The Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE) is a registered charity that was founded in 2009 by a group of youth with the guidance and support of Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux. They believed that in order to realize reconciliation in Canada, it would take an education and dialogue between youth to foster a wide understanding of Canada’s rich indigeneity.
The Canadian Roots Exchange is built on the hope that we can inspire a generation of leaders who will redefine and strengthen relationships between Canada’s peoples. The CRE exchanges, workshops, conferences, and documentaries are part of a national process that believes that ‘exchanges unite us’ as people living in a shared land.
Through CRE exchanges, knowledge and intercultural understanding are being generated between youth across Canada. Every exchange is coordinated and led by young people in partnership with adult cultural and community resources. The goal is to bridge long-standing knowledge divides with our multi-faceted experiential educational model, and bridge existing cultural divides through interpersonal, dialogical sharing sessions between participants. The Canadian Roots Exchange is a youth-led, youth-focused initiative that targets youth between the ages of 15-30.
Every year Canadian Roots gets closer to its goal of having youth leadership teams and running exchanges and programs in every province and territory across Canada. For the 2013-14 program year, CRE has youth reconciliation leadership teams in 9 different communities in 7 different provinces or territories including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
Here at Canadian Roots there are certain principles that we believe in and that help guide us as we plan our programs.
Listed below are the principles and goals of the Canadian Roots program – click on any of the titles to learn more about who we are and what we stand for.
Building Networks of Solidarity
This is the number 1 priority of the Canadian Roots Exchange.
In many parts of the country it is rare that Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth are given the opportunity to really engage with one another in a positive way. This hurts us as a country, and as individuals.
Only through learning about one another, and through sharing our teachings and experiences can we come together to form a country built on respect and understanding.
As we learn about one another’s triumphs, struggles, challenges and opportunities, we commit ourselves to standing up together for a more equal and prosperous Canada.
Practicing What We Preach
At the Canadian Roots Exchange we make every effort to run our programs and our organization in a way that is respectful of the communities and people with whom we work, and the teachings that we receive from those who we meet on our travels. Some of the ways that we do this are:
Having teams of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders
The Canadian Roots Exchange is based on the idea of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working in collaboration and partnership with one another, in a welcoming and open way. For this reason we always aim to have each of our exchange programs and facilitation team have shared leadership from Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.
Only going where we are invited
The Canadian Roots Exchange will never visit a community unless invited. We are very grateful for the hospitality, generosity and encouragement that we have received from so many community members, Chiefs, and other community leaders.
Respecting the way of life and teachings of our host communities
Leading up to our exchange programs, participants take part in orientation sessions with their group leaders and their guides. During these sessions we work to create safe spaces for dialogue, as well as receiving teachings on appropriate protocol and behavior to observe while being hosted by community members.
Considering our environmental impact
Out of respect for our environment, and the generations that come before and after ours, the Canadian Roots Exchange will purchase Carbon Offsets to balance the impact of our vans, plane and boat rides. All operations of the Canadian Roots Exchange, from food purchases to office supplies, are undertaken with environmental sustainability in mind.
Creating Safe Spaces for Dialogue
The goal of the Canadian Roots Exchange is to foster honest dialogue among participants. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that our workshops, exchange programs and discussions be conducted in safe spaces.
Discussions that occur during our programs are not always comfortable for all participants, as we do engage with difficult topics. While this discomfort is constructive, we must ensure that participants feel safe and respected by the group, even when grappling with discomforting issues. Different techniques will be employed to create safe talking spaces including Talking Circles, and Free Writes.
In the lead up to each exchange program, group leaders are given anti-oppression resources, and work along with our staff to ensure that they understand the meaning of “safe spaces” and anti-oppressive environments. When looking for participants, every effort is made to make this program accessible and available to people of all ethnic and religious groups as well as people of all genders, sexual orientations, physical and financial abilities.
Through creating an accessible and thoughtful application process, traveling with well educated group leaders and guides, and staying open to the input of participants, the Canadian Roots Exchange is dedicated to ensuring that participants feel safe – both emotionally and physically – throughout their program experience.
Discovering Positive Realities
Many minds within the Canadian population have been shielded from the more positive realities of Indigenous histories and present day communities, and have not had their eyes opened to the resilience, strength and successes of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
We are determined to demonstrate that the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people of Canada are more than the negative portrayals shown in the media and in our text books. As we travel throughout Canada’s provinces and territories we will grapple with the challenges facing Indigenous communities, while also being inspired by the incredible achievements, beauty and strength that we see in Indigenous communities throughout the country.
Including Indigenous Worldviews in Everyday Thought
The Canadians Roots Exchange is dedicated to promoting the relevance of Indigenous teachings, fighting the myth held by too many Canadians that Indigenous knowledge is inapplicable or irrelevant to modern life.
Our educational sessions provide youth with alternative narratives to the negative stereotypes that are often dominant in mainstream media. As well, a major part of our exchanges includes time spent with respected Indigenous teachers and elders. In this time participants have the privilege to begin or continue a journey of learning, and to view the world in a way that, for some, is different from views they’ve been shown before.
Through our collective learning, we commit to work to bring Indigenous teachings into the everyday thought process of Canadians.
Having Fun Together
One of the best ways to build relationships is through laughter. While there are many serious discussions and events that will happen on our programs, our activities are also filled with smiles and unexpected experiences. From fun icebreakers, games to being on an 750km long road trip to ice fishing our programs always offer a new adventure.