I would like to start by thanking Caroline Nochasak, a young leader from Nain, Nunatsiavut, for providing the above image. I had left my camera at home and had relied on my phone for some pictures but the phone decided to not come on since Wednesday afternoon. I have tried everything to make it make come on but to no success. I will deal with the phone once I return back home to Edmonton and I’m honored to use the images taken by fellow delegates to provide you with an exciting blog experience. It is very hard for me to just write a blog without including any image.
It is an honor to share with you all once again another successful and exciting day at the Bridging the Gap National Youth Forum with delegates from across Canada. The second day of the Forum, March 6th was filled with great workshops which we were informative and very lively. We left our hotel just after 8:30am for Children of the Earth High School where the Forum is being held. Canadian Roots Exchange team started by welcoming everyone to the second day of the Forum. Vibhor who is the Executive Director of this great and amazing organization thanked the many volunteers and staff who made this year’s Forum possible with their sleepless nights. A short video regarding the 2014 Saskatoon Forum which was titled Building Bridges was played and followed by a good icebreaker by two gentlemen from YMCA.
The workshops started around 9:30am and I attended one called “Diaspora and Indigenous Narratives” organized by Ivan and Rinchen. This workshop was highlighting some of the issues that young Indigenous and immigrates people can educate each other on and work together. Words such as Borders, Social Media, Diaspora and Settler were written on big pieces of papers and delegates had to write one word which describes or relates to each of the mean words and then a discussion took place regarding the specific word. For example, we spoke about how Borders stand for division, colonial, and displacement of people from their land. This was such an eye opening exercise which highlighted some of the relations that immigrates in Canada have in common with the indigenous people. A video from Latin American with a powerful message was played. People in the video were singing about their Motherland and relating to the struggles that they faced. This workshop was followed by one titled “Indigenous Femininities and Allies: Reshaping and centering femininity” which was led by Latisha Reddick. We got into groups which represented Rabbit, Lioness, Bear and Clown Fish. The animals had some personality written under them which people joined if they identified with the wording. I was part of the Rabbit team and we had to pretend there was an apocalypse and write down rules to survive. After each team wrote down their rules, we were then put together to come up with 5 golden rules to live with each other. This was a very interesting exercise because it took a while to come up with those rules as part of the larger group and be accommodating to everyone. After the exercise Latisha then spoke of how clans and specific tribal women back in the days got together and organized for the survival of everyone. This was a great workshop which I was glad to be part of.
I would like to thank Silpa Suarak, also from Nain, Nunatsiavut for the above image. She’s a proud young indigenous woman who took part in an exchange program with Canada World Youth to Tanzania in East Africa past few years. Silpa was very excited to learn that I had lived in Tanzania during my Refugee life and she even still remembers few words in Swahili, a beautiful language spoken by majority of East Africans. I was happy and humbled when Silpa purchase one of my book which I have few copies of and can also be found at Amazon.com by clicking here. It was now time for lunch and after lunch our Keynote Speaker was a gentleman called Web Kinew. Web is a proud Indigenous who was named by PostMedia News as one of “9 Aboriginal movers and shakers you should know.” He is the interim Associate Vice-President for Indigenous Relations at the University of Winnipeg and a correspondent with Aljazeera America. Web has had great achievements along the way and he is also the Honourary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. He spoke about having the honor as a young kid of meeting Nelson Mandela when he visited Canada and chatting with him. Web touched on the message of how Mandela was very humbled and kept on talking to this young indigenous kid whereas he could have been talking to higher people or be doing greater things. Humbleness is a great characteristic which every leader should have. Web’s message was about believing that with hard work everyone can be at the top and live their dreams. He noted that everyone is already doing great by taking part in this Bridging the Gap National Youth Forum.
It was now time for afternoon breakout sessions and I attended a workshop called “Blanket Exercise: the Indigenous Rights History We’ve Rarely Been Taught” led by an organization called KAIROS. All the delegates stood on blankets and scenarios were read by the organization in relating to what had happened when the Europeans first arrived in North America. By far this was the most touching exercise and very informative. The laws which we imposed were read out loud, the diseases brought to the land were read out loud, how children and people in general were put into residential schools was read out loud and finally the blanket symbolized how slowly the indigenous lost control of their lands. I was very emotional during this workshop and was relating this kind of experience with some of the things that also happened in Africa. I now have greater appreciation for the indigenous people of Canada and very honored and humbled to learn more about their history, culture and see how we can support each other. A last workshop followed which was titled “Reclaiming Creativity: Arts based Workshop on Reconciliation” led by Camille Louis. We had an exercise where people tried to draw the face of another by not looking on the paper and also had a choice to draw anything that we can relate with. In keeping with the theme of this Forum, I drew a tree relating to my message on the first day that without its roots, a tree is nothing. The Forum ended around 4:30pm and we made our way back to the hotel. I decided to have a short nap before dinner. Woke up and went for dinner after 7:30pm. Tomorrow is March 7th and the last day of this amazing Bridging the Gap National Youth Forum. So far it is very awesome networking with fellow young people from across Canada and it is very touching to learn about the indigenous history which we hardly hear of. I am excited for the third day of the Forum which I am sure it will be worthwhile too.
There’s great strength in unity,
Love, Peace & Unity
One Seed At Time
Gerard Mutabazi Amani