'Changing lives through law' goal of new outreach program for Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay

January 23, 2019

A Canadian charity, Level, is launching an education and mentorship program at a Thunder Bay elementary school to help children, between the ages of 11 and 14, learn more about the justice system, and maybe even consider a career in law.

The mission of the national organization is to drive change by disrupting prejudice, building empathy and advancing human rights, said Lisa Del Col, the director of programs at Level, which states it's "changing lives through law" on its website.

She explained that beginning in mid-February, the grade six and seven classes at Kingsway Park Public School will take part in the Indigenous Youth Outreach Program (IYOP).

A volunteer – in this case a student in the Faculty of Law at Lakehead University in the northwestern Ontario city – will run a variety of workshops on the Canadian criminal justice system, "but acknowledging right off the bat this is a colonial system," she said.

Therefore, Indigenous legal traditions and teachings will be incorporated into the program as well.

"We do a mock sentencing circle, we do smudging and we incorporate the eagle feather into the curriculum as well," said Del Col.

Recent Statistics Canada numbers show that Indigenous young people account for eight per cent of the Canadian population, but make up 46 per cent of incarcerated youth, said Del Col, who is of Algonquin, Italian and Finnish descent.

"We feel [those numbers] are unacceptable and really speak to the systemic issues faced by Indigenous communities across Canada," she said, adding that the IYOP is an attempt to reduce those statistics.

Read more: 'Changing lives through law' goal of new outreach program for Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay