THUNDER BAY – Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day welcomes the long-awaited and much-needed recommendations made today regarding the inquest into the deaths of the seven youth in the city of Thunder Bay.
“These recommendations will inform the relationship between First Nation families and municipalities in not only Thunder Bay but across the province. The findings are crucial to understanding the underlying issues that our youth are faced with when attending school in urban centres,” said Regional Chief Day. “One of the key recommendations is the importance of maintaining culture and familial ties which is the same recommendation that we heard in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls To Action.”
The inquest examined the circumstances surrounding the deaths, between 2000 and 2011, of young people from remote First Nations who came to Thunder Bay to attend high school. Most of their communities have little in the way of secondary education.
Lawyers for the 11 parties represented at the inquest submitted a joint slate of 118 suggested recommendations to the jury last month, including creating high schools in all First Nations communities so teens wouldn’t have to leave their families and homes to get an education.
The Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council has been participating in the inquest and has worked closely with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, representatives for the families of the seven youth, and other parties relevant to the inquest. OFNYPC has made a significant contribution to the inquest by providing a strong youth voice highlighting important issues such as Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada’s underfunding of on-reserve education, additional support workers and traditional and cultural activities provided to students forced to leave their communities for school.
“I commend the leadership role our youth have taken. It is our youth who will build a new era of reconciliation and move the priorities forward. Our Chief’s Conference theme this year is Youth Inspired Action for a Strong Future. We will not tolerate losing any more of our children,” said Regional Chief Day. “I also acknowledge the leadership of Nishnawbe Aski Nation and all those responsible for the strength and support to the families and moving the inquest forward.”
The Ontario First Nations Young People’s Council is the only participant at the inquest that is led by and for First Nations youth with representation from across the province. OFNYPC has an important role to play in providing direct youth perspectives and province-wide perspectives.
“We hope by listening and taking part in this phase of the Inquest we will be further ahead in not only understanding this issue but repairing it,” said Quinn Meawasige of the OFNYPC. “The government has neglected on-reserve education for decades and so students leave the reserve unprepared and vulnerable – it is so unfair. As outlined in article 14 of the UNDRIP, First Nations youth deserve opportunities to all levels of education without any discrimination from the state. First Nations youth deserve the same opportunities as other Canadian children.”