Into the City: Supporting Indigenous Youth

Portrait de Dwight Ballantyne

This trip has brought back the feelings I had as a youth growing up in a northern First Nation and has made me even more determined to continue to use my voice to bridge the gap between youth living in remote Indigenous communities and the rest of our society

We all have moments that change the trajectory of our lives. For me, one of the most significant was an opportunity to stay in a hotel in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan at the age of 11 for a hockey tournament. That weekend allowed me to have an experience outside of my northern reserve and planted a seed that there could be something for me outside of my isolated community. That idea kept me going through the anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts that I experienced during my teens and early twenties as I waited for an opportunity to present itself.

In 2021, as the founder of The Ballantyne Project, I was asked what I thought we should focus on that could have a significant impact on youth living in remote First Nations. I immediately knew that I would like to create a chance for Indigenous youth to have a life experience outside of their community, to expand their belief about life’s possibilities. So we began conversations with Leaders that we had built a relationship with from a fly-in community called Fort Chipewyan, Alberta and a plan came together to bring 9 youth, ages 15 - 24, and 4 chaperones to Vancouver, BC for 5 days in May 2022.

When they first arrived, the youth were quiet and hesitant, but as the days progressed and they became more confident in their surroundings their personalities began to emerge. It was fun to watch their expressions as they tried eating chicken feet in an authentic Chinese restaurant in ChinaTown, or clung to the straps hanging from the roof of a crowded city bus as it jerked forward in heavy traffic toward the Vancouver Aquarium. The unexpected highlight of the trip was a day spent at Capilano University as they were given a tour of the campus, student dorms and the Indigenous Film program. When that day was over some of the youth were contacting their families back home to say that they were excited about the possibility of continuing their education.

The final activity planned was an evening playing laser tag. By this time everyone was open to trying new things and interacting with complete strangers as they formed teams and the laughter could be heard throughout the building. One of the youth decided to attempt a rock climbing wall and soon everyone joined in, challenging each other to reach the top.

As the shuttle bus pulled away on the fifth day and they began their journey home, my hope was that this trip had provided everyone at least one moment that could potentially inspire them and memories that they could draw on if life gets difficult. Since May, we know that the youth have been asking for more homework so they can complete their courses for graduation and are still sharing stories from the trip with each other and their families.

This trip has brought back the feelings I had as a youth growing up in a northern First Nation and has made me even more determined to continue to use my voice to bridge the gap between youth living in remote Indigenous communities and the rest of our society. I am looking forward to following the journey of the 9 youth who came to Vancouver in May and spending time with more youth through future #WeSeeYou Trips.



♬ Present Moment - Instrumental Version - Eldar Kedem
Portrait de Dwight Ballantyne
About the author

Dwight Ballantyne grew up in Montreal Lake Cree Nation, a remote north Saskatchewan First Nation, until the age of 21 when he moved to BC in 2016. In an effort to raise awareness about what life is like for youth who grow up in remote Indigenous communities, Dwight founded The Ballantyne Project in 2019. He is passionate about sharing the truth about Canada’s history, the effects of Residential schools and bridging the gap between youth living in remote First Nations and the rest of Canada.
Frayme Comment Policy
We welcome relevant and respectful comments. Off-topic comments and spam will be removed.

Subscribe to Frayme
Stay up-to-date with Frayme and network opportunities through our newsletter, OnPoint. 

Join our Network
Network partners work alongside Frayme or other network partners in order to transform youth mental health and substance use services in Canada. Access the evidence, resources and tools you need to take action.

Inscrivez-vous à la liste d’envoi de Cadre
Restez à l’affût des activités de Cadre et des occasions de réseautage grâce à notre bulletin OnPoint.

Adhérez à notre réseau
Les partenaires du réseau travaillent de concert avec Cadre ou d’autres partenaires du réseau afin de transformer les services de santé mentale et de traitement de la toxicomanie offerts aux jeunes. Vous aurez accès aux faits probants, aux ressources et aux outils dont vous avez besoin pour passer à l’action.