When Justice Tourangeau traveled to Ottawa, ON in 2018 to the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Youth Policy conference, it was her first time on a plane. Her passion drove the thrill of traveling thousands of kilometers from her home in Edmonton to make a difference for Indigenous youth. The experience in Ottawa inspired her to begin her work as the female youth representative with the Aboriginal Congress of Alberta Association (ACAA). “I want our youth to be heard,” said Justice.
“Our youth are our future and I always want to reiterate youth are the present future-the leaders of today.” Justice, named by her parents who dreamed that their daughter would one day help to hold injustice to account, is a member of the Bigstone Cree Nation in Northern Alberta. She was born and raised in Edmonton, which has the second-largest Indigenous population in Canada. Her grandparents spoke fluent Cree and kept Justice connected to her culture growing up. She attended round dances, powwows and raised proud of her roots.
When she was younger Justice said she didn’t feel hard enough, even though she felt her rights and input mattered. “As a kid, whenever I spoke up no one would hear me. I felt small as a child. But it’s powerful to use our voice-it’s important. Elders have lots of wisdom that I respect. Youth have a different, innovative way of thinking, and our voice matters-everyone matters.” Now a fourth-year sociology major specializing in criminology, minoring in gender studies Justice is working towards a career to one day help the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis.
“I’ve known many people in my life who’ve experienced violence-colonial violence-trauma. I want to enact change and do whatever I can through education to help them and others.” Family and kinship are also meaningful to Justice. She credits her mother for sparking her interest in politics. “My mom is a Wonder Woman. She taught me to advocate, to speak up (against wrongs).” Justice volunteers her time with the ACAA while juggling university, painting, and spending time with family. Since COVID-19 arrived all the ACAA meetings are conducted via phone calls and Zoom. But Justice stresses the work is just as important as ever.
“We need language revitalization, an overhaul in the criminal justice system, and healing. We need unity.” Resources are needed for Indigenous Peoples living off-reserve and with the ACAA, we speak for them and offer support and advocacy.”
Meet Aboriginal Congress of Alberta Association (ACAA) Youth representative Liam Thompson, 24. Liam is non-status Indigenous and his father’s family is from Ahtahkoop (AKA Starblanket First Nation) in Saskatchewan. He lives in Edmonton, AB and has been the male youth representative for ACAA for the past three years. ACAA is the only provincial affiliate that holds positions for both male and female representation on its Board. ACAA believes it’s important to always have a balance of these two perspectives and to set an example for youth on the importance of this in its governance structure.
Liam credits his father for awakening a love for his Indigenous culture. Sadly, his father passed away when Liam was just 13 of a heart attack brought on by a drug overdose.
This loss propelled Liam on a journey of reconnecting to his roots. By doing this he got to know more about his late father to help him heal. “When I graduated high school, I wanted to learn more about what it meant to be Indigenous,” said Liam, who took Native Studies at Langara College in Vancouver, B.C. This opened his eyes to the adverse experience of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and motivated him to do something about it. “My dad was passionate about self-determination and I followed his path. My life has been learning through reliving his interests,” he said.
So, he returned to Edmonton after graduating college and joined Homeward Trust Edmonton working on Indigenous and Youth homelessness. He thrives off of advocating for the homeless, (of which the majority are Indigenous) and engaging government stakeholders and organizations on how to end homelessness. Three years ago he joined ACAA after noticing a lack of urban Indigenous People's perspectives and values represented politically. Now, he encourages others to become members of ACAA to help solve that problem.
“This organization is important because we lack the opportunities to be represented in the city. We don’t always have access to funding, sweats, sundances, or even to an elder. We (ACAA) are fighting for your rights when you’re not living on a reserve.”
During his time with ACAA, Liam has traveled to Ottawa to attend Aboriginal Congress national gatherings, introduce recommendations, and helped organize several awareness projects. When he’s not working or volunteering his time with ACAA, Liam is also passionate about criminal justice, graphic design, and boxing.