Montreal hosted the 25th annual assembly of Canada’s 100-plus native friendship centres in July. The Nation’s own Will Nicholls, who is president of the Montreal friendship centre, was the hosting president.

First Nations youth from across the country also came to Montreal at the same time to attend the 5th annual Aboriginal Youth Forum. Brent Potski, a youth delegate from Edmonton, tells us about how the youth are getting organized. -Ed

When the United Nations proclaimed 1985 as the International Year of the Youth, it’s theme was Participation, Development and Peace. Thus came the establishment of the National Youth Network of Friendship Centres, which gave us a voice for the first time at all National Association of Friendship Centre board of directors’ meetings.

In 1994, the Aboriginal Youth Council was established and 1997 saw the Aboriginal Youth Council grow to its largest number with a four-member Executive Board. This included provincial representatives from B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, a northern representative for the Northwest Territories and Yukon Territories, along with the eastern representative for Quebec, Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia.

This summer in Montreal, the National Association of Friendship Centres and the Aboriginal Youth Council hosted their 5th Annual Youth Forum, which educated youth from across the nation about the Friendship Centre Youth Movement.

“This is a historical year! We are nationally strong, the youth are always mentioned and the model of the AYC is always encouraged,” said youth council president Stacy Hill, who is from Six Nations, Ontario.

Hill said there needs to be more work done at the local friendship centres on youth projects and issues. But she is hopeful that national initiatives will filter down.

She cited the recent federal Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centre initiative that provides local Friendship Centres the ability to develop their youth movement.

“The youth forum was informative,” said Larry Linklater, 23, of Kenora, Ont., who also attended the forum.

“I saw a lot of interest in the issues discussed and I think the presentations could have been more articulately developed. There was an honest effort to generate the youth discussions in the working groups and that’s where I saw the youth come up with amazing ideas.”

Jamie Koeble, vice president of the Aboriginal Youth Council who hails from Lac La Biche, Alberta, is excited about the group’s future.

“I see big and exciting projects ahead for the Aboriginal Youth Council and for youth across Canada. Although we started out with baby steps, our leaps are sure to come with the support of the National Association of Friendship Centres. I believe the youth in Canada will benefit with exciting results.”

Another great experience for the youth was their right to vote for the three executive positions of secretary, treasurer and vice president of the Aboriginal Youth Council.

And the winners are (drum roll)… Tia Koster of British Columbia wins the position as secretary and the new youth council treasurer is Mark Flemming of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Holding her second reign as vice president is Jaime Koeble of Lac La Biche, Alberta.

That’s it for now. Congratulations to the new executive committee members as well as the organizers of the youth forum, the hostess with the mostest (you know who you are) and to the city of Montreal.

Will Nicholls, hosting president for the annual assembly of Canada’s native friendship centres, signing Montreal’s Golden Book at city hall to kick off the gathering.
Behind him (from left to right): Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque, Ida LaBillois of the Montreal friendship centre, Stacy Hill of the Aboriginal Youth Council and Wayne Helgason from the National Association of Friendship Centres.