September 19, 2019, Corner Brook—The Qalipu First Nation is pleased to announce that following the recent youth gathering where an election was held to choose a representative, Jessica Saunders of the Exploits Ward will join the Qalipu Chief and Council filling the newly created youth seat.
Jessica is twenty years old, she’s originally from Bishop Falls, but now resides in Sandy Point. Jessica has always been an active volunteer; she served on the Leo Burke Academy Student Council throughout high school, and she coached volleyball. Jessica also served on a youth advisory committee that helped bring mental health issues to the forefront at her school through the planning of a mental health conference.
At the gathering, Jessica spoke passionately about the environment and the importance of good mental health; topics that were high on the list of priorities for all youth as evidenced in conversations and break-out sessions. Jessica is the mother of 15-week-old Leo, who also attended the gathering, and reports that she is motivated by thinking about future generations. She noted, “We need to have the important conversations about conservation, climate change, and things we can do in Newfoundland to protect the future for our children.”
Jessica plans to engage youth through the newly created Facebook Group “Qalipu Youth Network” as well as through Instagram and Twitter. She will keep in touch with the growing youth network and represent their concerns at meetings of Council. All Indigenous youth, status, and non-status are invited to join the youth network and be a part of the Mawita’jik Maljewe’jk gathering. Jessica’s first Council meeting will be the next regular meeting of Council in November.
The inaugural youth gathering was held September 13-15 at West Haven in Pasadena. The gathering brought together twenty youth, age 16-28, from all across the nine wards. Four candidates were nominated for the role of Youth Representative, Jeff Young (Stephenville Ward), Sam Gardiner (Exploits Ward), Jessica Saunders (Exploits Ward) and Kaylee Sullivan (St. George’s Ward). As part of the election code, the youth also established the position of Alternate Youth Representative to support and enhance the youth seat. Salome Barker (Exploits Ward) and Victoria Stacey (Glenwood Ward) were nominated for this position; Salome Barker was elected.
In addition to the election, the gathering also focused on connecting youth with elders through cultural teachings; hearing the issues and concerns of youth delegates and; guiding youth to form resolutions to impact change. The event included traditional ceremonies, teachings, roundtables focused on learning and leadership, drumming, singing and opportunities to network and enjoy time outside around the campfire. On day two of the conference youth were joined by Mark Murdoch, a Youth Representative on the Premiers Youth Council, who spoke about the benefits of being involved and engaged in the community. Michael R. Denny of Eskasoni was also a special guest; he shared stories and language teachings, got youth involved in dancing the gojua dance, and led a game of Waltes.