Thunder Bay

First Nations youth delegates buoyed by meeting with Trudeau

One of the young delegates from Nishnawbe Aski Nation who got to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week says she's hopeful that the pledge of close to $70 million in new funding for Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention will make a difference for her own communities.

Meeting a chance to share experiences, and talk solutions, says delegate

Karla Kakegamic, from Keewaywin First Nation, speaks to media in Ottawa. (Tamara Piche)

A young delegate from Nishnawbe Aski Nation says she's feeling hopeful after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week.

About 20 young delegates from northern Ontario met with the Prime Minister on Monday, including Karla Kakegamic, 26, from Keewaywin First Nation. 

"It was amazing," she said, "Most of us — maybe all of us — never thought we would meet with the Prime Minister." 

The delegates were prepared for a half hour meeting, and were surprised when the forum was expanded to two hours, giving everyone the chance to speak with Trudeau one-on-one, she said.

"We were thrilled about that."

They used the opportunity to share personal experiences, and concerns about a wide range of issues facing First Nations communities, said Kakegamic, adding that she shared her own thoughts about the lack of resources for education and healthcare.

"The health services in our communities aren't that great," she said, noting that nurses are in short supply and over-worked. "Most people end up waiting for a long time [for healthcare]."
Other issues that were brought up included living conditions, lack of prospects for youth, and suicide risk, she said. 

Following the meeting, the Prime Minster pledged close to $70 million in new funding for Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention.

Kakegamic said she was pleased to hear the government's plan to invest more in mental health. 

"My community is really small, so whenever there is a crisis that's happening there it affects the whole community, so I'm hoping that it will help," she said.