*This blog is written in honour of the late Gary Ockenden, an Amnesty International Canada Board member who tragically and suddenly passed away on November 18, 2019. Gary was a lifelong champion of human rights and was always the first person in any room to find ways to engage, empower, and defend youth advocates. The NYAAC hopes to channel Gary’s fighting spirit and caring disposition in all our future endeavours.*
Young people around the world are leading the charge against oppression, poverty, climate change, colonialism, sexism, racism, inequality, and repression. But they are also disproportionately vulnerable to persecution and violence. This year, all 10 cases for Write for Rights champions cases of young people across the world – including Canada – who fight for justice and have had their human rights attacked.
It has been over 50 years since a mill in Dryden, Ontario, dumped more than 10 metric tons of mercury into the Wabigoon-English river system, which was a primary source of food, water, livelihood and cultural identity for the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation (also known as Grassy Narrows First Nation). It has been over 50 years of federal and provincial governments ignoring their cries for justice and fundamental human rights. It has been over 50 years of resilience from the Grassy Narrows community that has produced generation after generation of activists who continue to fight for a better future for themselves and their descendants to come.
No longer can the young people of Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation be ignored. It is up to every single one of us – right now – to create positive change by acting on our conscience with hope for a better future for everyone.
Hear from Amnesty International Canada’s National Youth Action and Advisory Committee (NYAAC) members on why now, more than ever, it is essential to stand in solidarity with youth activists around the world and practice active allyship.
Youth have a place in the resistance. We always have, this has been highlighted through the cases chosen this year for Write for Rights. Youth living in the geopolitical state of Canada have been organizing for change this past year around climate strikes, mercury poisoning in Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation in response to provincial cuts made to education and healthcare in Ontario, and during the campaigning season of the recent federal election.
Seeing youth highlighted this year for Write for Rights demonstrated to the NYAAC that borders cannot separate us, and oppressive forces seeking to keep us quiet and complicit, will not stop us. The current rhetoric that surrounds the Global North is an ‘us vs. them’ ideology as a result of on-going colonialism, capitalism, and globalization. The NYAAC, as young people, call on other youth to actively problematize and organize against these discourses.
We are the future of the world, and we need to take action now to rectify human rights abuses against other youth internationally, in order to move forward together. We wish to live in a world where youth are given a fair trial, able to defend our communities and the Earth against abuses, freely and openly practice our faiths, advocate for the rights of others, help who we want to help, and wear what we want to wear.
Youth have strong voices, ideas, and thoughts, and they deserve to be heard. This Write for Rights season, we fight for all!
The Amnesty International Canada NYAAC, 2018-2020
(Roshni, Cass, Almeera, Anjali, Aidan, Fatima, Maha)
Sign up to Write for Rights on December 10th. Join an event in your community, host an event, or write on your own.