An Indigenous youth advocate from the N.W.T. is crying foul after an Ottawa-Vanier candidate used her story of overcoming addiction to suggest that support for Indigenous people should be cut.
Jaylene Delorme-Buggins says People’s Party candidate Paul Durst referenced her personal story “for the complete opposite of what I believe and what I’ve been fighting for.”
Delorme-Buggins is an inspirational speaker and the northern youth representative for the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
In speeches to Indigenous youth she has given across the country, Delorme-Buggins shares the story of her sister, who died of an overdose a few years ago, and of her own struggles with mental health and addictions.
“I struggled a lot growing up with mental health issues, suicidal ideations and addictions,” she said. “My story is my superpower, and it’s the one thing that’s completely mine, and the one thing that I’ve chosen to own.”
“It was like he was taking that from me.”
Delorme-Buggins said she first learned of Durst’s reference to her story on Oct. 3, when a former colleague at the Native Women’s Association, Sahra MacLean, texted her to say she had heard Durst mention her.
MacLean is also a campaign worker for local NDP candidate Stéphanie Mercier.
MacLean said she was attending a student vote forum at an Ottawa-area high school when she heard Delorme-Buggins’s name mentioned during a discussion on funding Indigenous services.
“Durst said, ‘I want to talk about a young woman,’ and said Jaylene’s name,” MacLean recalled.
He shared a quote from Jaylene about “despair,” MacLean said, and “being a positive force in the world.”
“And then [he] said that Indigenous people need to be like Jaylene, and they don’t need money for that,” she said. “What they need to do is take control of their own lives.”
“That was quite upsetting, and I immediately texted Jaylene,” she said.
Delorme-Buggins sat on the information for several weeks, deciding to take to Facebook and criticize Durst only last Friday.
“It really bothered me that they used my story in that aspect,” she said.
Delorme-Buggins said she relied on community supports, directly and indirectly funded by the federal government, to “turn her life around.”
“Without those supports, I wouldn’t have been able to,” she said.
Delorme-Buggins said she tagged Durst in the post, but the tag has since been removed.
If she was able to speak to him directly, she said, she’d have a clear message for him.
“My story’s not his to use,” she said.
Durst did not immediately respond to a request for comment.