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All Children and Youth Thrive!

Building Indigenous Literacy Through Credible Resources

By Wendy Einwechter, Our Kids Network Indigenous Reconciliation initiative summer student

 

Introduction by Angela Bellegarde, Our Kids Network Indigenous lead

Our curated website section, Increase Your Indigenous Literacy, can be a first step on your journey to learn the Truth, making Reconciliation actions more meaningful. OKN staff are committed to ensuring that the information provided for Halton professionals is relevant and beneficial, from documentary videos on political relationships such as Dancing Around the Table Part 1 and Part 2 to suggestions on how you can write your own evocative Territorial Acknowledgement, and much more.

In her blog about researching content for the website, OKN Indigenous Reconciliation Initiative summer student, Wendy Einwechter, writes about the plethora of misinformation about Indigenous culture, history and traditions found on the internet and how the facts often must be uncovered and verified. She shares useful approaches and tips to ensure credibility and integrity when searching content online.

Buried Treasure-The Challenges of Online Research

As the OKN Indigenous Reconciliation initiative summer student, one of my responsibilities was to search online for credible, verifiable Indigenous resources for the OKN website Indigenous Literacy section. While doing my research, I was reminded of the “Telephone Game” that we all played as children, where as a phrase is whispered from person to person it becomes more and more distorted to the point of being completely different when it reaches the last person.  I wasn’t surprised at discovering biased and opinionated information and misinformation in my research, but what did surprise me was just how much there is on the topics of Indigenous culture, history and education. I could see that finding reliable sources would be challenging, so I approached this work with a critical and Indigenous viewpoint.

Mining for Integrity

I worked closely with Angela Bellegarde, OKN’s Indigenous lead to develop criteria and an approach to ensure that any new content would meet the standards of the OKN Indigenous literacy website section.  When I found information that I thought was relevant, I would spend time digging deeper into that resource. This sometimes  was very time-consuming depending on the media source or social channels such as You Tube or Instagram.  After viewing the resource, I would then research the person or organization for verification.

When researching a person or organization, I looked for credentials and proof of their expertise on the topic. I would also look for other published work or contributions that they may have made elsewhere. Often, I would mine their own resources to understand how and where they arrived at their conclusions. I also considered whether they are Indigenous or non-Indigenous and their specific ties to the Indigenous community.

Personal, Professional, Unconscious Biases can Throw Research off the Path

I was mindful of being overly critical and of my own personal and professional, or even unconscious, biases that could inhibit decisions on which content to accept or reject. Achieving a discerning balance considering source, verification, and credentials was the key to finding the “treasure” often buried in unlikely content.

This work spanned June to the end of August and the results are now being reviewed and edited. The content will be added to the OKN website in late fall. While the website is a resource for all Halton professionals who work with children, youth and families, these new resources may most greatly benefit non-Indigenous people who are looking for information that may help them on their journey to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

OKN Indigenous Literacy Resources

HYI Calls to Action Team’s Guide to Land Acknowledgements

Introduction

Angela G is a grade 10 student who volunteers with the Halton Youth initiative (HYI) Calls to Action team. In her blog below, she shares her thoughts on what she has learned about Land Acknowledgements to make them personal, authentic, and meaningful.  – Angela Bellegarde, Our Kids Network Indigenous lead

 

HYI Calls to Action Team’s Guide to Land Acknowledgements

 

By Angela G., Halton Youth initiative Community Builders Calls to Action team member

As youth working to advocate for Indigenous rights and immersing ourselves in Indigenous culture, it was brought to our attention that many people are unaware of how to properly put together a Land Acknowledgement.  Land Acknowledgements, one of the most important components of Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation, are often spoken at meetings or assemblies by adults and youth in various areas.

We wanted to bring attention to the fact that Land Acknowledgements should not just be spoken to check off a requirement. They should be original, and spoken from the heart, based on our true relationship with the land, and with true recognition of our Indigenous ancestors, those who live on the land today, and the Indigenous families who will come in future generations.

Based on this new-found inspiration, our HYI Community Builders Calls to Action team decided to create a website section to educate others on the importance of Land Acknowledgements and guide them along their journey in a less overwhelming way. We worked collaboratively to create a visually appealing web page containing a How-To PDF and video, helpful resources to determine whose land you’re on, and how to pronounce the treaty names; as well as Draw-My-Life videos that provide a history on a few of the Indigenous groups in the Halton Region.

