Pathways to Connection

Vancouver’s Indigenous youth deserve to have a safe environment where they can engage community building, explore their culture, connect with the land and deepen ties with Elders. Indigenous Youth Engagement Grants will support the Indigenous community by providing financial means to engage in this necessary self-directed exploration while working toward reconciliation.




Diversity and Equity in Cities (URB 663)


  • Aude-Claire Fourot

City of Vancouver:

  • Danielle Johnston

Student Team:

  • Connor Buzza (he/him)
  • Humna Kahn (she/her)
  • Gabe Labbe (he/him)
  • Sophie Watt (she/her)


Fall 2022


The legacy of colonization continues to perpetuate inequalities amongst Vancouver’s Indigenous population. As a City of Reconciliation, a revised approach by the city is needed to increase civic engagement amongst Indigenous youth aged 18-24. Civic engagement is an action taken collectively to improve or influence society. Therefore, engagement efforts must be proactive, not reactive. Neither extractive nor paternalistic, but centre and integrate Indigenous youth within the decision-making process in a culturally safe manner.

An Indigenous Youth Engagement Grant should be established with the express purpose of allocating funds to encourage cultural connection amongst the urban Indigenous youth population. A key finding in our research was that many Indigenous youth look for connection with community, Elders, and land as priorities. By having the opportunity to do so, they can address and identify challenges in a culturally safe environment. Made available to already existing Indigenous organizations, the intent is that the city step back and allow for continued building of community through self-directed cultural practice, as identified by Vancouver’s Indigenous youth, perhaps through talking circles or by trips that encourage reconnection with the land, for example.

By providing financial resourcing to already established networks, it is expected that intergenerational cultural ties will strengthen amongst the Indigenous community as a whole and provide an appropriate environment for Indigenous youth to become civically engaged in a manner that is meaningful to them. Ultimately, including Indigenous community members during the formation is imperative to ensure that these grants are meaningful, not tokenistic.

It is important to note that this recommendation is a first step on a long road, but one that the City of Vancouver tells us it wants to walk down as part of its self-identified ambitions of reconciliation.



Next Steps

We must acknowledge that we are not Indigenous, and we cannot speak for Indigenous people. We hope that this proposal will provide the city of Vancouver with a place to start when thinking about practical steps toward supporting the development of sense of place amongst Indigenous youth. The key here is that any plans are not prescriptive. Our research indicates that involving Indigenous youth in decision making processes ensures a deeper, more lasting sense of connection to their community, and by extension, where they live. In terms of practical steps, we would recommend that the Montreal Indigenous Community NETWORK’s STRATEGY report is used as a reference. This work centred Indigenous Youth and what they wanted for themselves, their peers, their community, and their city. They took urban Indigenous youth on overnights out of town for reconnection with land, and facilitated a series of themed talking circles, which proved to be successful. It is also of particular importance for the Urban Indigenous Peoples Advisory Committee to be involved in the decision-making processes around how funds are distributed and to what result. Resourcing already existing Indigenous organizations with funding to support with facilitating these events, in conjunction with guidance of the Urban Indigenous Peoples Advisory, is vital. We hope that this proposal prompts much needed discussion on how best to engage Indigenous youth, in the way that will work best for Vancouver’s Indigenous population.

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