Timmins Daily Press - March 3, 2008
Youth in Timmins are offering a helping hand to youth in Attawapiskat.
Students from at least two Timmins high schools say they want to organize a grassroots letter-writing campaign in hopes of shaming the federal government into keeping its promise to build an elementary school in Attawapiskat.
The community has been without an elementary school building for eight years.
Lynne Lessard, an 18-year-old student from 'Ecole catholique secondaire Thariault, said she has already spoken to other students about this issue.
"The reaction when they first learn about it is they're really surprised especially when you show them pictures," she said. "They're like 'whoa, this is in my own riding let alone their own country?' It's really close to us and they can't believe the government is tolerating this."
Lessard and Philip Fry, a 17-year-old student from Timmins High & Vocational School, were among those attending a youth action workshop held in Timmins on the weekend.
The workshop, held Saturday, was put on by Taking It Global, which is an international organization increasing awareness and involvement among youth on global issues. It was also attended by MP Charlie Angus (NDP - Timmins-James Bay) and MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP - Timmins-James Bay) who provided the students with information and their support for any initiative to assist the community of Attawapiskat.
Fry said, "As students we all work together to do things for schools overseas or we try to recognize things globally but here we have an issue that's right in our own backyard. I think the main thing that we got out from the workshop today is that we all need to work together in engaging young people to work together and making this a well-known issue."
Lessard said it's important that young people feel empowered enough to make a difference.
"People feel like they're so distant from the problems that they can't do anything and I think it's important for youth especially to step up to the plate because it's especially us that they're going to listen to," she said. "They're going to be completely shocked if a bunch of students come up and say they're not going to tolerate this in our own country. We want to see change and the youth need to realize that they can make a difference and influence the government."
Both students said they will try to raise the issue at their respective schools with hopes of getting more youth involved.
Fry said, "I'm looking to go individually to teachers or department heads and see with their homeroom classrooms if they can get at least 10 minutes to get every student to just write a small letter. It's such a simple act but it's important because all they have to do is send it to the government and it doesn't cost anything. The government pays for the postage and they have to respond, no matter what."
Lessard has a similar plan of action.
"I think I'm going to work through student council and try to get all the homeroom teachers to just take 15 minutes one morning to get all the students to each write a letter.
"And actually the MP (Charlie Angus) was saying everybody can not only write letters to the government but also write a letter to a student in Attawapiskat and they'll send them out there and that's just kind of letting them know we're trying to do something for them and hopefully that will give them that little hope there are people up here who are trying to help them."
Staci Kentish, the Timmins youth engagement co-ordinator for Taking It Global, said they were putting on a "guide to action workshop" with the aim that youth participants would have "actual plans" to raise awareness and lobby the government.