Created by the Calls to Action Team of the Halton Youth Initiative, this video provides an overview of what Land Acknowledgements are, why they are important, and some tips for creating your own Land Acknowledgement.
Working together with my fellow youth and adult allies to create this platform was a really great experience. We were able to take an issue that we are passionate about, and channel all that fascination into a resource to help others become more knowledgeable on this valuable matter. Seeing all our hard work and progress come together, with the encouragement of our adult allies, was even more inspiring because it made me realize, and become conscious of, how large an impact youth can truly have on our community.

More information about the Halton Youth Initiative.

Wellbeing: What does it mean to YOU?

Introduction
As a member of the Halton Youth Impact Survey Ambassador team, 13 year-old Diya Deepu chairs the Communications Committee and helps plan promotions for the survey. In the blog below, she shares her thoughts on what wellbeing means to her and is encouraging other young people to do the survey to improve life for youth in Halton. Please share her blog widely in your networks of children, youth and families. – Beth Williams, Communications Manager, Our Kids Network

 

Diya Deepu

Wellbeing: What does it mean to YOU?

By Diya Deepu, Halton Youth Impact Survey Ambassador, Our Kids Network

Wellbeing is the quality of life that we have. It depends on if it’s positive or negative, and it all only matters on how WE see it. We all have different views on positive wellbeing, but it all joins into one root — happiness!

To me, it means to be happy and have that sense of satisfaction in my life. It’s the ability to be with the people I love and care about. But, wellbeing isn’t only about our mental health, it also includes our physicality too. These are two components of wellbeing that we should not separate, since both work together for each other’s good. Without good physical wellbeing, our mental health may go down, and without positive mental wellbeing, our physical health may go down.

We should be proud of the people we are today and should not let any obstacles stop us. This pandemic has changed our lives drastically this past two years, and I want you to know that you’re NOT ALONE in this battle. This is something new for all of us, and we’re all in this together!

So, here’s something for you to reflect on, what does wellbeing mean to you?

The Halton Youth Impact Survey is now closed. Thank you for your participation. Results will be available later this year.

Do you work with youth? Learn about the Halton Youth Initiative Model!

By Siobhan Laverdiere, Halton Youth Initiative Coordinator, and Lily Viggiano, Youth Asset-Builder

The Halton Youth Initiative (HYI) completed its second year at the end of 2020. At this point, we wanted to share with Our Kids Network and the Halton professional community, the valuable knowledge and insight that we, and our colleagues and community partners, have gained. Practical resources, programming ideas, and approaches to engaging youth can all be found on the HYI website. And as HYI leaders, we’re both available for consultations regarding youth programming and engagement. Contact us at siobhan@ourkidsnetwork.ca or lily@ourkidsnetwork.ca.

As HYI begins its third year, we look forward to even more community connections and partnerships that will play a role in sustaining this important work in the future.

Siobhan and Lily

Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville! 

It all started with the slogan Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville!  The idea was to elevate youth voice and empower youth to have a positive impact in the neighbourhood of North Oakville.

Since 2017 those youth voices have grown louder and louder to include the Acton, Aldershot and Milton neighbourhoods. Today our 94 (and growing) youth volunteers’ thoughts, opinions, ideas and creativity can be found on the HYI website and across social media channels, HYI blogs, podcasts, YouTube , and associated Instagram pages such as @miltonactionteam @youthaldershot @sevensomebodies @northoakYDC.

Website as a Forum for Youth and a Resource for Professionals

The HYI website is packed with information about the activities of HYI over the past 2 years. It includes so many stories that reveal what youth learned and felt as they expressed their views about tough topics such as mental health, Developmental Relationships, and Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation in blogs and podcasts.

Professionals who work with youth will find the HYI website useful for information on program planning, ideas on youth engagement and leadership, as a practical community development model, and much more.

Info & Links resources on mental health and developmental assets, description of the adult ally role and the 2018 results of the Youth Voices Matter in North Oakville survey

Events archived database of community and youth events from 2017 to present.

Youth Council information descriptions of each of the four youth councils prior to transitioning to virtual teams post-COVID

Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive special resources and information.

Put Developmental Relationships at the Centre of your Work with Youth 

HYI’s success with youth engagement is founded on the five elements of the Developmental Relationships (DR) framework: Expressing Care; Challenging Growth; Providing Support; Sharing Power; and Expanding Possibilities. When we center our work on relationships, all the rest seems to fall into place.

As you explore the website, we encourage you to view it through the lens of DR and consider the positive effects of youth working with adults (while the adults demonstrate one or more of the five elements of the DR framework). We believe this approach has made a significant difference in the motivation and enthusiasm of HYI young people to become actively involved in their community (currently virtually). Some even take on leadership roles. If you haven’t already, consider putting Developmental Relationships at the centre of your organization’s work.

