Indigenous youth leaders address Senate committee on Aboriginal Peoples

Eight Indigenous youth from across the country gathered in front of the Senate’s standing committee on Aboriginal Peoples Wednesday to share their thoughts on what a new nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples should look like.

Each had five minutes to speak their concerns about Indigenous life in Canada, drawing from their own life experiences. 

“I felt like I was being given access to a platform to tell people in the government directly about the needs of Indigenous women and the kinds of spaces we need for healing,” said Christine Luza.

This is the fourth year of Youth Indigenize the Senate, which brings Indigenous youth from across the country to share their experiences and ideas with the Senate’s standing committee on Aboriginal Peoples. 

Luza, who has roots in M’Chigeeng First Nation in Ontario, lives and works in Toronto. She is a speaker, researcher and consultant and sits on the steering committee of Naadmaagit Ki Group, an organization that aims to improve the health of urban Indigenous families.

Eight young Indigenous leaders from across the country gathered in front of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples to testify and share their thoughts on what a new nation to nation relationship between Canada and Indigenous people should look like. (Senate of Canada)

“There are so many global crises and either we all survive together or we all go down together,” she said.

“Indigenous knowledge and the activism of Indigenous youth is transforming the whole fabric of the society.”

The youth were nominated by their communities as representatives to share what needs to be done to improve life where they’re from and speak to challenges facing Indigenous people across Canada. 

Luza said she hopes that Indigenous leaders of the future “get to live in a society that prides itself on the treaty relationship and values the relationship with Indigenous people as its most important relationship.”

Doing the right things

“The youth represents the majority of the Indigenous population now and we are literally talking about their future,” said Sen. Lillian Dyck.

Dyck is a member of the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan and a first generation Chinese Canadian. She was appointed to the Senate in 2005 and serves as the chair of the committee on Aboriginal peoples.

She said there are now more Indigenous youth getting a post-secondary education and becoming educated in the mainstream but also retaining their culture.

“They’re doing the right things,” she said.

She said bringing passion to what they care about “will lead them to whatever place they need to be.”

From June 4-6 the Indigenous youth will spend time learning how Parliament works and will also attend the final committee meeting on Bill C-262 — the private member’s bill introduced by New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash in 2016 that aims to ensure that the laws of Canada align with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

After the meeting, the bill will return to the Senate for third reading.

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