Canadian Roots Exchange launches youth reconciliation initiative in Thunder Bay
National group wants young people to feel a 'connection to their own traditional communities'
A national Indigenous-led organization, which strives to empower young people through workshops and leadership programming, is planting roots in Thunder Bay.
Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE) has been doing community-centred work in Thunder Bay for the last two years, but just recently added three staff members who are now based in the city.
Tija Hauta, one of the Thunder Bay community animators, said the organization aims to facilitate conversations about reconciliation and build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in the northwestern Ontario city.
"Youth are the future and are the people who get others listening and engaged," said Hauta. "They're the ones that are going to be the most affected by reconciliation in the future."
'Connection to their own traditional communities'
The non-profit organization has been operating for eleven years nationally, and in that time has worked in many cities across the country, organizing leadership workshops through its Youth Reconciliation Initiative.
CRE is expanding its programming with the launch of a Junior Youth Reconciliation Initiative (JYRI) in 2020. The new pilot program brings week-long leadership camps for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to Edmonton, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, and Thunder Bay.
The March Break programming was launched after receiving positive feedback about other CRE programs, said Marissa Campbell, the national program supervisor.
"Part of what we are really trying to achieve is to give youth within different communities a sense of leadership, a sense of accountability to their communities, and also a connection to their own traditional communities," she said.
Campbell said her organization also heard from people within the community who identified a need for more reconciliation and youth-based programming in the city.
'Uplift youth within community'
"Particularly with Thunder Bay our real main goal is to really try and uplift the youth within the community, and really give them a platform so that they can expand on their own ways of engaging in the community and also to build on their leadership skills," she said.
The week-long camp in Thunder Bay will focus on relationship building, art and culture and will have opportunities for land-based learning.
The JYRI camp will take place in Thunder Bay from March 16 to 20, 2020. Young people between the ages of 14 - 17 can register on the Canadian Roots Exchange website.
The camp will be held at the Oliver Road Community Centre in Thunder Bay, and all costs are covered for participants.