OTTAWA – Youth Indigenize the Senate 2019 recently took take place in Ottawa from June 4 to 6. Addressing the Senate was Christine Luza, the daughter of Pauline Luza (nee Migwans) from M’Chigeeng First Nation.
Senators appreciate how powerful young people’s voices are. For the fourth year in a row, they asked Canadians from across the country to nominate Indigenous youth leaders from their communities so they can share their experiences and ideas with the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples during an official public hearing.
Youth like Ms. Luza, along with seven other participants, were provided with a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of Parliament and given an opportunity to meet other Indigenous youth from across the country. Together they shared their hopes and aspirations as a group and worked on formal presentations to the Senate.
Each youth participant was given a chance to share their experiences and thoughts with the Senate committee during an official hearing. From identifying challenges to sharing success stories, the committee heard what millennials think is at the heart of a new relationship and how the Senate can help.
In her short five minutes to address the Senators, Ms. Luza acknowledged her elders and teachers and spoke strongly about the importance of land-\-based cultural restoration and the significance of the medicine and traditional healers. “I ask you to meet me in the spirit of truth. We are all treaty people involved in a treaty relationship, however aspects of the law historically have been negative and now in this process of renewal, it doesn’t have to be difficult!” she exclaimed. “We are not a threat to unity. Indigenous knowledge is part of the solution.”
Ms. Luza held onto her eagle feather as she explained its significance of being part of the Migwans clan and its ties to the feather. “This feather connects me to creation and embeds me into the natural law. I have to hold it because this is my path. It is an animate object of consent, it has personhood and gives me the permission to speak and not rely on your permission.” She explained how it was given to her by a special teacher. “I was taught how to use it. These teachings are essential,” she added.
As a speaker, researcher and consultant, Ms. Luza advises educators and institutions on how to improve relations with Indigenous peoples. Ms. Luza sits on the steering committee of Naadmaagit Ki Group, an organization that aims to improve the health of urban Indigenous families. With roots in the M’Chigeeng, she lives and works in Toronto, drawing inspiration from the leaders in her community in all her work.
The Senators recognize each testimony will help senators as they complete an important study on forging a new relationship between Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
“Youth bring unique insight into what is happening in their communities and offer a fresh perspective on what needs be done to make life better in their community” said Senator Lillian Dick.
Ms. Luza encourages other Indigenous youth to “get involved in the programs and opportunities like this one. It is a powerful experience, one that gives me great pride and having someone from the Island witness me addressing the Senate.”
“It’s almost surreal. I felt like I was being given access to a platform to tell people in the government directly about the needs of Indigenous women and the kinds of space and environment we need for healing,” said Ms. Luza.
“Indigenous knowledge and the activism of Indigenous youth is transforming the whole fabric of society. We need to continue speaking. I would recommend this for any youth. Get your education and stay in involved,” she concluded.