June 21, 2019


Riley-WintersHi, my name is Riley Winters and I am a Canada World Youth Alumna! I am a former intern of the 2018 CWY Pathways to Indigenous Youth Leadership Program that took place in Sesquile, Colombia, through the International Aboriginal Youth Internship Initiative (IAYI). Throughout my internship, I learned different languages, immersed myself in the Colombian culture and worked on several different projects pertaining to gender equality, environmental sustainability and governance. Coming from a small community in Labrador, the experience broadened my horizons and has led me to so many interesting paths since.

Last May 2-3, 2019, in Ottawa, I had the privilege of attending Canada’s first Youth Summit. It gathered youth leaders from across the country to discuss issues and brainstorm ideas that are most important to us. The major objectives of the Canada Youth Summit were:

  • To discuss the youth policy, informed by consultations with youth in 2018, and the Canada Service Corps signature program
  • To get direction from youth on issues that are important to them
  • To highlight the importance of youth service and inspire youth to serve their communities
  • To showcase youth-centered approaches to digital engagement

Riley-winters-marketplace-wGuest speakers shared personal experiences on themes such as, health & wellness, employment & innovation, skills & learning, gender equality, environment, climate change and leadership, and social impact & democratic participation. These themes were then discussed amongst youth in smaller groups. This was one of my favorite parts of the entire Summit, listening to other youth from across Canada share their personal experiences and the ideas they had that were specific to these themes. At the same time, I also shared my own IAYI internship experiences, especially when the discussion turned toward gender equality, environmental sustainability and governance,

As part of the Summit, we were split off into groups for service activities. I had the privilege of attending a reconciliation workshop that was of great interest to me. A group of us met with two Blackfoot Elders who taught us about the history of residential schools, how important identity is and where you come from. They also shared many stories and made me feel so humbled as I left. I think this type of education is so important in this journey towards reconciliation in Canada.

trudeau-riley-winters-IAYI-wThe second day started off great listening to so many extraordinary women and their stories. Maryam Monsef, Minister of International Development and Women and Gender Equality, gave an inspiring speech about her activism and how far she has gotten just by dedicating herself to gender equality. We listened to speakers Shania Pruden & Asma Hassan talk about the types of intersectional discrimination they have faced and how they overcame these obstacles to be successful in pursuing their dreams. We also listened to astronaut Jenni Sidey-Gibbons, a Canadian woman that was selected for NASA space training in Houston. Listening to her story inspired me so much, knowing that anything you dedicate yourself to can be achieved. Toward the end of the Summit, we had the opportunity of participating in a town hall discussion with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He answered a lot of questions and concerns of youth, as well as talked about Canada’s Youth Policy.

This Policy was developed through a national conversation with youth on issues important to them with the objective to create meaningful opportunities for youth voices to be heard and respected, as well as, providing accessible supports that meet the evolving needs of youth. For me, this policy is necessary, as youth are the voices of today, and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to share my experiences and ideas. I think its very important, especially for indigenous youth across the country, to take advantage of opportunities to get involved in organizations, to volunteer abroad, to share their thoughts and experiences and to expand their horizons. Something that was mentioned time and time again at the Canada Youth Summit is that youth are not tomorrow, youth are today!

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About Canada World Youth

Canada World Youth is dedicated to enriching the lives of youth aged up to 35 who want to become informed and active global citizens. CWY offers international transformative learning experiences focused on building knowledge, leadership and skills through participation in sustainable community-driven projects. For more than 40 years, 38,000 youth and 12,000 host families have participated in CWY programs, in Canada and abroad.

CWY is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency as a charitable organization (#118973999RR0001).

Source : Mary McGee, Communications Officer, Canada World Youth, 514 931-3526 # 336,

Interviews and information (photos available):

Mary McGee
1 800 605-3526 #336
514 931-3526 # 336