“True reconciliation includes Indigenous perspectives, people and voices from the onset of any concept,” says Michael Champagne, Indigenous Youth Activist and Organizer of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities.
“In the planning, the deliberation, the delivery, and the evaluation; if Indigenous voices aren’t included in every single step of that process, you’re using the buzzword reconciliation instead of true reconciliation.”
Champagne joined together with a group of about 50 members from the Rotary Club of Winnipeg to discuss reconciliation and how we can support Aboriginal youth.
“Walk with us, don’t walk ahead of us, don’t tell us where to walk. Walk with us,” says Champagne.
“Our example is our message, so if we lead something, it’s okay to follow, especially if you get invited, like right now.”
Champagne went on to say one of the easiest ways for Winnipeggers to get involved in supporting Indigenous youth would be to show up at a Meet Me at The Bell Tower on Fridays.
The event started four years ago and has grown into a weekly event.
Every Friday at 6 p.m., Aboriginal Youth Opportunities gathers volunteers and residents of our community and city at the North End Bell Tower at the corner of Selkirk Ave. and Charles St. to talk about what we can do to make reconciliation real in our community.
“That positions non-Indigenous Winnipeggers to be in a welcoming space where Indigenous youth are in a leadership role and also in that moment we can work cooperatively and ask them, ‘do you want to help?'” says Champagne.
“What kind of help do you want to give? We recognize that everyone has a variety of gifts and abilities and we only want people to support us in ways that they are comfortable doing so.”
Champagne’s words really hit home with some of the attending members, like Nancy Cosway.
“What Michael said was right on, we have to work together,” says Cosway.
“We can’t find solutions for other people. People have to be involved in creating their own solutions, maybe with a little bit of guidance, and suggestion, but they have to make the decisions themselves.”
The weekly Meet At The Bell Tower events are open to all people and are free – although you are encouraged to bring a donation for the prize draw.
The event is supported by the Indigenous Family Centre, Food Not Bombs and the Bear Clan Patrol.
Champagne says coming to walk with the youth in our community at an event like Meet At The Bell Tower can help make reconciliation real.
If you’d like more information about Michael Champagne or Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, please visit www.ayomovement.com .
More information about the Winnipeg Rotary club as well as the organizations they support can be found at winnipegrotary.org .