June 7, 2017

Honourable senators, I rise today, following Senator Dyck, to pay tribute to three of the nine inspiring indigenous youth that are joining us here today. This morning, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting these youth, and I’m struck by the passion they possess at such a young age. As well, I’m so proud of how they have used their experiences and abilities to promote their culture and improve their communities.

Andrea Andersen is a 25-year-old Inuk from Makkovik Nunatsiavut who now lives in my home community of Iqaluit, Nunavut, where she is working as a physiotherapist and is working on her master’s degree at Dalhousie University. Growing up, her home was always full of foster children. She learned at a young age about the importance of giving back and the positive changes that result. This past year, Andrea joined protesters at a hydroelectric dam site in Labrador to force the provincial government to listen to indigenous people’s concerns. She is also working on a series of children’s books in Inuktitut to keep the language strong and vibrant among the next generation of Inuit.

Steven Puskas is a 34-year-old Inuk from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories who now lives in Montreal, Quebec. He has been creating bridges between indigenous and non-indigenous communities ever since moving to the south, including organizing the first ever Inuit film festival in Montreal and hosting panel discussions and talks at the universities of Concordia and McGill. His work in this area has encouraged new approaches to indigenous representation in Quebec and Canadian cultural institutions. He has worked with the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Network and Vigie Autochtone, a partnership between Montreal police and the city’s indigenous community.

Chris Tait is a 25-year-old from Gitxsan Nation, B.C. He now lives in Vancouver. As a former youth in care, Chris began to investigate how to improve Canada’s foster care system at the age of 15. His work focuses on helping inner city youth through initiatives like Fostering Change, SafeTeen and the RISE program. He has also advised British Columbia’s Ministry of Children and Family Development on its youth engagement toolkit.

Colleagues, this chamber is a testament to Canada’s European roots. It’s the history that everyone learns in school. But today, every activity has been designed to bring a new and fresh perspective meant to evolve how we approach policy and legislative decisions, which is integral to moving us forward toward true reconciliation.

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I would like to congratulate the youth that we are honouring here today and welcome them to the Senate of Canada.

Indigenous Youth Leaders