By Muskego Lowland Advocates and Karli Zschogner
Downtown Toronto’s Hilton Hotel was filled with hundreds of famous and leading advocates connected by their promotion of human rights and social justice when it was announced that eight Fort Severn youth won a national journalism award.
The event was the annual Journalists for Human Rights Night for Rights Gala on November 25, 2019, which this year brought in speakers as Nelson Mandela’s great-grandson Siyabuela Mandela, Masai Ujiri- President of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, the Minister of International Development Karina Gould, Anishinaabe Author/Journalist Tanya Tagala, Anishinaabe journalist Jolene Banning, and CTV News Anchor Lisa LaFlamme, who also surprised the attendees with her multi-talents as a guitarist in her band for the evening events.
The Award for Outstanding Work by an Indigenous Youth Reporter, was awarded to the eight Fort Severn youth for their collective work under Mushkego Lowland Advocates in the radio and video documentary piece addressing inadequate mental health supports in their community.
Chasity Bluecoat spoke on behalf of the youth through video.
In attendance, the Mushkego award was congratulated by many including journalist and author Tanya Tagala and Anishinabe Author/Professor/Host of CBC Radio’s Cross Country Check-Up Duncan McCue.
The radio episode which originally aired on Aug 15, 2019 on Channel 9 in Fort Severn First Nation, is co-hosted Alyssa McKinney and Laney Miles who their findings after a 6-week research/interview process on an analysis of access to mental health services in Fort Severn.
Interviews centre around the community’s building trust with Nishnawbe Aski Police’s Cst. Alex Lewis, whom some call ‘Alex Super Cop’. Other interviews include Fort Severn band program manager Maybelline Cameron Matthews, Choose Life Program Coordinator Mary Miles, Nurse-in-Charge Connie Baranyai, and elder Ida Bluecoat who opens about the historical impact of intergenerational trauma and the need to bring back community mediation.
The Fort Severn youth’s award shared the stage with other awards of the evening including 2019 JHR Award in Extraordinary Achievement in Human Rights Reporting to the late Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh.
The winners received a $1000 cash prize and a reporters’ multimedia kit.
The shortlist of the award was Fort Qu’Appelle, SK Kaitlyn Swan’s Road trip with my kokum: A family history of residential school and resilience featured on CBC’s Unreserved, Damon Hunter’s Curling at Chi Key Wis Arena, who has been the youth co-founder and manager of Naotkamegwanning Mazin’aigan of Naotkamegwanning First Nation, ON, and Oji-Cree Lennox Wabasse’s Nibinamik’s 20th Annual Youth Retreat Teaches Kids Aboriginal Culture of Nibinamik First Nation, ON.
The list of independent judges was recognized in JHR’s Twitter post as Anishinaabe Author/Journalist Waubgeshig Rice, Algonquin Journalist/Professor Karyn Pugliese, and freelance Anishnaabe journalist and educator WaasizoanungKwe (Sara Mai Chitty).