In February 2012, six First Nations youth ambassadors travelled to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland, to speak with the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In the spirit of Shannen Koostachin and the Our Dreams Matter Too report, these amazing youth met with the Committee to share their wisdom and personal experiences and to ask the UN to investigate the inequities affecting First Nations children and families in the areas of education, health, and child welfare. Their presentations will inform the upcoming UN review of Canada’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which will take place in September 2012. Prior to leaving for Geneva, the youth ambassadors attended a training session in Toronto, Ontario, as well as participated in a press conference at the Provincial Child and Youth Advocate’s Office. The six youth ambassadors were chosen through a Canada-wide application and selection process.
The youth left for Geneva on February 2nd and had a few days to explore the city. For some, it was the first time they had travelled out of the country.
On February 6th, the youth ambassadors gave presentations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. They were the only youth in Canada’s delegation, which was made up of organizations working nationally with and for children. The youth ambassadors spoke passionately and with insight, often using personal experiences to show how inequities in child welfare, education, and health have affected their communities. The ambassadors also had the opportunity to take part in a personal children's meeting where they spoke with Committee members for an hour. That evening, the accomplishments of the ambassadors were celebrated by all who participated in the day.
February 7th, the youth ambassadors were given a tour of the UN as well as had video interviews with INCOMINDIOS (International Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas). The ambassadors were also busy with Skype calls with students from Lady Evelyn and Pierre Elliott Trudeau schools in Ottawa, Ontario, as well as a Skype call with APTN (watch it here!).
These six ambassadors were the first Indigenous Canadian youth to speak to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. We would like to thank the youth ambassadors for their passion, strength, and commitment to change. You are truly the leaders of today!
About the Youth Ambassadors
My name is John-Paul Chalykoff. I am 24 years old. I am a member of Michipicoten First Nation. I was born in Wawa, Ontario, and have lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario for most of my life. I am a graduate of Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, where I studied Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe Language). I am currently attending Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where I am studying to become a high-school teacher in their 1-Year Bachelor of Education program, with Native Studies and History as my teachables.
Chelsea Edwards, Attawapiskat First Nation is 16 years old. She is the youth spokesperson for the Shannen's Dream campaign (www.shannensdream.ca) for safe and comfy schools and equitable education on reserves. Chelsea has appeared on national and international media about the inequities in education and other areas affecting First Nations children and youth in Canada.
Helen Knott is a 24 year old Dene Tsaa and Cree woman living in Fort St. John, British Columbia from Prophet River First Nations. Helen is a recent graduate of a Social Service Worker and Diploma program and an Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program. Her plans are to continue on her educational journey in September 2012 and pursue a Bachelors of Social Work.
As a youth, Helen spent most of her time fighting with accepting her Indigenous ancestry and the difficulties that came with it. As a young adult, Helen developed a driving desire to help change these circumstances and difficulties to improve the lives of Indigenous children and youth. She believes that we are able to work towards creating our own circumstances, ones where our children feel valued, loved, and proud.
Helen is also a mother to her four year old son, a poet, a writer, and a community volunteer. Sometimes her heart moves her to action before her head has a chance to respond but she is a firm believer that “if what you’re doing is right and what you’re doing is good, then what you need will find you”.
My name is Madelynn and I am non-status Michel Cree from Alberta. I am 22 years old. I currently study Child and Youth Care in British Columbia. I have a work and schooling background in child care. I am passionate about the care and wellness of children and youth. I am honoured to be chosen as one of the youth ambassador's to represent Canada's First Nation's at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I am looking forward to the work I am doing now and I will be able to do in the future with the FNCFCS.
Tansi, my name is “Pahmeasion”, “It’s Coming Nice” otherwise known as Collin Joseph Starblanket. I am 15 years old and come from the Star Blanket Cree Nation. My parents’ names are Fred Starblanket and Donna Okeeweehow. All my life I’ve been singing and dancing, attending ceremonies, praying and living the ways of First Nations People the best way I have been taught. I am a Young Men’s Fancy Dancer. I have never touched drugs or alcohol and so I try to encourage other peers to live this way as well. I believe that my culture that I’ve been taught needs to be one of my main focuses in life in order for me to achieve my goals that I have set out for myself. My future goals include my athletics, as I have a very keen interest in all sorts of sporting activities. As well I would like to attend university to become a dentist. I am one of many teens leading a balanced life and will continue to do so. It is also through this way of life that I believe, I am a “Youth Role Model” for the youth. I hope to bring my message of living a healthy and active lifestyle to the youth as well.
Kendall White is an ambitious youth who has always strived to create a positive change in the world. She has lived on Temagami First Nation for 12 years, and currently is traveling for school. She loves to be involved in her community and often will volunteer when she can, along with volunteering at a weekly movie night for fundraising. She is involved in many extra-curricular such as an Environmental Club, being the youth director for the Temagami Community Foundations, being a youth leader in Aboriginal Student Links, being the off-reserve youth representative for Temagami First Nation, being on the Temagami First Nation youth council and others. She recently traveled to Greenland, Iceland, Labrador and Nunavut with Student’s on Ice along with 70 other youth from around the world, to study the effects of global warming first hand. She is interested in the environment and is going to college/university to study environmental issues. She has an extreme passion to help with social justice issues throughout the world as well. Since she was young she always dreamed about being able to talk about aboriginal issues, and is finally getting the opportunity to.
Thank you to all of the youth who took the time to apply to be a First Nations Youth Ambassador. We encourage you to stay involved and be a Community Ambassador and raise awareness about Shannen’s Dream, Jordan’s Principle and the I Am a Witness campaign. These are important issues and you are all doing great work and can continue to help! Some ideas include: giving a presentation to those in your community, school or workplace; make a YouTube video; participate in activities that support equity like Have a Heart Day and Our Dreams Matter Too walk. Together we can ensure that all First Nations children and youth have a bright future!