NIAGARA FALLS, ON, July 10, 2016 /CNW/ - The inaugural Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National First Nation Youth Summit on Wellness gathered today under the theme of the Thunderbird, a symbol that represents healing and renewal. First Nations youth from many territories identified their priorities for mental wellness, life promotion, the social determinants of health, breaking barriers and sparking life changing solutions.
"The interest level in this event is so high among youth across the country and I hope we can meet again in the near future," said Jasmine Labillois, AFN National Youth Council (NYC) co-chair from New Brunswick. "Our voices need to be heard and I do believe that today was a step in the right direction. We have an integral role in shaping the solutions and approaches that work. We heard so many positive stories of what can work in our communities and I believe our future looks brighter, but we need support by all to achieve a better life."
More than 200 First Nations youth attended the inaugural AFN National First Nation Youth Summit on Wellness and shared experiences in a supportive and positive environment dedicated to celebrating strengths and meeting challenges with innovative solutions.
"Today, we all stand with the youth and their vision to create and support meaningful change in the lives of all First Nations," said AFN Regional Chief Morley Googoo, who oversees the Youth portfolio. "I told them how much they are valued and are essential to the prosperity of our people, our region and our country."
During a special ceremony, the Youth Summit honoured walkers from the Mushkegowuk First Nation and other northern Ontario First Nations participating in the Youth Walk of Hope to raise awareness on the suicide pandemic affecting First Nations youth around the country. The walkers arrived at the Youth Summit after walking more than 865 kilometres. The Youth Summit provided an honouring and welcome and the walkers provided a special presentation to the Youth Summit.
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who attended the Youth Summit, stated: "On behalf of all First Nations, I lift up the Youth Walk of Hope participants for their incredible dedication and determination. They made this journey for all our youth and all our people to bring attention to an urgent issue. Their example, and the energy and enthusiasm of all the participants at our Youth Summit, show that youth are leading the way. They are inspiring us and showing us that by working together we will succeed."
The Youth Summit highlighted some successful First Nation youth-led programs and initiatives, such as the Wapikoni Mobile, and featured discussions on youth engagement, leadership and empowerment. An important dialogue and strategy session took place on the AFN NYC Calls to Action on Life Promotion, where the participating youth had an opportunity to provide input and feedback on these recommendations. These Calls to Action will be presented during the AFN Annual General Assembly (AGA), starting on Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and will then be formally presented to the federal government for implementation.
For more information on the 2016 AFN AGA: http://www.afn.ca/en/the-assembly-of-first-nations-37th-annual-general-assembly
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow the #AFNAGA on Twitter #AFNYouthSummit @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations