Youth launch Feathers of Hope action plan
Ontario’s Advocate for Children and Youth released their report titled “Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan” on Feb. 24. The report is based on the voices of more than 160 First Nations youth from 64 remote and fly-in First Nations communities across northern Ontario. The youth participated in Feathers of Hope youth forums in Thunder Bay and Kashechewan First Nation in 2013.
After 19 months of planning, Ontario’s Advocate for Children and Youth released their report titled “Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan” on Feb. 24.
The report is based on the voices of more than 160 First Nations youth from 64 remote and fly-in First Nations communities across northern Ontario. The youth participated in Feathers of Hope youth forums in Thunder Bay and Kashechewan First Nation in 2013.
The 127-page action plan urges local, provincial, federal and First Nations leadership to partner with the youth to create safer, healthier communities for northern remote and fly-in communities.
The action plan details 15 themes that were discussed at the forum, which were residential schools and their effects, dispelling myths, identity and culture, the tragedy of youth suicide, mental and physical health, drugs and alcohol, sports and recreation, youth opportunity and leadership, role models and mentors, sustainable funding, child welfare, and accountability and transparency.
Feathers of Hope (FOH) held report launches in Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Ottawa. Youth advisors Ryan Hunter, Meaghan Masakeyash, and Cam Meshake hosted the Thunder Bay report launch. The three were present at the spring Feathers of Hope youth forum in Thunder Bay.
“Something magical happened at the forum,” said Hunter, who was the master of ceremonies for the Thunder Bay launch. “All of us had things in common, which made it so much easier to come out of our comfort zones and share the realities we face.”
Hunter said that he attended the forum in the spring looking to bring back knowledge to his community and the youth.
“When I left the forum, I felt totally different,” he said. “I wasn’t alone, I shared the same visions as the youth there.”
Masakeyash also agreed that she too felt like she was not alone anymore after attending the forum.
“Being there, it changed my perspective,” Masakeyash said. “I wasn’t alone, there were other people who felt the same way I did. It really brought togetherness. It was one of the best conferences I have ever attended. “
Masakeyash was invited by FOH to review the report a few months after the forum.
“They gave me an opportunity to be a part of the movement,” Masakeyash said. “It was a great experience.”
The action plan also gives three key recommendations that were made by the youth.
One recommendation is that provincial, federal, First Nations leadership, and other interested organizations must join together and take immediate action to meet the needs and challenges faced by First Nations youth.
The second recommendation is that all actions and strategies to address the issues the youth have identified must be created with First Nations young people as equal partners.
The third recommendation is that a five-year strategy must be created to focus on the themes raised by youth in the forum discussions.
The Thunder Bay launch included words from FOH Champions (mentors) Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, and Catherine Cheechoo, program manager for Right to Play’s Promoting Life-Skills in Aboriginal Youth Program.
NAN welcomed the report as a call for action.
“On behalf of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, I welcome this insightful report and I congratulate the youth who have worked so diligently on its preparation,” Fiddler said. “Their effort is greatly appreciated and reflects the spirit, enthusiasm, and determination of our young people.”
Fiddler said that report was unique in the way that it is written in the youth’s own words.
“You can really feel what they are going through,” Fiddler said. “It’s them calling us to work with them to address the issues the raised in the report.”
Speakers at the Thunder Bay event also included Shirley Salt, manager of the Thunder Bay Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)’s media and communication officer Maryanne Matthews, Thunder Bay and Superior North MP Bruce Hyer, and Liviu Georgescu, manager of the office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.
Georgescu said applauded the youth for developing the report.
“With open hearts, they have allowed themselves to connect to their history and to each other,” Georgescu said of the report. “As leaders and decision makers, they are not asking you to take the report and make change. They are asking you to walk beside them and work with the to improve the circumstances in their lives.”
The report is available online for viewing or download at http://digital.provincialadvocate.on.ca/i/259048/
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