NDP leader Andrea Horwath met with four youth amplifiers and staff from the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth on March 15 in Thunder Bay.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath met with four youth amplifiers and staff from the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth on March 15 in Thunder Bay.

By Rick Garrick

Red Rock Indian Band’s Samantha Crowe and three other Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth youth amplifiers recently met with New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath.

“A lot of the discussion was about our main initiative in the north, Feathers of Hope, that talks about First Nations young people, their issues and their recommendations to create solutions for their communities,” Crowe says. “But we also discussed the other areas that our office focuses on, on individuals rights where it is about child welfare, youth justice, Provincial Demonstration Schools, mental health as well as First Nations young people.”

Crowe says the meeting was about getting to know each other and to create a new relationship.

“We’re just continuing to build relationships and partnerships with as many people as possible so we that can all ensure the goal of creating safer and healthier communities for young people to grow up in,” Crowe says.

OPACY recently released Feathers of Hope, Justice and Juries: A First Nations Youth Action Plan for Justice on March 7 at Queen’s Park in Toronto and Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

“As a champion, I’ve seen young people transform into leaders who are speaking openly and courageously on the changes needed for the justice system and how to build stronger ties with Aboriginal people,” says Fort William’s Celina Reitberger, executive director of Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation and Feathers of Hope champion, in a press release statement. “I commend them on their hard work and for staying true to reflecting the voices of youth who attended the Feathers of Hope forum.”

The action plan captured the voices of more than 150 Aboriginal youth from across Ontario who participated in the Feathers of Hope: Justice and Juries youth forum, held Nov. 17-20, 2014 in Thunder Bay. The action plan is available online at: http://provincialadvocate.on.ca/documents/en/JJ_En.pdf.

OPACY previously released the Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan in 2014.

Horwath met with the youth amplifiers and staff from OPACY on March 15 while on a tour of northwestern Ontario. She says there are many serious issues facing First Nations communities across the north.

“Young people are a big part of the change that needs to happen,” Horwath says, noting that youth are taking on a responsibility to change things for younger brothers, sisters and cousins. “The Feather of Hope process they have undertaken with the Child Advocate’s office has been pretty amazing work.”

Horwath says she wanted to hear from the youth amplifiers about the Feathers of Hope process, especially now as the coroner’s inquest into the deaths of seven Nishnawbe Aski Nation high school students in Thunder Bay is underway.

“For me, it’s not just about reading a report; for me it’s about actually meeting with people and getting a sense one-on-one, voice-to-voice of what they have heard and what their plans are and what their desires are for the future,” Horwath says.

Horwath says the four youth amplifiers, one from the Robinson Superior Treaty area, one from Nishnawbe Aski Nation and two from Treaty #3, spoke about being as inclusive as they possibly could in their work.

“What I heard is a commitment, a commitment to keep not only doing this work and engaging more and more young people, but a commitment to continuing to make sure that recommendations don’t end up in reports on shelves collecting dust,” Horwath says. “And frankly, that is the commitment I made back. I asked for their information, I asked for their insights, I asked for their thoughtfulness, and in return I said I will do everything I can to work on moving some of these issues forward, because having hope for a way forward is something that is extremely important.”