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Brief History of Feathers of Hope

In 1996, the Horizons of Hope report was released by Nishnawbe Aski Nation. This report was based on the work of First Nations young people. Thirty-eight recommendations were made by the youth Commissioners of the report to address the issues of youth suicide in First Nations communities. Three years later, the Coroner's Office released a report documenting 41 recommendations to address issues that led to the death of Selena Sakanee, a 15-year-old girl from Neskantaga First Nation. 

Based on these reports, the Intergovernmental Network on Nishnawbe Children & Youth was formed. It is a partnership of Provincial Ministries, Federal Departments, and First Nations leadership to address the issue of suicide across many remote and fly in First Nations communities. 

In January 2012, the Advocate’s Office, with the support of First Nations leadership and federal and provincial members of the Intergovernmental Network (IGN), began planning to bring First Nations young people from 92 remote and fly-in communities in northern Ontario together with policy-makers and decision-makers to discuss the realities and issues of concern of youth living in the north. A small working group of IGN members worked with the Provincial Advocate’s Office to create a space for dialogue with and between young people in Thunder Bay.  This space is now known as Feathers of Hope.

Feathers of Hope Forums

In 2013 more than 100 First Nations young people (representing 62 of the 92 northern First Nations communities in Ontario) came to Thunder Bay to talk about the realities of life in their communities. The objective was for young people to dialogue with and  mobilize all levels of government and First Nations leadership to create safer and healthier communties. Their voices and ideas for change were captured in a ground-breaking report entitled, Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan. Fifteen themes emerged from the dialogues held among young people at the forum:

  • Residential schools and their effects
  • Dispelling myths
  • Identity and culture
  • First Nations culture and teachings
  • Education and schools
  • Quality of education
  • The tragedy of youth suicide
  • Mental and physical health
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Sports and recreation
  • Youth opportunity and leadership
  • Role models and mentors
  • Sustainable funding
  • Child welfare
  • Accountability and transparency 

Since 2013 Feathers of Hope has hosted forums on Child Welfare and Culture, Identity, and Belonging. At the request of former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci, who authored the report, First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries, the Advocate’s Office hosted a forum on Justice and Juries. A request that was articulated in recommendation seven (7) of Justice Iacobucci’s report. In March 2016, a report capturing the voices of young people who attended this forum was released to First Nations leadership in Thunder Bay, followed by public launches on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in Toronto. The report contains recommendations for improving policing, reducing involvement with the legal system and increasing representation of First Nations peoples on juries.

The Future of Feathers of Hope

Feathers of Hope is now a youth-led initiative to facilitate a dialogue between youth, First Nations leadership and government. 

It provides a safe space where youth from First Nations communities in northern Ontario can speak out on matters of importance to them and engage with decision-makers to create meaningful change. 

Feathers of Hope has grown into a powerful youth movement drawing thousands of First Nations young people from across Ontario and Canada together.