More than 400 high school students attended the fourth annual youth conference in honour of Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities on Friday, April 22.
The full-day conference presented a variety of workshops and guest speakers focused on youth engaging in reconciliation.
“We acknowledge that the Carleton University campus sits on the traditional unceded territories of the Algonquin nation,’’ said Andre Plourde, dean of the Faculty of Public Affairs. “In the past we at Carleton did not acknowledge that, in fact many did not even realize it, but that’s something we are intent on changing.
“We at Carleton are dedicated to improving public knowledge and understanding of Canada’s Indigenous peoples with the help of Indigenous leaders. This is why we are so proud to be hosting this event.”
Dwight Dorey, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, presented a keynote address entitled Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights in Canada. Dorey, a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia who holds a master’s in Canadian Studies from Carleton, has been working as an activist for Indigenous rights for 35 years.
He spoke about challenges still facing Indigenous people after the victorious outcome of the Daniels versus Canada ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada, which determined that Métis and other non-status Indians are “Indian” as defined by the Constitution. As a result, these groups are entitled to receive the same social benefits available to other Indigenous communities.
“The Daniels case is about fairness and equality. It’s about addressing many social issues for the Métis and non-status Indians, much of which stem from the residential school era.”
Dorey, who worked with other leaders on the Daniels case for many years, stressed that violence against Indigenous women, the lack of economic opportunities for rural communities and discrimination are urgent issues.
“Since November, I have flown about 55,000 kilometres visiting people across Canada. This tour is still continuing on so that I, as a national leader, can better understand what the issues are concerning and facing off-reserve Indigenous people in this country. And I want to tell you, one of the items at the top of the list is discrimination.”
After Dorey’s speech, students were given the opportunity to ask questions. Many students used the time to ask Dorey for advice about what they could do to help.
“Take the time and take the interest in what’s going on in your own community or in your own backyard with your neighbours. We are all in this together . . . Take an interest, that’s all I can say, take an interest and start talking to people who can make a difference and who can make a change and things will change,” said Dorey.
About NDRAMA & the Youth Conference:
Local activist Norm King came up with the idea of creating a Canadian national day to raise awareness about mass atrocities occurring around the world. Due to his lobbying, the House of Commons established Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities in 2010. April 23 was chosen to honour the birthday of Lester B. Pearson, former prime minister and Canada’s only Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Conferences have been held annually to commemorate the national day. In 2013, educator Tricia Leduc created a youth conference in Ottawa. The Youth Conference is a partnership between Carleton’s Faculty of Public Affairs, the All-Party Parliamentary Genocide Prevention Group and the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.