, selected to help head up Indigenous Youth Voices project

Maatalii Okalik, Gabrielle Fayant, and André Bear (left to right) will be looking for input from Inuit, Métis and First Nations youth on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 66. (Indigenous Youth Voices)

Three young Indigenous leaders have been appointed to gather input from Inuit, Métis and First Nations youth across Canada about programs that can support and empower them.

The youth advisors — Maatalii Okalik, Gabrielle Fayant, and André Bear —  will gather youth insight throughout the fall of 2017 and share their views and solutions on how best to implement the Truth and Reconcilation Commission's Call to Action 66, which calls for multi-year funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation.

The recommendation also calls on the government to establish a national network to share information and best practices.

The three youth, appointed by Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, have established a project called Indigenous Youth Voices, where youth can provide feedback.

Okalik, an Inuk from Nunavut and the former president of the National Inuit Youth Council, said it's important for Indigenous youth to speak up.

"A lot of times our stories are told not by us and our stories are told based on negative statistics," she said. "So I'm really just hoping that this report, with our youth input, is a story that we can tell from our perspectives, with examples of what's working well.

"We know that there are amazing programs that are being run at the community level [but] we also want to highlight where there are gaps."

I'm confident that Indigenous youth will take the time to really work with us to ensure that their voices are captured and amplified.- Maatalii Okalik

The other advisers are:

  • Gabrielle Fayant, who was born on the Fishing Lake Metis Settlement in central Alberta and now lives in Ottawa; the co-founder of the Assembly of Seven Generations and program manager for Reach Up! North.
  • André Bear, co-chair of the National Youth Council for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), from Little Pine First Nation in Saskatchewan.

They and Okalik are inviting youth to fill out a survey on the Indigenous Youth Voices website.

For those areas where internet connectivity is a problem, the survey can also be conducted via fax or a phone call.

"I am so proud that these three inspiring young leaders have agreed to design and execute a process to seek advice and knowledge from their peers, from coast to coast to coast, ‎in response to Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 66," Bennett stated in a press release.

"I know they will be asking tough questions, listening, and will provide concrete recommendations on how to build and fund a network of Indigenous youth and ‎community-based youth organizations, that will be able to deliver programs on reconciliation while sharing information, wisdom, and promising practices.

"André, Maatalii, and Gabrielle are truly impressive advocates and role-models for First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth. Their work will be transformative."

Maatalii Okalik, who served as the Nunavut government's chief of protocol and greeted Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall on their Canadian tour earlier this year, says it's important for Indigenous youth to speak up. (Steve Hossack/CBC)

Okalik said the advisors will also be visiting as many communities as they can but they only have a couple of months to do it all. A final report is due in November.

"It does seem like a daunting task with a short timeline but I'm confident that Indigenous youth will take the time to really work with us to ensure that their voices are captured and amplified," she said.

"We hope that, ultimately, our report will influence the federal budget next year… for new money to be flowed through to honour that Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action number 66."

With files from Michelle Pucci