What is Canada? Is it a country built upon the foundations of two dominant cultures? Is it a country which believes in freedom and prosperity? Following these questions are usually passionate opinions about anything from history, social justice, economics, all the way to government. Now, these perspectives are perhaps answered differently by those of us who would identify as Aboriginal peoples –First Nations, Metis, or Inuit. For centuries, on this side of the planet now known as North America, there were -and still are- many distinct peoples, from the East to the West, North to South. Today, this population is about 1,172,790 plus, and the median age of Aboriginal people, since the 2006 census, is 27. In comparison to the median age of non-Aboriginals there is a ten year gap. As an Algonquin Young Liberal I see this as an opportunity to engage with young Aboriginal people across the country. The ten year gap means that there are many interests that are not being met by traditionally non-Aboriginal institutions, such as parliament. This New Generation of Aboriginal people will either have to live with the ideals of a disillusioned Harperland, or the prospect of a new Just Society. In this article there will be some suggestions on how to engage young Aboriginal people, whether it is through social media or by incentives through the Liberal Party. I will also discuss how Aboriginal voices are capable of being applicable to Canada, while maintaining a foundation of indigenous culture.
Social media is a tool that is very powerful in the organization and distribution of information in contemporary society. Facebook, twitter, and any other form of social media have been mobilized in various ways of organizing people. The Liberal Party should take note of this when trying to branch out to young Aboriginal people. Have an online forum which invites young Aboriginal people into areas that would provide context in the creation of policy. The focus for the Liberal party should be to listen and to respect. If the Liberal Party is capable of providing a foundation for Aboriginal ideas, then peaceful and prosperous relations will follow.
The Liberal Party should also have some incentives that would provide a real look into what it means to be a Young Aboriginal person within Canada. Young Aboriginal people can show what it means to be a member of this country, while being members of their nations. It can also provide a vast rich context of how different places interact with Aboriginal people, whether it is in a fly-in community far north, or in a suburb in Toronto. A suggestion would be to not emphasize such incentives for partisan purposes. This may narrow or turn off people. It should be an incentive to participate, not indoctrinate.
As a young Aboriginal person, one should look at their own body. That body has been inherited by many centuries of survival and community. It is not a product of enslavement, nor of selfishness. It should be acknowledged that it is there for many reasons and many purposes that can be used for a great good. In Canada, that body can provide great insight to a much needed listener. To be active in national politics can serve purposes of a great good. Within every person there is a potential leader. Canada needs these leaders. That being said, it does not mean that being active in the forming of Canada equates to assimilation or conformity. Young Aboriginal leaders should not be told to follow a particular path when there is reason not to. To be a leader means that one will have the strength to retain their culture and to fight for social equality.
As a young Algonquin, I feel it is necessary to say that my opinion is not universal to all Aboriginal people, but an opinion nonetheless. In the past year, I have seen many changes, some positive, but mostly negative. It was pretty cool to be at that Liberal Biennial last January to hear an acknowledgement of the unceded Algonquin territory that the event took place on. It brought a smile across my face. I heard a similar thing said at a Crown-First Nations gathering later said by the Prime Minister. That too brought a smile. What did not bring a smile to my face was the fact that when that wampum belt was revolved to mark a “new relationship,” many budget cuts were aimed at Aboriginal programs and organizations later. Also, Conservative ministers were making claims that Aboriginal people were dysfunctional. To paraphrase, one even said that Aboriginal people hunt every day; therefore there is no problem with food security. I also cringed when I heard that the Prime Minister would rather lay blame at those people in Attawapiskat, rather than to help them. These types of actions and talk do not maintain peaceful relations between Aboriginal peoples and the crown. Liberals should take note of this now. The Liberal Party should take the initiative to try and engage young Aboriginal leaders and to encourage them to lead. By encouraging discussion and participation, peace should follow; and ensuring peace should be at the forefront of every decision, hard or easy. Peace holds communities together. Peace means mutual respect. Peace means prosperity.
Miigwetch, Merci, and Thank You