 “At the Halton Youth Initiative, we are avid participants who empathize and advocate for the empowerment of ourselves as youth and for others in the community. We are inspired by the voices we are bringing to youth around Halton and the happiness we can bring into people’s lives.”

Angela, HYI youth volunteer

Partner Support is the Key to Engaging Youth in the Community

Welcoming caring community partners into the work of HYI has also been pivotal to our success. These agencies and organizations are stakeholders in the community who want to be involved with HYI other than as adult allies. We hope to welcome even more exceptional partners in the future.

Community partners provide support to HYI youth councils by:

  • building connections between the youth council and their organizations (generating awareness about the youth council and related activities, advocating for youth mentorship opportunities, and increasing youth Developmental Assets).
  • promoting the initiative in the community.
  • encouraging and welcoming youth in the community.
  • participating on subcommittees or workgroups.
  • providing in-kind resources.
  • attending meetings as a guest occasionally, as invited by youth members.

The Halton Youth Initiative partners below have made a world of difference to the youth members over the past 2 years. Thank you!

Special thanks to Pat Howell-Blackmore of PHBSpark Consulting, and Josh Taylor-Detlor, Indigenous Environmental & Youth Engagement Consultant, for their dedication and ongoing support.

Footnote:
Our Kids Network provides management and administrative services to the Halton Youth Initiative which is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

National Child Day 2020 Advancing children’s rights. If not now, when?

By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager

“The 21st Century will belong to our children and our children’s children. It is their dreams and aspirations, shaped by the circumstances into which they are born and which surround them as they grow up, that will give this century its final definition. Those who are under 18 today constitute more than a third of the world’s population and are already profoundly affecting our lives by their decisions and actions. For their sake as well as our own, we must do everything possible to reduce the suffering that weighs them down, open up their opportunities for success and ensure them a culture of respect.”

Senator Landon Pearson, National Early Years Conference, March 2007

Senator Pearson’s words resonate even more deeply today than they did 13 years ago. The children and youth of Halton are sharing the pandemic experience with the children of the world. Reducing their suffering and threats, creating opportunities for them, helping them build resilience, and most of all, creating a culture of support and respect are paramount. There has never been a better time to advance the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights than on this year’s National Child Day, Friday, November 20.

The Canadian version of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child was created in 2018

Cover of Canadian Children's Charter PDFClick to download the Charter.

Developed by Children First Canada with the active participation of thousands of Canadian children and youth, the The Canadian Children’s Charter: A Call to Action to Respect, Protect and Fulfil the Rights of Canada’s Children came to be through a broad consultation process that included government, the private sector, and community leaders. The final version was released on National Child Day in November 2018, and received support from Prime Minister Trudeau and other parliamentarians, business leaders, and those serving and supporting children, youth and families.

Why are National Child Day and a Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights important?

The more children know and understand their rights, the more empowered they become. National Child Day is the perfect time to open the conversation and teach children about their rights. It’s an opportunity to explore the UN Convention for a global perspective and look at the Canadian charter for a national and local view.

A national day to celebrate children reminds us to reflect on and question how we are treating and interacting with children and youth. As adults, we must acknowledge that it is our duty to listen and to act when children express their needs, thoughts, and opinions.

In 2020, we recognize that the world, our countries, and our communities have changed forever. With everything that children have to deal with today, the Canadian Children’s Charter can be another resource to help us understand the challenges they face and create a sense of security and safety for them.

What can you do to take part in National Child Day 2020?

Become familiar with the Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights and the nine calls to action that specifically address the “gap between the promises made to children, and the harsh realities that millions of Canadian children face each day due to poverty, abuse, discrimination, along with threats to physical and emotional health.”

Know the Canadian laws and policies that protect the rights and safety of children (in addition to the UNCRC, which was ratified in Canada in 1991.)

  • Optional Protocols 1 and 2 (Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography)
  • A Canada Fit for Children: a National Plan of Action
  • Children: the Silenced Citizens, a Report by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights
  • Jordan’s Principle
  • House  of Commons All-Party Resolution to End Child Poverty by the Year 2000

Study the research on the status of children in Canada and in Halton. Learn about the inequities and challenges that children in Canada and Halton face today.

Join the online National Child Day 2020 campaign. Use your social media networks and the hashtag #SeenAndHeard to spread the word.

