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The Unpaid and Exploited Labour of Grassroots and Community-Based Indigenous Youth Groups

Press Release

Gabrielle Fayant, Carrington Christmas, Brittany Mathews, and Josh Lewis

Written by Gabrielle Fayant, Carrington Christmas, Brittany Mathews, and Josh Lewis

Facilitated by Madeleine Kelly, Cedar Iahtail, Reeta Koostachin, and Anthony Jr. Ittusardjuat

Peer Reviewed by Devon Saulis, Alyssa Carpenter, Daryl Kootenay, Chenise Lynn Hache, Denise Miller, Jayden Rabbit, Anna Meawasige, Kaila Jefferd‑Moore, Gabrielle Daniels, Delano Kennedy, Celine Debassige, and Andraya Daniels


We honour the Survivors of Indian Residential Schools, Day Schools, Industrial Schools, convents, sanatoriums, and child welfare by responding to and advocating for the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 66.

We want to acknowledge all the community‑based groups and collectives who continue to be a beacon of hope for the Indigenous youth they serve. These are the stories of only a few of the many young people seeking change and justice. We know many more deserve to be acknowledged, and we hope this report aids to amplify their work as well.

This report was funded by Justice Canada – UN Declaration Act Implementation Secretariat to amplify the voices of Indigenous youth in the implementation of the UN Declaration Act, including the development of an Action Plan. We believe that TRC 66, if implemented in a good way, responds to Articles 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 39 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We would also like to thank Save the Children and their colleagues for believing in the vision that grassroots Indigenous youth have for TRC 66 and supporting their work and efforts.


We ask readers of this report to be mindful of your intentions. This report came with hesitations from many of the grassroots youth groups we spoke with. Many have been used and exploited, their work stolen without compensation or acknowledgment. We ask that readers read this in full as a tool to advocate alongside the Indigenous youth groups mentioned in this report. This report is by and for Indigenous youth groups and only to be used by Indigenous youth groups unless permission is otherwise given.

Letter from Gabrielle Fayant I’ve been working on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 66 since 2017, but I’ve been working in community, specifically with Indigenous youth, since 2010.

TRC Call to Action 66: We call upon the federal government to establish multi-year funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation and establish a national network to share information and best practices.

TRC 66 was created by Survivors in response to them witnessing Indigenous youth in their communities crave cultural and social supports as they break the cycles of intergenerational traumas caused by The Indian Residential and Day School Systems. Showcasing that Survivors see the value of youth taking up space on their lands to create a community for themselves, while navigating the trials that come with being an Indigenous person. The implementation of Call to Action 66 is a way to honour the Survivors missed
youth and their efforts today, as well as ensuring that future generations will have a chance to live out their childhood rather than just surviving colonial violence, because every child matters.

The importance of the work done by these community‑based Indigenous youth groups are not only dire, but critical to the survival of the youth they serve. Most often times these youth groups are the lifelines for Indigenous youth under‑served and targeted by various forms of systemic racism and institutionalization via child welfare and incarceration. Indigenous youth face extreme realities, and many in these communities rely on their peers to overcome the many challenges which if continued to be ignore the more lives will be taken far too soon

The youth of today are the descendants of Survivors. They live with the highest rates of institutionalization, including child welfare, which has surpassed the peak rate of youth in residential schools, and mass incarcerations, which we’ve seen increase and where we’ve seen the rates of non‑Indigenous incarceration fall. Today’s youth live in a constant state of grief, from the high rates of death by suicide to the endemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two‑Spirit people. The hardest part to face is that many of these deaths are preventable, and the solutions have been written in hundreds of reports throughout generations.

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