Reconciliation in Action

City of Winnipeg to partner with UWinnipeg to build bridges between inner city and suburban youth

*NOTE: DR. JIM SILVER (204-988-7195), DR. SHAUNA MacKINNON (204-988-7197); AND COUNCILLOR BRIAN MAYES (204-986-5088) ARE AVAILABLE FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWS.

WINNIPEG, MB – Imagine 20 youth working and studying together in Winnipeg’s North End. Half of the youth come from the suburbs, and the other half grew up in the inner city. They are a mixed group: First Nations, Metis, non-Indigenous students and newcomers to Canada. This innovative  program specifically aims to bring to life the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendation to break down barriers that can contribute to misconceptions and racism while actively engage youth in education and dialogue.

The University of Winnipeg today announced development of a pilot project  YouthUnited@Winnipeg, which will begin next summer (2017) as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary. The new program is identified in the City of Winnipeg  Budget 2016 as a two year pilot program to begin in 2017.  As with other city grants, funding is conditional upon formal budget approval each year by Winnipeg City Council.

“I am a strong champion for a youth services program for Winnipeg.  This program fulfills Mayor Brian Bowman’s pledge to increase the City’s engagement with universities, and creates a made-in-Winnipeg model for youth public service,” said City Councillor Brian Mayes, who is a member of the Executive Policy Committee.  “I want to thank the Mayor and the University of  Winnipeg  for making this a reality”.

YouthUnited@Winnipeg also aligns with UWinnipeg’s key priority to create educational opportunities for youth in keeping with the TRC Report and to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into academic offerings.

YouthUnited@Winnipeg will be a 15 week, intensive work-study course that will run from May to August. Students will spend four days per week working and earning wages in a North End or inner city organization which will bring them into direct contact with community residents. They will spend the fifth day in a “roving classroom” that will allow them to participate in ceremonies, sweat lodges, learn from Indigenous and faith-based leaders, and be exposed to community-based programs that are having a positive impact. Designed by UWinnipeg’s Urban and Inner-City Studies department, located on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg’s North End, students who take the program will earn six university credits.

“Promoting reconciliation in a tangible and informed way with suburban and inner-city youth will build a stronger and healthier Winnipeg,” said Dr. Jim Silver, Chair, Urban and Inner City Studies.” The benefits will ripple across the entire community. UWinnipeg’s Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies is excited to be designing and coordinating this project, and in doing so building upon our inner-city educational experience”

The curriculum for YouthUnited@Winnipeg is currently in development with Dr. Shauna MacKinnon, Assistant Professor as lead and will be guided by a Community Advisory Committee.

BACKGROUND

Academic Course Component

The 3000-level, six credit hour course will be designed in the spirit of reconciliation consistent with the principles outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Final Report (TRC 2015). As described by the TRC: “All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.”  The Report also calls upon Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to be part of the process of healing and moving forward, noting that reconciliation requires “sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement.”  The TRC describes the importance of reconciliation at the community level, “where contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples is often minimal or marred by distrust and racism” (TRC 2015: 210).  Actively engaging in a process of reconciliation is particularly important in Winnipeg where racism continues to be a serious problem.

Aligned with the themes of reconciliation, and breaking barriers and building bridges, students will learn about our challenges and various ways that we can respond. They will be introduced to relevant theories and practices including theories explaining intergenerational, geographically concentrated poverty, and urban and neighbourhood development theories. They will learn about strategies centered on citizen mobilization, engagement and empowerment, and multi-sectoral collaboration. Most important, students will learn to connect these theories with their work in the inner city, using strategies and tools that can improve communities from within as well as building bridges across the divides.

Merchants Corner, which will open in September, 2017, will be the home base for UWinnipeg’s Urban and Inner-City Studies department and the new YouthUnited@Winnipeg program. We will also use a “roving-classroom” model to ensure students are exposed to a variety of community settings and cultural experiences.

The course will conclude with an all-day student conference to be held in mid-September at Merchants Corner. It will be open to community members and inner-city high school students, so that they and others who are interested can learn about the program, and about the practice of reconciliation in Winnipeg’s inner-city and North End communities.

 

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