OTTAWA — Indigenous young people from across Canada are sharing experiences with members of the Senate in Ottawa.
Nine participants were chosen to appear before the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples after being recognized as leaders in their communities.
The Inuit, Metis and First Nations young people are between the ages of 18 and 33. Their input is to contribute to the committee’s study on how a new relationship between Canada and Indigenous people should look.
On its website, the committee said senators know they won’t be getting the full picture unless and until the voices of young people are heard.
Spirit River Striped Wolf is a member of the Piikani Nation in southwestern Alberta and is the Alberta representative at the event. The 24-year-old is taking a bachelor of arts in policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
“I’m going to talk to them about trauma. I’m going to talk to them about my experience, living on the reserve where I was on the youth council,” he said.
Striped Wolf said a lot of the problems facing youth on reserves relate to them becoming disconnected from their cultural heritage.
“It isn’t about the institutions anymore as it may have been during the residential school era,” he said.
“Now it has a lot more to do with trust and that really resonated with me because of high suicide rates and the lateral violence we see in our communities. I’m trying to look at how trust interacts with the trauma.”
Striped Wolf said it is only when Indigenous youth are able to find the confidence to trust themselves that change can actually be achieved on many First Nations.
“When you can do that you become empowered to make social change within your community as well,” he said.
Striped Wolf hopes to become a researcher and develop policies that can be applied to Indigenous communities.
“If it’s a nation and it’s a community you need to use policy in order to make change. I think social work and policy definitely need to go hand in hand.”
The participants were chosen from a pool of 150 youth leaders nominated by their peers.
The deputy chair of the committee says the program is valuable and there’s a lot that can be learned from the young people.
“My fellow senators and I are humbled to have them testify before our committee so that we can understand their vision of the future for Indigenous Peoples across Canada,” said Sen. Scott Tannas.
The Canadian Press