Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, today is National Aboriginal Day. The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples invited 12 extraordinary indigenous youth to appear as witnesses at our meeting this morning. I have the honour of acknowledging the first half of the youth witnesses, and our deputy chair, Senator Patterson, will honour the second half of the participants in his statement.
Colleagues, Parliament Hill sits on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people, so it was appropriate that our first witness was Caitlin Tolley, an Algonquin from Kitigan Zibi. She spoke of the importance of indigenous youth reclaiming their language, traditions and culture. She imparted upon us two Algonquin sayings. First, listen more and talk less. Second, learn today and lead tomorrow.
Tenille McDougall is from Fort McLeod and is a member of the TsuuT'ina First Nation. Her story was about finding out "who I am." It wasn't until she was a mother that she moved back to her community and began to understand who she is. She provides a vital support to her community in providing information for first-time mothers and parents to increase parental knowledge and decrease the isolation that many indigenous parents feel.
Willie Sears is from the Williams Lake Indian Band in British Columbia. He is a second-term councillor and works as a special projects coordinator in the band's Economic Development and Natural Resources Department. He is an award-winning children's book author of Dipnetting with Dad. He told us that his connection to his culture and identity comes from the storytelling tradition of his elders.
Kluane Adamek is from Whitehorse, Yukon, and is a citizen of the Kluane First Nation. She shared the story of the suicide of her young cousin. Despite moments of darkness and hopelessness, she sent out a Facebook message to youth across the Yukon, and this sparked the Yukon First Nations Emerging Leaders Gathering to find ways to prevent suicide. She told us that when youth feel pride in their indigenous identity, it builds stronger, healthier communities.
Justin "Jah'Kota" Holness is part Jamaican and part Nakota from Ocean Man First Nation in Saskatchewan. Central to his testimony to us was a need for indigenous youth to be proud of their identity and culture and to be able to express that. Justin also made history as he was the first witness at our committee to perform a rap song that he wrote about the tragedies of suicides in indigenous communities.
Katelyn LaCroix is from Penetanguishene, Ontario, and a Post- secondary Representative on the Provincial Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario. Katelyn also discovered her indigenous identity later in life. She's a strong advocate for creating mental health programs for indigenous students transitioning to college and university lifestyles and also still able to engage with their culture and history.
Honourable senators, the indigenous youth leaders that the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples heard this morning are partners in building solutions and strong indigenous communities. We must listen to them. They are the future.