In order to mark National Indigenous History Month in June, eight inspiring young Indigenous leaders from across Canada have been invited to meet with the Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples.
The youth have been selected for Voices of Youth Indigenous Leaders 2023, which spotlights young Indigenous people aged 18 to 35 who are making a difference in their communities.
The theme of this year’s event is Indigenous education. The committee wants to hear how Indigenous youth have experienced education in all forms, including public and private, traditional and non-traditional Indigenous education and post-secondary institutions.
This year’s youth leaders testified before the Senate committee on June 7, 2023.
Read more about this year’s Voices of Youth Indigenous Leaders participants.
Audrey-Lise Rock-Hervieux (Quebec)
From the Innu community of Pessamit, Audrey-Lise Rock-Hervieux is the creator of the blog Native Mom. She also works for Puamun Meshkenu, a non-profit organization that supports Indigenous youth, and film production company Terre Innue. She credits both her employers for opening doors and helping her to grow. She hopes that she can use her voice to inspire youth to believe in their abilities and to fully express themselves.
Bertram Bernard (Nova Scotia)
Muin Ji’j, or Bertram Bernard, is a Mi’kmaq business researcher and professional from Eskasoni First Nation. He completed a Master of Business Administration degree at Cape Breton University, where he focused his research thesis on improving the socio-economic wellbeing of Indigenous people in Canada. In 2019, Mr. Bernard was accepted into the Harvard School of Business’s Leading People and Investing to Build Sustainable Communities certification program. His goal is to become the first Mi’kmaq person to graduate from the Executive Doctorate of Business Administration program. He hopes that he can use his education to help Mi’kmaq communities and mentor youth who wish to follow the same path.
Chante Speidel (Saskatchewan)
Chante Speidel is Swampy Cree from the Treaty Four territory in Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. She’s also Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. She currently lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and studies at the University of Saskatchewan. She prides herself on youth advocacy and leadership. She became a national leader in 2017 at age 15 as the youth ambassador for the Manito Ahbee Festival to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Since then, she has had the opportunity to grow and develop as a leader and public speaker across the country. She is also the youth advisor for the Oyateki Partnership and she manages her own youth-led organization named Techa Oaye.
Dina Koonoo (Nunavut)
Dina Koonoo is manager of the early years program for Pirurvik Preschool – an early childhood education centre that blends Inuit and Montessori methods – in Pond Inlet. As part of her role, she facilitates the support of mothers, fathers, infants, toddlers, preschoolers and families. She credits the preschool’s founders, Tessa Lochhead and Karen Nutarak, and her husband as her main sources of inspiration. Ms. Koonoo loves working with women and children in her community.
Dylan Adam (British Columbia)
Dylan Adam is Métis from Princeton. For the past five years, he has served as the youth representative for the Vermillion Forks Métis Association. In this role, he has helped organize community events and worked to promote Métis culture. Mr. Adam is currently a full-time student at the University of British Columbia Okanagan where he is pursuing a degree in political science.
Helaina Moses (Yukon)
Helaina Moses – whose traditional name is Hǫzhá, which means “smart one” – is a 27-year-old member of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation in Mayo. Her grandparents raised her to be an environmentalist and she now has nine years of environmental science experience. Her grandfather taught her how to hunt, trap and fish, which were skills he learned at a young age because he did not have access to grocery stores or highways. Ms. Moses ran for her local council because she believes her government needs young, strong voices advocating for change. She is passionate about the environment, and she describes herself as a land healer and natural leader.
Katherine Merrell-Anderson (Alberta)
Katherine Merrell-Anderson is Métis from Elizabeth Métis Settlement. She’s currently based in Edmonton, or Treaty 6 territory, where she supports youth in a school district as a social worker. She works to ensure that her students have a safe environment to connect to their culture. She hopes to help her students envision possibilities where they are empowered to influence change for future generations.
Paula MacDonald (Ontario)
Paula MacDonald is a Saulteaux-Cree Deaf woman and member of Pasqua First Nation in Saskatchewan who currently lives in Ottawa. She’s a new advocate for the Indigenous Deaf youth community across Canada. She volunteers for the Deaf Indigenous of Canada committee and attends several talking circles with Indigenous organizations to share the voices of Indigenous Deaf youth. Her long-term goal is to continue working with people from Indigenous Deaf communities to improve accessibility and provide expanded resources for the home, school, community and health-care sectors.
Source: Senate of Canada