For more than a century, residential schools, the ‘60s Scoop, and the child welfare systems and policies have worked to remove Indigenous children from their families, lands, and culture.
Gabrielle Fayant says she’s spent a lot of time thinking about the targeting of Indigenous youth by Canada.
“If you really look at the history of colonization and systemic racism against Indigenous Peoples, it’s always been Indigenous youth that have been the targets. From residential school to the ‘60s Scoop to the current day child welfare,” says Fayant on the latest episode of Face to Face.
“Even police brutality and the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples, many are often young people overrepresented in jails and prisons.”
Fayant, who is a former Indspire award winner, is the co-creator of the Assembly of 7 Generations, an Indigenous-owned and youth-led, non-profit organization focused on empowering youth.
A7G, like most Indigenous led youth, struggles to find funding for the programs and services its offers, never mind, predictable, stable funding.
“It’s really confusing when we hear politicians and leaders talk about how the young people are the future but yet there’s no federal fund to support Indigenous youth at a grassroots level,” says Fayant. “Many of our young people are overrepresented in jails and prisons. When you look at missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and Two-Spirit plus crisis, it’s a lot of young people.”
Fayant says many of the young people she works with are dealing with mental health issues, poverty and a lack of housing.
A7G does it best to support youth in the Ottawa area. They do Friday night drop-ins, crisis intervention, and land-based activities. Fayant says much more could be achieved it they had stable funding.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 66 called upon the federal government, “to establish multi-year funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation, and establish a national network to share information and best practices.”
Fayant has spent years working on getting that call to action, implemented.
In 2017, Fayant was among a group of Independent Youth Advisors, appointed by then Crown-Indigenous relations minister Carolyn Bennett, to lead the Indigenous Youth Voices initiative to help implement TRC Call to Action 66. Less than a year later, that report was handed over to the federal government. It’s been gathering dust ever since.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada wrote, “Canada has been working towards full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, as they are a vital part of the Government of Canada’s work to advance reconciliation.
“The report, Indigenous Youth Voices, A Roadmap to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action 66, informed the development of a 3-year Indigenous youth-led pilot program supported by the Government of Canada. This pilot is managed by Canadian Roots Exchange in partnership with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.”
The program was extended to 5 years and has received nearly $ 30 million in funding. It is now in its final year.
“We recognize that there is still much more work to do in advancing reconciliation and we will continue this critical work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples,” said the statement.
Fayant says the only organization to receive multi-year funding from the federal government is Canadian Roots Exchange, “yet grassroots, community-based and Indigenous youth organizations have not seen multi-year funding and are in dire need of support.
“The lack of multi-year funding continues to have dire impacts on the lives of Indigenous young people.
“The way the federal government and its partners have tried to ignore the voices of Indigenous youth continues to show the systemic racism and structural violence outlined by Indigenous youth in the report.”
Fayant says the report laid out a “beautiful way forward” and included input from more than 500 Indigenous youth.
She says a lot has been lost with the shelving of the report.
“We lost lives. We lost young people,” says Fayant. “That’s the seriousness of research and reports and why we really believe that Indigenous youth have to be the ones leading this work because far too often, people are deciding things for Indigenous youth without their consent or without their input.
“Creating programs and policies that do the exact opposite of supporting Indigenous youth.”
Fayant believes the Indigenous Youth Voices report remains relevant and just needs the political willpower to enact.
She says, “its unfair that during this time of reconciliation that Indigenous youth have to carry the burden of healing through the trauma they didn’t impose on themselves.”
This story was updated on Feb. 16, 2023.