By Shari Narine
Filmmaker Kelvin Redvers and his sister Tunchai hope that the “We Matter” campaign they launched last week will encourage youth – and others – to speak out about suicide and come to understand that their lives are valuable.
Suicide, depression and addictions are not new issues for Indigenous communities, but Kelvin and Tunchai wanted to tackle the issues in a new way. “We Matter” is an adaptation of “It Gets Better”, a campaign that spoke to the issues faced by youth in the LGBT community in the United States.
The social media campaign allows people from across the country to share their own experiences and messages of hope for youth who are going through a hard time, said Kelvin.
“It’s a really simple way to connect with people who may need a bit of uplift,” he said.
The campaign, launched Oct. 19, already has video messages from such notables as award-winning author Joseph Boyden and group A Tribe Called Red, which earned a Juno in 2014 as Breakthrough Group of the Year.
“The campaign wouldn’t exist without the youth voices that we have…. Their voice will connect more than anything with their peers.”
While the horror of youth suicide in Indigenous communities is being covered more openly by mainstream media now – the latest incidences in the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation with four separate suicides of young girls in October– it is an age-old battle.
The Redvers are from the Dene Nation and grew up in Hay River, where, Tunchai said they saw many issues on a daily basis stemming from a history of trauma and residential schools and lack of funding for education, youth activities, and counselling for drugs and addictions.
“You can say that youth take their lives because they don’t feel like life is worth living, they feel it’s not worth it to live, and I think that’s where “We Matter” comes from,” said Tunchai.
“It’s to remind these youth that their lives do, in fact, matter. We, as Indigenous people across Canada, matter and that there’s hope and there’s a way to overcome that sense of hopelessness.”
Kelvin is optimistic that as this campaign has been started by youth – he is 29 and Tunchai is 22 – it will speak loudly.
“We wanted to create a sense of unity and resilience with Indigenous people and Indigenous youth across Canada,” said Tunchai.
“This is an indicator of community. It’s about putting us with them and them with us in a way that I think can really empower and strengthen bonds between people. I think that’s the important aspect of “We Matter”, communicating that sense of community to people who may be feeling alone or a bit lost,” said Kelvin.
“We Matter”, through videos, art and stories, empowers people, allowing them to reach out and make a difference, he says.
The timing for such a campaign is sound, points out Tunchai.
“You look at the state of Indigenous Affairs in Canada and I think we’re moving in a really hopeful direction with the new government and you look at reconciliation and the discussions on reconciliation and residential schools and nation-to-nation building. I think we’re just in a period now where we’re looking at Indigenous Affairs in general in Canada in a more positive and hopeful light,” she said.
Success for the campaign will come through engagement across the country.
“We believe that if we can get a video from every single Indigenous community across Canada that means that every youth in every community who’s going through a hard time will have someone that they recognize standing up and sharing a voice and being able to connect to,” said Kelvin.
The brother-sister duo are well aware that their campaign alone won’t reduce the numbers of youth suicide, depression or addictions.
“But we want to be part of that happening alongside other movements, and community groups, and volunteers, and sports and all sorts of stuff,” said Kelvin.
Find the We Matter website at https://wemattercampaign.org
Kelvin Redvers and Tunchai Redvers: creators of the“We Matter” campaign. (Photo: Kelvin Redvers)