Letter from the Youth Amplifiers
Feathers of Hope Justice and Juries: A First Nations Youth Action Plan on Juries (2016)
Feathers of Hope began its journey back in 2010.
The Provincial Advocate’s Office, working with the Chiefs of Ontario and a number of Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities, hosted two small gatherings with Aboriginal youth. The first took place in Toronto in October 2010, and the second in July 2011 in Thunder Bay. The Office then hired the first Youth Amplifiers, and in partnership with the Inter-Governmental Network and Nishnawbe Aski Nation planned the first of what has now been three Feathers of Hope youth forums in Thunder Bay since March 2013. Since then, things have moved so quickly. In November 2014, we hosted and planned the Justice and Juries youth forum and have been working hard to create the report that is now in front of you.
This Feathers of Hope forum and report is unique as it was born out of recommendation seven of the First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries Report. We hosted this forum focused on Justice and Juries because we recognized how important it is for Aboriginal young people to add their voices and perspectives on how a lack of representation on Aboriginal people on juries, and in the overall justice system, negatively affects them and their communities. Feathers of Hope has instilled the drive for change in young people, not just here in Ontario, but across Canada, giving us recognition and showing us that “we’re going in the right direction.” We believe that our work tied to Feathers of Hope has allowed us to build some powerful relationships with allies, who like us, believe that now is the time for change.
We are Youth Amplifiers and each of us represents Aboriginal People from Northern Ontario.
Our communities, our roots are in Treaty #3, Nishnawbe Ask Nation, and Robinson-Superior. Each of us has different talents, goals and hopes for the future, but we all come together to support and advocate for Aboriginal youth and to amplify their voices. We are committed to ensuring young people have a platform through which to come together and to share and learn. We do this work because the issues involved affect our friends, family, community members and the lives of so many people around us.
Young people are the heart of this process.
We would like to express our appreciation to every young person who participated in forums we have organized, the many communities we have visited, the people we have met through workshop, conferences and outreach, as well as all the young people who have been a part of our Youth Advisory Committees. The advisory for this report has been a source of knowledge and memory that we needed to create this report and ensure it reflects the voices of the 150 young people who were part of the forum process. They are a reminder of the voices and the strength that came together and shared and they are a reminder that the inclusion of youth and young people must be the first step towards real change.
We would like to acknowledge the work that young people have put forth in the Feathers of Hope process. We want to make sure we emphasize how much we value the courage and the work that the forum participants put in. It is unbelievably inspiring how they are willing to share their own experiences because it demonstrates their true commitment to change. WE also appreciate all the encouragement we get from our leaders and champions that helped the young along the way from getting to the forums to being a part of the positive change that youth are hoping to achieve. Without the commitment from the young people, as well as our fellow staff at the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and youth, the Debwewin Implementation Committee, the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of the Children and Youth Services, our community leaders and the ongoing support of our champions, including Johnathan Rudin who came in and met with us and answered our many questions about Gladue, Feathers of Hope wouldn’t be what it is today.
Feathers of Hope has become a movement tied to the voices of Aboriginal young people and we want youth to know that it is their words and knowledge that created this report.
Youth that attended the forum came with the intention of creating change. They see Feathers of Hope has an impact, it makes a difference, it is young people making change. They knew coming to the Justice and Juries forum that they would have an impact. Youth are ready to work together with systems, levels of government, Aboriginal leadership and each other to heal the roots of Canada’s failed justice system. As part of the Feathers of Hope team ,we remain committed to a vision of young people mobilizing to create and maintain stronger healthier communities. Our goal is to continue to hold these powerful forums and difficult discussions. Young people know what the issues are because they live and witness the injustices, failures and legacies of the justice system every day. They believe that if there is a need for more and better representation of Aboriginal people in the jury process, then young people must be the part of the change process. But first, Ontario must look with humility at the reasons why Aboriginal people do not want to be part of a jury process that has never seen us as peers.
Savanna Boucher, Talon Bird, Samantha Crowe, Ryan Giles Hunter, Karla Kakegamic, and Sarah Nelson