It’s incredible what can happen when a committed group of people come together to discuss change and listen meaningfully to one another.
On Friday, November 22, members from Siksika Health Services and #NotInMyCity facilitated a gathering with Indigenous representatives to share and learn from each other and address the challenge of Human Trafficking.
The Power of People
It was a very powerful day, as people came together from many parts of the province to extend their friendship, reflections and commitment. Collectively, they carry the shared vision of working together to ensure all children and youth are safe, protected and have the tools to be healthy and achieve their dreams. We now have an incredible opportunity to walk this journey together in friendship and respect, and truly make a difference.
The day-long event was held at the Westin Airport Hotel in Calgary, and attendance included representatives from Siksika Health Services, the First Nations Health Consortium, Morning Sky Health and Wellness Society, Frog Lake First Nation, Yellow Head Tribal Council, Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, Kainai Wellness Center, Blackfoot Confederacy and others.
The Welcome address was made by Chief Stanley Grier from Piikani Nation, who shared key information about the stark reality of the issue of sexual exploitation and trafficking in our province and in Aboriginal communities. Attendees had the opportunity to introduce themselves, connect and share feedback. They also heard from #NotInMyCity’s founder Paul Brandt, who shared his story about starting the movement, reinforcing the urgency of this issue.
A Special Honour for Paul
During the event, Paul Brandt was also honoured with a special naming ceremony, where he was provided blessings from Elder Leonard Bastien and given a Blackfoot name: Buffalo Bull Shield.
The special dedication was a recognition of Paul’s work to date, and a commitment to support him on his path moving forward. It is a deep honour that acknowledges his tenacity, compassion and courage to protect our children and youth.
Deanna Wolf Ear also made and beaded a beautiful vest that was presented to Paul.
Moving Forward Together
Says Bonnie Johnston, Executive Director of Programs and Services for #NotInMyCity, “This day was meaningful in so many ways. We feel so blessed and honoured to have the opportunity to work with Tyler White and his team. I’m grateful to learn from such an incredible man who works tirelessly to put children first and ensure they have every opportunity to succeed. Tyler brings incredible vision and passion to #NotInMyCity.”
The afternoon session provided an opportunity for participants to share, learn and understand how we can collectively take action on the sexual exploitation and trafficking of Aboriginal children and youth in Alberta.
It was an opportunity to start the conversation to understand what this issue looks like in Aboriginal communities, the current initiatives in place to address the issue, and what participants think should happen in their communities to prevent and protect their children and youth.
Thank You for Your Support
#NotInMyCity would like to extend its sincere appreciation to everyone for their sincerity, honesty and openness in sharing their experiences, expertise and commitment to work together to ensure children and youth are safe.
Next steps include developing a work plan to identify priorities, and a working group will be formed to advise and move the action plan forward. The working group’s first meeting is planned to take place in January.
Many thanks to the Blackfoot Confederacy and Siksika First Nation for their sponsorship and support of the Indigenous Gathering, as well as Tyler White and Siksika Health Services for sponsoring and co-hosting the event. Also thanks to Will Fong, who represented longtime Ally MNP at this event.
#NotInMyCity is truly grateful and honoured to be part of this special and meaningful day. It has made a significant difference in propelling our movement forward.