March 5th –7th
Bridging the Gap: National Youth Conference
Canadian Roots Exchange hosted its third national conference, Bridging the Gap, from March 5 th – 7 th at Children of the Earth High School, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The conference engaged 300 Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, CRE’s largest attended conference yet.
The objective of Bridging the Gap was to strengthen connections and develop leadership between Indigenous & non-Indigenous youth. This conference amplified the voices of youth participants, ages 16 to 29 years, from across Canada.
Bridging the Gap featured 48 workshops which were presented by a range of youth and by non-profits. Youth presenters and participants came from nearly all areas of the country: Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Quebec, British Colombia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario.
Bridging the Gap facilitated the development of a national youth leadership network. Significantly, the gathering increased youth access from rural, remote, and fly-in Indigenous communities. By partnering with Children of the Earth High School, CRE reached 150 Indigenous students who may not have otherwise had access to Indigenous centered, reconciliation based leadership initiatives.
Wab Kinew (host of CBC’s 8th Fire) with CRE Staff. He was
one of the keynote speakers. He shared his journey of
realizing his potential with humour and integrity.
The conference closed by creating outlets for youth expression. A sharing circle was convened where youth expressed the personal significance of Bridging the Gap to their lives. Notably, youth from rural, remote, and fly in Indigenous communities expressed that they would cherish their experiences and use bonds of solidarity to stay motivated in addressing the specific challenges of their communities.
This sentiment was echoed by nearly all Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants in the closing sharing circle. After the closing of the conference, Canadian Roots Exchange received emails affirming the need for additional conferences in other areas of the country.
A significant measure of the impact of the Bridging the Gap Conference is the media attention which the gathering attracted. Notably, CBC, CTV, and APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) produced coverage of the conference.
The CBC Manitoba website featured an article and video titled “Winnipeg conference aims to change Indigenous stereotypes: Bridging the Gap brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from across the country.” The article focused on the lived experiences of racism among Indigenous youth. It was shared 549 times from the CBC Manitoba. The same article was published on CBC Radio in French.
The CTV Winnipeg website featured an article and video titled “Youth conference looks at ways to combat racism.” It specifically explored how youth leaders at the Bridging the Gap conference deepened Winnipeg’s commitment to anti-racism.
The APTN website featured an article and video titled “Youth look to put differences aside at racism conference in Winnipeg.” This piece looked at networks of youth solidarity which were formed through Bridging the Gap. It was shared 600 times from the APTN website via social media.
Bridging the Gap generated positive media response from youth participants. The blog Humanity Seed featured daily articles from youth leader, Gerrard Amani. He reflected on how the conference created opportunities for him as a refugee of the Congo. These articles were titled: “Everything is Possible, Change Starts With Us”; “Bridging the Gap Day Two: There is Strength in Unity”; “Bridging the Gap Day Three: The Canada We Want”.
The responsiveness of the media reflected both the context and the need for programming which addresses the social, cultural, economic, and political gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.