Dozens of people gathered at the Youth Centre in Mistissini Nov. 20, to learn about bullying prevention efforts in the community.
The event, entitled Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Spaces drew together parents and grandparents, students, teachers and school administrators, school board and community leaders, as well as health, justice, and human resources partners. The assembly provided an opportunity for the community to better understand the resources and services available to them when it comes to dealing with bullying, whether it be prevention, intervention or helping people heal. The event also gave participants a chance to network and see how they can better support one other in their work.
“We won’t solve bullying in one night,” said event organizer and Mistissini Community Education Administrator Andy Baribeau. “But we can start the conversation.”
Presenters included Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association President Linda Shecapio who outlined the efforts her association makes in creating awareness about and preventing violence, including bullying.
“This is such an important issue to address amongst our young people,” she told the gathering. “If we can make a difference here, we will go a long way toward addressing violence in our adult population.”
Cree Nation Youth Council Grand Chief Kaitlynn Hester-Moses joined the call-to-action, expressing her deep desire to create safe places for young people.
And, Mistissini Chief Thomas Neeposh also addressed those assembled, urging mutual respect, and expressing the need to continue the conversation.
The event, which ran for four hours, included an open-mike portion that allowed participants to outline their organization’s efforts to address bullying, as well as opportunity for participants to visit neighbouring exhibits to ask questions. The assembly was in response to ongoing concerns about bullying both in and outside local school yards. The need was heightened by an incident, since resolved, that was widely shared on social media.