Sheg First Nation hosts North Meets South youth exchange

Students in the two-week exchange program take a break from their busy schedule to pose for a group photo.

SHEGUIANDAH FIRST NATION—The two-week multi-city North Meets South Exchange kicked off with youth (ages 14-24) setting off from Union Station in downtown Toronto for Manitoulin Island. The 2018 Exchange, a joint effort between The Jr. Economic Club (Jr. EC) and Canadian Roots Exchange, was conceived in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation. The group, made up of 10 Indigenous and 10 non-Indigenous students, were on Manitoulin Island for the first week of experiential learning, travelling back to Toronto for the second. Throughout the Exchange, the youth worked together to develop a public policy framework that aims to advance Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

“Each and every one of us has a part to play in Truth and Reconciliation,” said Rhiannon Traill, president and CEO, The Economic Club of Canada and founder of The Jr. EC. “It’s so important to bring our young people together to help them see that they have what it takes to make positive change.”

On Manitoulin Island the group was welcomed and hosted by the Sheguiandah First Nation. Activities on Manitoulin Island included a tour of the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, nature hikes, a medicine walk, learning about powwow protocols and treaties, and special lessons about the Creation Story and connection to the land led by Chief Andrew Aguonie.

“Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people are setting tone for the future of this country,” said Max FineDay, executive director, Canadian Roots Exchange. “These youth are our next teachers, politicians, leaders in corporate Canada, we want them to keep what they learn over the course of these two weeks with them forever.”

Toronto activities included a special visit to Queen’s Park, a Blue Jays game, mental health and wellness sessions, yoga and meditation on Toronto Island, public speaking and interview prep sessions, and a special ask me anything (AMA) with policy makers. The Exchange culminated on July 13 in downtown Toronto, when students presented their public policy framework to a panel of leaders at a lunch event.

Students in the exchange program enjoy a tour of Bridal Veil Falls.

“We are proud to support the North Meets South Exchange,” said Andrea Barrack, vice president, Global Corporate Citizenship, TD Bank Group. “This hands-on experience has been designed to unite Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people and broaden their horizons in the spirit of advancing the Truth and Reconciliation efforts in Canada. Through its corporate citizenship platform called The Ready Commitment, TD is committed to helping open doors to a more inclusive tomorrow by investing in leadership opportunities like this one for diverse groups to come together.”

The North Meets South Exchange, now in its second year, was created by the Jr. EC in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation. The Exchange brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth together for two weeks of experiential learning. The goals of the program are to ensure that students leave having made new connections with their fellow youth based on mutual understanding and respect; and that they become Truth and Reconciliation advocates and agents of change, bringing learnings along with them throughout their lives.