"Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan" report released in Ontario

Chiefs of Ontario press release 


Thunder Bay, ON (February 25, 2014) - Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy is calling the report released today produced by First Nations youth a critical step in addressing the issues which plague northern First Nation communities and said he is committed to working with leadership and youth in implementing their recommendations.

"This report with directives and recommendations directly from the youth is an important step in shaping our future, creating opportunities and addressing the suicide crisis that is plaguing our communities," Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy said. "I welcome the work the youth put into this report and now I urge the provincial and federal government of Canada to work with our First Nation leaders and our youth to help make this report a reality."

Ontario's Advocate for Children and Youth today released a special report by First Nations youth that urges local, provincial, federal and First Nations leadership to partner with them to create safer, healthier communities for northern remote and fly-in First Nations communities. The report, Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan includes recommendations and a five-year road map. Events took place in Ottawa, Toronto and Thunder Bay this morning.

The action plan is rooted in the voices of more than 160 youth from 64 of Ontario's northern First Nations communities who participated in the Feathers of Hope youth forums in Thunder Bay and Kashechewan First Nation last year. The youth gathered to talk about the realities of their communities and to identify a path forward where they could lead the change.

The youth identified 15 themes and urge all levels of leadership to take immediate action to address these issues and made key recommendations which include:

  1. Provincial, federal, First Nations leadership and other interested organizations must join together and take immediate action to meet the needs and challenges faced by First Nations youth. 
  2. All actions and strategies to address the issues the youth have identified must be created with First Nations young people as equal partners. 
  3. A five-year strategy must be created to focus on the themes raised by youth in forum discussions. 

The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement.

The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada.

For more information, please contact:
Jamie Monastyrski, Communications
Phone: (807) 630-7087 Email: jamie.monastyrski@coo.org


From theStar.com

First Nations youth call for five-year action plan

Aboriginal youth, in an "ultimate act of reconciliation," are seeking an equal seat at the table to address long-standing needs, from the legacy of residential schools to corruption on reserves.

Samantha Crowe and Uko Abara are two of five youth who wrote the Feathers of Hope First Nations Youth Action Plan, presented in Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay on Monday.


Samantha Crowe and Uko Abara are two of five youth who wrote the Feathers of Hope First Nations Youth Action Plan, presented in Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay on Monday.

By:  Social justice reporter, Published on Mon Feb 24 2014

Ontario's First Nations youth are calling for a five-year provincial action plan to address a wide range of urgent needs, including the legacy of residential schools, substance abuse, suicide, education, cultural heritage and even corruption on reserves.

The "Feathers of Hope" report released Monday at Queen's Park, on Parliament Hill and in Thunder Bay, urges federal, provincial and First Nations leadership within 60 days to endorse the concept and create a formal body to get to work.

The report recommends, by the summer, hiring at least five youth to work with government and First Nations leaders to ensure the action plan moves "from paper to implementation to achieve real change."

"We believe strongly that the active participation of First Nations youth at every step of the process is necessary for its success," the report says.

The 127-page report is the result of two forums in Northern Ontario last year at which almost 200 First Nations youth shared their stories, life experiences and hopes for the future.

Kathryn Morris, one of the report's five youth authors and a member of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Innuniwug band, said not many people in the north follow First Nations culture and teachings.

"A lot of young people want that," she said at the report's Queen's Park release. "Youth need to know where they come from. Without identity, it's hard to make it through life."

The report also talks about the need for healthy role models and mentors to help youth build self esteem. Sports and recreation are important not just for physical health, but as a way to help youth build leadership skills and understand the importance of teamwork. Youth also want their community leaders to be more accountable and for charges of "corruption" to be addressed.

"Band leadership needs to tell the community how resources are being spent," the report says. "We need paper trails and drug and alcohol testing for money managers."

Uka Abara, another youth author and "ally," who grew up in Toronto but has cultural roots in Africa, said the 15 themes raised in the report are interconnected and must be addressed equally.

"Youth are suffering the negative side effects of everything that has happened over numerous generations," he said. "And despite this, they are reaching out to say: 'We forgive you and let's move forward together.'"

Irwin Elman, Ontario's advocate for children and youth, whose office co-ordinated the youth forums and supported the creation of the report, praised the young people for their "courage to hope."

"We cannot, as a province, afford not to take the hand these young people have offered," he told more than 50 provincial and federal bureaucrats and politicians at the event.

Ontario Children and Youth Services Minister Teresa Piruzza said the report will get "the attention it deserves" at Queen's Park and promised to do what she can to bring Ottawa to the table.

"I want you to know that our government shares your desire and commitment to achieve better outcomes," she told the gathering.

Piruzza's ministry is already working with First Nations, Metis, Inuit and the urban aboriginal community to reform the province's beleaguered aboriginal child welfare system.

"I know that a successful strategy needs to be developed with you," she added. "We need the continued passion and energy of engaged First Nation youth because your voices are incredibly important."

Numerous reports and hundreds of recommendations to address the problems facing First Nations youth line the shelves of government policy makers, noted forum participant Stan Wesley.

In 1995, Wesley was a youth commissioner who helped write a report about youth suicide.

"How many more generations need to keep reminding the government? I'm hoping this is the last generation. It has to be. We have no other choice," said Wesley, now a father of a 17-month-old girl.

The report is the "ultimate act of reconciliation" from Ontario's aboriginal youth, said Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

"The beauty of this report is that it is coming from aboriginal youth, who are saying: 'We are prepared to forgive you, but you have to start doing something to fix this,' " he said in an interview. "This is not a one-way street."