NAN Youth Tell Prime Minister Trudeau: “We Want to Thrive, Not Just Survive”

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THUNDER BAY, ON – Youth leaders from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), including the Oshkaatisak Council, met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Thunder Bay today, urging immediate investment in mental health supports and emphasizing their desire to play a role in shaping a better future.

“We told the Prime Minister that youth have the power to make change, and we’re ready to work together,” said Kohen Chisel, of Lac Seul First Nation.

Council representatives shared their lived experiences, highlighting the urgent mental health crisis, lack of access to healthcare and education, and the unique challenges faced by remote communities. They stressed the importance of community-led youth councils to amplify their voices in discussions about their future.

“Youth are our future, but they’re also our present,” said Siigwan McKay of Bearskin Lake First Nation. “We need government support to have a voice when our Treaty and inherent rights are on the table.”

“We need to build bridges with government,” said Ramon Kataquapit, of Attawapiskat First Nation, who stressed the need for access to clean drinking water.

“I was pleased to participate in this dialogue. We told the Prime Minister that youth have the power to make change, and we are willing to work together to making the changes we want to see. We asked him to provide resources for us to create a process to heal ourselves,” said Kohen Chisel, of Lac Seul First Nation.

“This was a productive meeting, and we appreciate having the opportunity to speak directly with the Prime Minister. We are glad he took the time to listen to our concerns and the struggles that NAN youth face. We asked him to continue this dialogue with us,” said Oshkaatisak Council co-chairs Tehya Quachegan, Moose Cree First Nation, and Erickson Owen, of Poplar Hill First Nation.

“I told the Prime Minister I would like the government to establish funding through Indigenous Services Canada for 2SLGBTQIA+ initiatives, education, resources, and mental health supports for NAN communities so we can welcome back our 2SLGBTQIA+ Kin so they can regain their rightful roles in our communities,” said Mallory Solomon, of Constance Lake First Nation.

Kishiah Oombash, of Cat Lake First Nation, and Andrea Yesno-Linklater, of Eabametoong First Nation, were unable to participate in person but shared messages through their peers.

Specific priorities include suicide prevention, child welfare reform, and specific supports for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth.

The Oshkaatisak Council was supported by Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse and Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum. Also participating were Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, and Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski.

Key Takeaways:

  • NAN youth face urgent mental health and well-being needs.
  • Remote communities lack essential healthcare and education access.
  • Youth demand a seat at the table in policy making.
  • Funding needed to support local youth councils and initiatives.
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