Nine Indigenous youth leaders from across the country came to Ottawa on June 7 to share their success stories with senators, and to outline their visions for a new relationship between Canada and its First Nations, Inuit and Métis during the Youth Indigenize the Senate 2017 event on Parliament Hill.
It was the second time the Senate has brought Indigenous youth together to hear their views on forging a new relationship.
This year’s event continued a tradition that began last year, in celebration of National Aboriginal History Month, when members of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples invited 12 Indigenous youth leaders from across the country to testify before their committee on positive changes happening in their communities. That was a learning experience for both senators and youth leaders. It proved so successful, the committee brought the program back for a second year. A new event was added this year, featuring workshops on reconciliation for more than 50 Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths from the Ottawa area.
Youth Indigenize the Senate 2017 began with an opening ceremony in the Senate foyer, but instead of the traditional bell summoning senators to the chamber, it was a First Nations smudging ceremony, the lighting of an Inuit qulliq and a Métis jig dance that pulled together this cross-generational, multicultural meeting. Senators Lillian Eva Dyck, Dennis Patterson and Murray Sinclair then joined a group of Indigenous elders in welcoming the youth into the Senate chamber for opening remarks.
Over the course of their day on the Hill, youth leaders met with Senate leaders, including Senate Speaker George J. Furey, government representative Peter Harder, Senate Liberal Leader Joseph Day, Senate Opposition Leader Larry Smith and Independent Senators Group Facilitator Elaine McCoy.
The day finished off with the youth leaders’ testimonies before the committee. Watch below.