Attawapiskat teen receives two youth awards
Chelsea Edwards of Attawapiskat First Nation holds up the Dr. Graham Chance award that she received on Nov. 19 in Ottawa, given annually to a youth who demonstrates leadership in protecting the health of children. The 17-year-old would later receive the Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award 2012.
Chelsea Edwards recently received two youth awards for her fight for equitable funding for First Nations education.
The 17-year-old from Attawapiskat First Nation said she was surprised to hear she would be receiving the Dr. Graham Chance Award, which is given to a young person under the age of 30 who demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting or protecting the health and well-being of children in Canada.
“I first found out when I was skating,” Edwards said. “I was hanging out, going through my Blackberry and checked my e-mail and I found out I won.”
Edwards received the award at a gala in Ottawa on Nov. 19, which was also National Child Day. Dr. Graham Chance, who made contributions to children’s health and well-being over his lifetime, presented Edwards with the award.
“It was cool,” Edwards said.
Edwards was also awarded the Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award 2012 given by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Youth Council. It is an award given annually to three youth who are considered role models and recognizes achievement.
Edwards said she was nominated by another teen in Ottawa who she had met during a rally on Parliament Hill.
“She inboxed me and told me she wanted to nominate me,” Edwards said. “I shared the award with her because she has been working on the Shannen’s Dream campaign.”
She dedicated the award to the children, youth and everyone who contributed to the Shannen’s Dream campaign, of which she is the spokesperson.
Since taking on the role following the passing of her cousin and good friend, Shannen Koostachin, Edwards has been busy over the past year advocating for First Nations youth.
After going overseas to present a report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in February, Edwards had the opportunity to speak to the committee again on Dec. 4 in Toronto.
This time she and the five UN youth delegates spoke with the committee’s vice-president, Marta Maurás, who was in Canada on a four-day trip meeting with Canadian youth.
Edwards told Maurás about her experience in learning in badly-constructed portables in her home community, and the financial and emotional struggles of moving off-reserve to complete high school. She also told her about Shannen’s Dream.
Other children, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, made presentations to the UN rapporteur. At the end of the day, Maurás provided feedback based on what she heard.
“She wasn’t impressed with Canada,” Edwards said. “And she believes they have the money to invest in us and to make these problems go away but they’re not spending it properly.”
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