‘Everyone deserves to be heard:’ National retreat aims to amp up youth voices

(From left to right) Aaliyah Flett, Alvina Merasty and Ananda Nelson work with other youth at CBYF Prince Albert to address common barriers. -- Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

More than 100 people from across Canada gathered in Prince Albert on Wednesday to discuss solutions to common barriers for youth.

The Community Building Youth Futures (CBYF) Members Retreat, held at Plaza 88, aims to give youth the confidence to speak about issues they’re facing.

Angelina Pelletier works for Tamarack Institute, which receives funding from the federal government and distributes it to 19 CBYF locations.

“For Prince Albert, there are many common challenges that other communities are experiencing. One of them that we often talk about is reconciliation, and how to create safer spaces for our Indigenous youth to navigate the world of the health care system, the justice system, the education system,” she said.

Reconciliation is part of Aaliyah Fett’s focus at CBYF in Prince Albert, speaking to businesses about the importance of anti-racism policies and land acknowledgements.

“Having one-on-one conversations is really beneficial,” said Flett, who’s studying education.

“That will bring some big ideas into what I do in my future classroom and how I approach conversation and language.”

Ananda Nelson said she often hears from other youth in the city about the need for more safe spaces outside of the classroom, such as after school programs and weekend activities.

“Everyone deserves to be heard,” she said.

Pelletier explained that solutions for common barriers are often adapted to suit another region.

The CBYF project in Alberni Clayoquot, British Columbia, for example, developed harm reduction kits including cleaning materials for bongs, used to smoke marijuana.

“It sounds kind of out of the norm – why would we be giving kids bong cleaning supplies if typically we’re saying ‘Say no to drugs?’” she asked.

But young people now have legal access to marijuana, explained Pelletier, so ensuring they’re using the drug safely is top-of-mind.

“Even though they are taking this other path that we may not want for them, we can still walk beside them and be there as a support.”

CBYF Prince Albert mainly focuses on education and employment barriers, but also responds to any issues youth bring forward.