MNO youth shares firsthand experience with child welfare system

Submitted by MNO Youth Council Chair Paul Robitaille

Gerald Lavallee, a participant in the 2014 and 2017 MNO
Canoe Expeditions, is passionate about supporting young
people involved in the child welfare system. He shared his
story of being a Crown ward during the Emergency
Meeting on Indigenous Children and Family Services held
in Ottawa on Jan. 25 and 26. Click here to view a larger
version of this picture.

A trio of Métis youth joined other Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) delegates at the Emergency Meeting on Indigenous Children and Family Services held in Ottawa, Jan. 25 and 26.

MNO youth leaders included Mitch Case and Paul Robitaille, who were joined by 2014 and 2017 MNO Canoe Expedition participant Gerald Lavallee.

“All that kids need is love and attention,” said Lavallee, who shared his own story of perseverance and reconnecting to community and culture during the meeting.

Lavallee, who lives in North Bay, was a Crown ward from age eight to 14 and is passionate about supporting other young people involved in the child welfare system. “We can’t change the entire world by ourselves, but each of us can do a little bit of it.”

The three youth leaders were invited to participate in a special conversation circle focused on developing meaningful programs and support networks for young people who are in, or are transitioning out of, the child welfare system. Some of the key messages included:

  •  The importance of having consistent opportunities to build meaningful, loving relationships with healthy, supportive elders, knowledge holders and role models within their communities.
  •  The need for funding and policies to be inclusive of Indigenous cultural and community supports existing outside the formal child and family welfare system, including those developed by Indigenous grassroots community groups. 
  • The importance of supporting programs aimed at re-integration for Indigenous youth aging out of care and returning to their communities, with specific emphasis on housing security and life skill development, such as financial literacy and healthy eating.

During the discussion, Métis, Inuit and First Nations youth from across Canada also shared firsthand experiences with the child welfare system and their visions for a more supportive, empowering future for Indigenous children and youth in care.

 Published Feb. 27, 2018

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