‘We Want to Thrive, Not Just Survive,’ NAN Youth tell Prime Minister in Face-to-Face Meeting

THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) youth, including members of the Oshkaatisak Council, told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that ‘they want to thrive, not just survive’, during a face-to-face meeting in Thunder Bay today.

“This was a productive meeting, and we appreciate having the opportunity to speak directly with the Prime Minister. We are glad he took the time to listen to our concerns and the struggles that NAN youth face. We asked him to continue this dialogue with us,” said Oshkaatisak Council co-chairs Tehya Quachegan, Moose Cree First Nation, and Erickson Owen, of Poplar Hill First Nation.

During a candid and heartfelt discussion, they shared the lived experiences of NAN youth struggling from mental health and addictions, a lack of access to health care and education, and challenges faced by youth in remote communities.

Asked by the Prime Minster what the Government of Canada should invest in to help young people, they responded that the key priority is immediate investments in mental health.

“I was pleased to participate in this dialogue. We told the Prime Minister that youth have the power to make change, and we are willing to work together to making the changes we want to see. We asked him to provide resources for us to create a process to heal ourselves,” said Kohen Chisel, of Lac Seul First Nation.

“We need to build bridges with government,” said Ramon Kataquapit, of Attawapiskat First Nation, who stressed the need for access to clean drinking water.

Youth emphasized the good work being done in NAN First Nations including Choose Life, Education Jurisdiction, Health Transformation, and land-based initiatives. Priorities for action include suicide prevention, long-term reform of the child welfare system, and sustainable funding for the development of youth councils at the community level so young people can have their voices heard at every level of Nation-to-Nation discussions.

“We all know youth are our future, but they also are our present. Implementing youth councils and having support from government for resources will allow us to have a voice at the table when our Treaty and inherent rights are being discussed,” said Siigwan McKay, of Bearskin Lake First Nation.

“I told the Prime Minister I would like the government to establish funding through Indigenous Services Canada for 2SLGBTQIA+ initiatives, education, resources, and mental health supports for NAN communities so we can welcome back our 2SLGBTQIA+ Kin so they can regain their rightful roles in our communities,” said Mallory Solomon, of Constance Lake First Nation.

Kishiah Oombash, of Cat Lake First Nation, and Andrea Yesno-Linklater, of Eabametoong First
Nation, were unable to participate in person but shared messages through their peers.

The meeting was opened in a good way by NAN Elder Wally McKay. The Oshkaatisak Council was supported by Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse and Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum. Also participating were Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, and Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski.

The Oshkaatisak (All Young Peoples) Council strives to promote youth empowerment and engagement with the goal of improving the livelihood and hope for the future of all NAN youth.

Video of NAN youth reflecting on today’s meeting:

For more information please contact:
Michael Heintzman,
Director of Communications
Cell: (807) 621-2790

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