It’s not everyday you get a call from the Prime Minister’s Office, but for Kelvin Redvers it was more than just exciting news.
Kelvin and his sister Tunchai from Hay River launched the national campaign We Matter back in October, a large project with a simple message: people upload short videos, sharing their stories and sending a message of hope to Indigenous youth.
When Kelvin answered that call in January, he was told both the prime minister and his wife wanted to contribute.
“To us really we want to bring as much attention as possible to the campaign … it’s going to be a great bit of awareness that it brings to the campaign,” he said.
We Matter had reached out through email to many places, including Trudeau’s office.
Tunchai says actually getting a response was ‘incredible’.
“Just the fact that we launched back in October and already it’s reached the prime minister, that in itself is pretty incredible,” she said.
“To have the prime minister do a video that is directly talking to Indigenous youth in Canada in itself is pretty amazing.”
The siblings hope Trudeau’s contribution helps to highlight the importance of the We Matter campaign, and leads people to the nearly 100 other videos that have been submitted as part of the project.
‘Do not give up’
In his video, Trudeau spoke directly to Indigenous youth, acknowledging their struggles compared to their non-Indigenous peers.
“I’m going to be blunt, Indigenous youth face challenges that many Canadians never have to deal with on top of all the regular difficulties of your teenage years,” Trudeau said.
“I recognize that, and I want to assure you that I take the struggles you face seriously.
“All that I ask is that you do not give up. That you raise your voices, share your stories and give your all through the pain. The moments of darkness are when things seem impossible. Together, I know we can get through this.”
The full video:
For Tunchai, Trudeau’s message brings on mixed emotions.
“It was a really cool feeling, and also a bit mixed if I’m being totally honest,” she told Moose FM.
“He acknowledges quite a bit the Indigenous population and Indigenous struggles in Canada, but … I haven’t been seeing enough being done in terms of addressing things like the suicide crisis on First Nations.”
Suicide among Indigenous youth occurs five to six times more often compared to non-Indigenous youth according to We Matter.
The siblings hope that the prime minister’s video leads to the government putting more money and resources into addressing the issues faced by Indigenous youth across Canada.
Taking it on the road
We Matter has also been taking their campaign from the internet directly to Indigenous youth.
The Redvers have been holding workshops in First Nations communities throughout the NWT. Last week they held presentations in Fort Resolution and on the K’atl’odeeche First Nation Reserve, something Kelvin says has been rewarding.
“You get to work directly with the young people and to show them the videos and to get their immediate responses,” he said.
“If you’re younger it can be a little more daunting to just create a video on your own, and so being in a community gives us a chance to work with them to find messages that they’ll feel confident about that can spread hope.”
At the end of February, We Matter will head to First Nations communities in northern Alberta, and in March will hold a pilot workshop in northern Saskatchewan, which saw a crisis of suicides in the fall.
They’ll even provide USB sticks with a playlist of their videos to give to young people in communities that do not have strong internet, so they can watch them whenever they need them.
“This is just the beginning,” Kelvin said. “We’re still four months in.”