Attend the National Child Day interactive digital event – for children and adults alike – on November 20 at 1 p.m. ET. This year, children and youth from across the country will discuss what it means to be #SeenAndHeard. You’ll also hear from youth activists, Canada’s leading voices for children’s rights, government and industry leaders, and more.

Start conversations about the Canadian Children’s Charter of Rights with the children and youth in your life. Listen closely to their comments and thoughts.

Visit the Halton Youth Initiative website and see how groups of young people are making a difference in Halton by working with adult allies to elevate youth voice, empowering themselves and having a positive impact in the communities of North Oakville, Acton, Aldershot and Milton.

Read the Children First Canada National Child Day blogs to find voices of youth, fast facts about National Child Day, and how partnerships can help support children’s rights.

Now more than ever, the importance of our collective work supporting Halton’s children, youth, and families cannot be underestimated. On National Child Day and every day, we thank you.

Young Milton Artist Mixes Compassion and Creativity to Make a Difference

Introduction by Vanessa Box-Jones, Our Kids Network Milton Community Hub Coordinator.

Shiuli Khanna is a grade 12 student in Milton, Ontario. She is an aspiring young artist and community volunteer who is passionate about engaging and supporting people and her community. Her work has been displayed in the Milton Art Centre gallery space.

Young Milton Artist Mixes Compassion and Creativity to Make a Difference

By Shiuli Khanna, visual artist, a grade 12 student, and community youth volunteer

I moved to Milton in grade 7 after spending a few years in Toronto. At the time, I was a scared 12 year-old kid who didn’t want to move from the big city to a “small town”, but the five amazing years that I’ve lived in Milton have definitely helped me become the passionate, creative person that I am today.

I’ve designed posters for the Milton Youth Advisory Task Force advertising, for the Milton Youth Awards, and my work has been on display in the gallery at the First Ontario Art Centre Milton. I’ve also been a member of the Milton Youth Task Force (MYTF) for 4 years. We work to impact our community and be informed, connected and empowered community leaders.  After one of our MYTF meetings, Vanessa Box-Jones, the Our Kids Network Milton Community Hub coordinator and an adult ally who works with our group, told me about an amazing opportunity to paint a mural for the Hub. I rarely turn down an opportunity to create art, so of course, I said yes!

Inspiration for the OKN Hub Mural

My inspiration for this artwork was all the wonderful people I’ve met in Milton. This town has become my home and I really wanted to portray its diversity and multicultural aspects in my mural. In fact, most of the pictures I have painted are either based on photos in my gallery or events I’ve seen. Whether it’s handing out flowers for the International Women’s Day March; walking around Milton during the coldest night of the year to raise funds for the homeless; or even just holding the door open for someone – simple acts go a long way, and I love picturing them in my art. I remember getting caught in the rain while waiting for the bus, luckily I had an umbrella. Someone else who was also waiting for the bus wasn’t as lucky so I offered to share my umbrella. I felt really good knowing that I made a difference in some way.

Shiuli stands beside her mural artwork, which will be installed at the Ontario First Art Centre Milton. The installation has been postponed until COVID-19 Emergency Measures are lifted.

Making a Difference by Getting Involved

Milton has a variety of opportunities to get involved in: the annual Milton Fall Fair; the Railway Museum; and farmers’ markets to support our local farmers; and many other seasonal events in downtown Milton. So to the people who may think there’s nothing to do in this “small town” (as I was once believed); I say get involved in our wonderful community and get to know more people!

You can join community groups such as the Milton Youth Task Force, where youth have the chance to share their voices and advocate for the youth of Milton. You can also put a smile on someone’s face by volunteering at the Milton District Hospital. I volunteer in palliative care, and being able to make someone smile can make your entire day. You could start a band and participate in the Battle of the Bands event, or perform in the Milton Fair. Youth have the opportunity to show their many talents during Milton Culture Days events with music, intricate henna (mehendi) designs and more. You could join the Fine Arts Society of Milton and have your artwork showcased in the First Ontario Arts Centre Milton gallery!

Artistic Expression and Future Plans

Art is everywhere and I love making it whether I’m painting, sketching, or just doodling. When I can’t convey my feelings and emotions through words, I turn to art because it allows me to express myself freely without being judged. I’ll be graduating in a year and my aspiration is to attend medical school. Medicine is an incredibly stressful field, so I’m glad that I have art as an outlet when times get difficult. Though I can’t say for sure how art will fit into my future, it will always be a part of who I am. And I know that if I had never come to Milton, I’d be a very different person for sure.

Follow Shiuli on Instagram @shiulikhanna.