3rd World Canada tour first step to change
For audiences across southern Ontario, the 3rd World Canada tour that brought the story of suicide and living conditions in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) was heart-wrenching.
For the youth from the northern community who participated in the tour, the events in six Ontario cities were emotionally draining.
Yet both the audiences and the youth were uplifted by the tour, which brought filmmaker Andree Cazabon and the delegation from KI to six Ontario communities including Toronto, Kingston, Peterborough and Thunder Bay.
“I really loved this tour. I loved spending time with the people who were on this tour. And I’m really going to miss it,” said Lawrence Morris, a member of the Waking Spirits drum group that brought KI’s community drum on the tour.
During the final showing of the film and speaking engagement in Thunder Bay on Nov. 15, the youth from KI were clearly exhausted. They had been travelling from city to city for nearly two weeks, with, as Lilyanna McKay put it, late nights, early mornings and busy days.
On top of all the travel, they were going through some intense emotional experiences. Like public speaking for the first time ever in front of hundreds of people. Sharing intimate details of their lives with strangers. And being there for each other when the demands of being on tour got hard to handle.
“These guys have gone through a lot. They have given everything on this tour,” said Cazabon. “But I’ve got to tell you, not once did the delegates from the North complain, in two weeks. I wish we had more youth like that in my community of Ottawa.”
Cazabon, who has called 3rd World Canada the most difficult film of her career to make, summed up what everyone involved with the tour was feeling during her speech to the audience after the final film showing in Thunder Bay.
“I can’t talk about the tour, because I’ll start crying, because I’m sad that it is over,” she said.
While the youth delegates and tour organizers lamented the end of the tour, they were also proud of how much they had accomplished over their time on the road.
KI’s deputy chief Darryl Sainnawap, who joined the tour for its final two stops in Kingston and Thunder Bay, said he was amazed at the growth that the youth showed over the course of the 10 days.
He noted the examples of Morris and Nadine Sainnawap, both of whom gave emotional speeches to huge crowds in Kingston and Thunder Bay.
“Looking back over the last few days, I’ve watched Laurence and Nadine, they couldn’t even speak, they were paralyzed, that’s how afraid they were to do public speaking. I’m so proud of them. You can see how much they’ve grown,” Sainnawap said.
Nadine Sainnawap said that for the first four stops on the tour, she could not speak to the crowds. In Kingston she wrote a speech for Cazabon to read. But she ended up starting to read the first sentence herself, and then kept going and read the entire speech herself. Two days later she stood up again to address the audience in Thunder Bay.
“I was so proud of myself,” she said. “I learned a lot on this tour, I’m getting more confident in myself.”
For Nadine, whose family was documented in 3rd World Canada, the tour was not only a chance to grow personally. It was also a reunion of sorts. Her sister Lilyanna was on the tour, and their younger brother Tyler joined them in Kingston. And then in Thunder Bay their sister Arlene came out to the showing.
“It’s nice because we don’t always see each other, so when someone does something like this we all get to see each other,” Arlene said.
She added that she hopes another tour happens, so she can join her sisters in sharing the stories of their childhood in KI.
That sentiment was echoed by everyone associated with the tour. The youth from KI want it to grow, want more opportunities to share their experiences with the rest of Canada.
But the tour was not just about sharing experiences. As Darryl Sainnawap told the Thunder Bay crowd, watching the film and listening to the KI youth is only the first step for everyone to get involved in helping facilitate change.
“The film you watched, that’s the first step our community took, is to educate the mainstream society on the condition and challenges First Nations people face in our communities,” Sainnawap said. “That’s the first step. This is where we are today. But a change in social justice cannot happen unless common Canadian citizens, such as you and me, start kicking doors down of systematic injustice that our children face.”
Editor’s note: the following speeches (which have been edited for length) were given by KI youth Nadine Sainnawap and KI deputy chief Darryl Sainnawap during the 3rd World Canada film showing in Thunder Bay.
“In Kingston I read this speech for the first time in front of 300 people. And I was very proud of myself.
This documentary has opened my eyes in so many ways. Before I met Andree I was not aware of our living conditions. I thought it was normal, all of it from broken windows to no clean drinking water. I thought suicide was OK. I thought it was OK to give up when things got rough.
This tour has been amazing and very stressful at times. I am emotionally drained. But I don’t plan on giving up. I’m going to stand up strong for our people and for my family.
I’m not going to lie, in the beginning I thought of this as a free trip and free food. But meeting new people and seeing how much time they put into having us come into their town, I don’t see it that way anymore.”
“You know, one of the things that moved me in Kingston was that they hung our flag outside city hall along with the other flags. And we were able to explain to them what our flag represents. The yellow, blue and green. As long as the sun shines, as long as the rivers flow, as long as the green grass grows. Our Elders remember hearing that at the time of the treaty. And what they understood it to be at that time, it was about friendship. Friendship with the newcomers, and peaceful coexistance. So to see the flag up on their city hall, and explain that to them, to me that was a powerful moment. And they welcomed it. That’s what moved me the most. Non-native cities welcoming a First Nation as a nation, saying welcome.
I think what we need is a change. This is what I share with mainstream society. A change in social justice cannot happen unless common Canadian citizens, such as you and me, start kicking doors down of systematic injustice that our children face. Until me and you start standing together, like the way our Elders envision with the treaty we signed with Canada, change will not happen.”
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