NWAC envisions an inclusive society that understand and respects the diversity and uniqueness of all Indigenous, Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ youth. Youth are the leaders of change. Drawing on their strengths and capabilities is fundamental in building and sustaining healthy communities. Their voices must be equally represented at the regional, national and international levels.
“Youth see reconciliation as healing, important to improving relations within their communities, with non-Indigenous people and government, a pathway to equity, and more.”
– A Roadmap to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 66. Indigenous Youth Voices created a roadmap to appropriately implement the TRC’s Call to Action 66 by engaging with youth through community dialogue, online surveys and national youth gatherings.
The Youth Advocacy and Development Unit (YADU) is led by and comprised of Indigenous youth committed to advancing the well-being of young Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA youth. Launched in March 2018, YADU advocates for and engages with Indigenous youth aged 13-30 to ensure they are equal stakeholders at all levels. The YADU develops projects, policies, program, resources and engagement strategies to assist Indigenous youth, their communities, PTMAs and other stakeholders to build cultural, social, economic and political capacity.
Indigenous youth are one of the fastest growing populations in Canada, with nearly half the population under the age of 24.1 Despite their increased population rates, Indigenous youth continue to face inequitable access to mental health services, employment and educational supports, and culturally appropriate resources. Indigenous youth experience high levels of suicide risk. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2016, suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age.2 The suicide rate for First Nations females is 35 per 100,000 compared to 5 per 100,000 for non-First Nations females.2
These numbers only increase for 2SLGBTQQIA Indigenous youth. They are at greater risk than non-Indigenous LGBTQQIA peers for negative mental and physical health outcomes. The risks stem from ongoing colonial ideologies imposed on gender and sexuality, the effects of which are still present within many Indigenous communities.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls for “special attention to be paid to the rights and special needs of Indigenous Elders, women, youth, children, and persons with disabilities in the implementation of the declaration.”3 Yet, Indigenous youth are often left out of international key discussions on environment and climate change, education, human rights and gender equality. Excluding their voices and experiences further isolates their inclusion in the development of solutions to address inequity at the international level.
1. Systemic racism and chronic under funding within Canadian society impacts Indigenous youth’s ability to access supports and resources outside their communities. This includes culturally relevant and gender-based supports, health care, employment, education and mental health supports. Cultural competency training outside must be provided outside communities to end racism, close the service gap and create safer spaces for Indigenous youth.
2. The voices of young Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA youth must be advocated for and represented within all local, national and international tables. They must be included in key discussions regarding the development of all policies, programs and legislation affecting Indigenous youth.
3. Young Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA youth are the leaders of today, driving social change. We must support and empower the voices of young Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA youth activists and their contributions.
- Statistics Canada, March 2018. “First Nations People, Métis and Inuit in Canada: Diverse and Growing Populations”. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-659-x/89-659-x2018001-eng.htm
- Centre for Suicide Prevention.” Indigenous Suicide Prevention”. https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/indigenous-suicide-prevention/
- United Nations. “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf