First Nations youth attend Feathers of Hope forum to take steps forward in revitalizing their culture and identity

THUNDER BAY, ON, July 12, 2016 /CNW/ - One year after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its executive summary reflecting the experiences of residential school survivors, more than 130 First Nations youth from across northern Ontario will gather to participate in culturally anchored workshops and discussions with elders, government officials and other leaders to highlight the importance of indigenous cultures in their lives and move forward on a path toward healing and reconciliation.

Over three days, young people representing 55 remote and fly-in communities will attend the "Feathers of Hope: Culture, Identity and Belonging" forum. This is the fourth Feathers of Hope forums hosted by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth since it launched the Feathers of Hope initiative in 2013.

"Through the TRC's work, we heard from survivors who were removed from their families and communities and placed in residential schools where they were forbidden to speak their language and practice their cultural traditions," said Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. "With more than 150,000 children removed from their communities, there were few young people left to pass down their traditional knowledge, languages and culture."

Language plays an important role in teaching individuals who they are, where they come from and what role it plays for them in the future. According to the TRC, "the fragile state of almost all Aboriginal languages in Canada is a damaging legacy of residential schools." The TRC has also documented how many survivors from those schools have "lost" their ability to communicate using the language of their people, knowledgeably speak about, or share the ceremonies or cultural practices of their heritage to young people and their communities.

During the forum, young people will engage with elders and "knowledge carriers" who will pass down traditional knowledge and teachings, while learning and participating in cultural workshops ranging from a sweat lodge, powwow, indigenous cooking classes, beadwork and dance ceremonies.

"My hope is that First Nations young people will take from this forum an understanding that culture starts with us," said Savanna Boucher, a Youth Amplifier with Feathers of Hope and the Advocate's Office. "Every other culture is evolving in Canada. It's our turn to evolve and revitalize ours."

On the final day of the forum, young people will present their perspectives on culture with respect to service resource delivery at a listening table attended by the federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, First Nations leaders and elders, government officials and stakeholders from the education, healthcare and community service sectors.

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). The Provincial Advocate may identify systemic problems involving children, conduct reviews and provide education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children. The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement.

For more information, visit: www.provincialadvocate.on.ca. For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

Image with caption: "The Feathers of Hope: Culture, Identity and Belonging forum is the fourth forum hosted by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth since it launched the Feathers of Hope initiative in 2013. (CNW Group/Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160712_C2589_PHOTO_EN_730145.jpg

For further information: Media Contact: Akihiko Tse, Media and Communications Coordinator, Cell: 647-458-1204 or Tel: 416-325-5994, akihiko.tse@provincialadvocate.on.ca

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