Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE) is a youth-led not-for-profit organization that aims to remove the barriers that stop Indigenous youth from being able to access resources. We spoke with Shanese Indoowaaboo Steele, Director of Community Relations and Solidarity, to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
As a national Indigenous youth-led organization, we collaborate with communities to provide programs, grants and opportunities that are grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and being and designed to strengthen and amplify the voices of Indigenous youth.
We envision a future where Indigenous youth are empowered and connected as dynamic leaders in vibrant and thriving communities.
What problem does it aim to solve?
CRE aims to remove the barriers in place that stop Indigenous youth from being able to access resources and to be able to advocate for themselves. Barriers such as limited funding options, lack of internet access, lack of access to mentors, low employment opportunities and access to culture and language.
When did you start/join it?
What made you want to get involved?
CRE’s commitment to creating safe, supportive and uplifting spaces for Indigenous youth is what first made me want to get involved. I first was introduced to the organization by way of the former YRI (Youth Reconciliation Initiative) by being invited to be a panelist. An Afro-Indigenous youth had created a panel and event, with help from CRE, to talk about Black and Indigenous solidarity. I hadn’t known of any other organizations that were creating opportunities for this dialogue, let alone supporting a youth to create such a space themselves. I knew from then I wanted to be a part of a non-profit that was doing more to elevate the voices of those we aren’t often heard.
What was the situation like when you started?
When I first started at CRE, the conversation was centered around reconciliation, primarily between Indigenous and non-Indigenous white settlers. The organization had programs that provided space for these dialogues through training, workshops, gatherings and programming.
How has it changed since?
While CRE still does provide those spaces, the organization has pivoted to focus more intently on providing funding and opportunities for Indigenous youth to advocate and create on behalf of themselves and their communities. A prime example of this is CREation, a funding and grant program that Indigenous youth organizations can apply to help financially support their programming initiatives. Another example of changes is the growth of our Policy school and Policy hackathon which has provided Indigenous youth with an understanding of Indigenous policy within Canada.
What more needs to be done?
When it comes to Indigenous youth, there is always more that needs to be done. More opportunities, more resources, more funding, more engagement and more uplifting of their voices. Canadian Roots Exchange is committed to providing all of these things for Indigenous youth across the country. We will continue to work with them in finding ways to have their voices heard by the community, the government and the country.
How can our readers help?
Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Make them your own. See them through by learning them and putting them into action. Get involved!
Do you have any events coming up?
For a full list of all our events click here!
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?