Youth Symposium breaks down racism

SIX NATIONS – The Six Nations Youth Council partnered with the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate and Six Nations Elected Council to host a youth symposium with workshops garnered towards the education and exploration of racism on Saturday, March 3.

Dubbed the Anti-Racism Youth Symposium: Youth in ReconciliACTION, the event gathered youth from across Six Nations and elsewhere to participate in the workshops, listen to guest speakers including Carey Leigh Thomas and Cody Jamieson, enjoy the dancing of Ascension Harjo and take part in the celebration of diversity.

One of the lead coordinators, Mari Reeve-Newson, explained that the youth that participated were given a safe space to share what they felt comfortable with an environment to learn in.

“Today was all about sharing, learning, growing, coming together in a new way regardless of race or skin colour and really just growing the peace,” said Reeve-Newson. “It’s really just about bringing awareness to issues that are affecting the community.”

One of the issues that arose within the last year included indigenous students from Six Nations at a local high school.

“[This event is] highlighting events like what happened at [McKinnon Park Secondary School] where there was a lot of conflict between a group of people doing social songs and the national anthem,” she said. “We wanted to use this time as an opportunity to build better relationships with each other no matter the colour of our skin, and no matter the gender we identify with,” she said.

Canada has an image of collective progressive tolerance, as it is ranked second amongst all nations for its racial inclusion. But to illustrate the actual level of racial harmony for a country, taking into consideration how the country treats its most disadvantaged population is a must. This population for Canada is not the African-American population, but the First Nations.

As more than 40 percent of First Nations people live on reservations and many in poverty, it is very easy for Canada’s most disadvantaged population to be out of sight and out of mind. A survey conducted last year commissioned for by The Globe and Mail and performed by Nanos Research further proved that Canada’s image of itself has cracks.

Seven in 10 respondents said that there is “a lot of racism” in Canada, more than a third said that they have made a racist remark in the company of others and one in five have had racist remarks directed at them. But the silver lining of this poll said that eight in 10 Canadians believe that it is possible to make people less racist in their attitudes through education. And that is exactly what the symposium set out to do.

Reeves-Newson explained that more than 1500 flyers for the event were sent out, the local high schools were reached out to through their guidance counsellors, and a group of multi-cultural educators outside of Six Nations were invited from Toronto to speak.

With more than 100 youth in attendance, Reeves-Newson said that she hopes the event makes “ripple effects in the community.”

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