A Year In Review with the Arran-Elderslie Youth Council
By Fianna McKnight
June is coming to a close, and with it the first official term of the Arran-Elderslie Youth Council. In just ten short months, this organization came a long way, from an idea in the minds of Trinity Theatre and the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie to a well-established asset to the community with a number of projects under its belt.
Looking back, we began with the Official Walking Tour of Paisley in late August. Our first official meeting was held on September 4, 2020, and planning began for the busy year ahead. Soon afterward, we were preparing for the Youth Forum, which occured on October 17, 2020 and brought an audience of many, including numerous stakeholders and community figures-- even Mayor Steve Hammell and MP Alex Ruff! Since then, we’ve developed a relationship with the Bruce County Library, started the column you’re reading right now, held Youth Hangouts and the Arran-Elderslie Festival of Lights, teamed up with the Paisley Artscape Society to execute the Milne-Crawford Reboot, developed our website AEYouthHub, and so many more little projects!
Of course, none of this would have ever been possible without the generous sponsors we’ve had throughout these months. A huge thank you goes out to the Community Foundation of Grey Bruce, Bruce Power, Canada Service Corps, and all of the wonderful local organizations who have donated prizes-- namely Mill’s Home Hardware, Chesley Home Hardware, and the Chesley Kinsmen. Finally, we want to thank all of you who read our articles, signed up to our newsletter, attended our events and partook in our activities-- you are the backbone of the Youth Council, and you have been instrumental in making this year what it was.
Now, as much as this sounds like a farewell, we actually have a very busy summer lined up, courtesy of our committed volunteers and employees-- stay tuned on our socials for all of the upcoming events through us and our community partners!
On a more somber note, the Arran-Elderslie Youth Council would like to acknowledge that we--and all of you-- live on stolen land: Land that truly belongs to the Indigenous peoples who have been caring for it long before us. If you were not aware, June is National Indigenous History Month, and now more than ever we must acknowledge the wrongdoings of our ancestors who stole this land from, abused, and murdered Indigenous communities in an attempted genocide. The mass graves found under several residential schools across the country are a painful reminder of the crimes this country has committed and tried to hide. We encourage you to hold yourself and our government accountable, and to educate yourself on Indigenous issues. Below is a list of book recommendations recounting Canada’s lesser-known history from a number of perspectives:
“Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese is a work of historical fiction telling the story of Ojibway man Saul Indian Horse as he battles the trauma of being sent to a residential school, then struggling against aggressive racism in 1960s Canada. The moving story is a beautiful look into the lives of Indigenous people in that decade.
“Stolen Words” by Melanie Florence is a picture book detailing the generational trauma Indigenous people endure from the violence and oppression they have faced. A little girl asks her grandfather to say something in Cree, his native language, and he admits he had his language stolen from him. She sets out to help him reclaim his language and culture in this moving story.
“Sugar Falls” by David A. Robertson tells the story of Betsy, a residential school survivor who endured abuse and dehumanization at the hands of those who took her. This book is based on the true story of Betty Ross, Elder from Cross Lake First Nation.
To anyone who may look into these books, we implore you to research trigger warnings beforehand and practice self care.
June is also Pride month, a time for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate their sexualities and diversity-- but also a time to acknowledge those before us who fought for the rights we have today. Before Pride was a colourful, celebratory parade, it was a riot. Progressive as you may think society has become, it is still a risk for the queer community to come out and express who they are. The day I am writing this, the brand-new pride crosswalk in Owen Sound was defaced in an act of cowardice and hate. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I can assure you that more than paint on concrete, that was a punch to the gut for all of us. A deliberate reminder that no matter what, there are people who will hate us for who we are and who we love. Below is a short list of books on LGBTQ+ history, including on the riots and the movement that brought us the rights we have today.
“How to Survive a Plague” by David France is a definitive history of the activism and scientific work to tame the AIDS epidemic. If you did not know, HIV and AIDS primarily affected the queer community, and the epidemic was left unacknowledged for years because of homophobic governmental neglect in Canada and the United States.
“Stonewall. A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution.” by Rob Sanders was published in memory of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a keystone in queer history. This picture book is the first of its kind to tell the story of the riots and their role in the gay civil rights movement.
“The Queeriodic Table” by Harriet Dyer is a lighthearted, periodic-table-parody that details numerous gender identities and sexualities in layman’s terms for anyone from questioning people to curious allies. It also covers essential moments in LGBTQ+ history, classic queer media, and the stories of queer pioneers, heroes and game-changers alike.
That concludes everything we have to say this month. It has been an amazing term for the Arran-Elderslie Youth Council, and we look forward to this summer and the official reformation of the council this fall. In the meantime, listen to Indigenous voices, listen to queer voices, and educate yourself on the goings-on of the world. As always, stay safe, stay tuned, and we’ll see you next month!