By Eugene Boulanger

I recently had the opportunity to interview an aboriginal youth worker living in Winnipeg, Manitoba named Michael Champagne about the importance of youth work, education and the demystification of stereotypes.

Michael spoke to me about the changing demographic of Winnipeg residents, and the use of collaboration and partnership to further the shared interests of Winnipeg’s diverse community. We spoke about the value of cultural sharing, and we also had a chance to speak about the challenges he faces while organizing AYO: Aboriginal Youth Opportunities Anti-Gang, such as limited resources and opportunities. He is trying to transcend those difficulties by developing his community to be a self-sustaining and open one.

Michael is an example of an Indigenous person fighting his way back into his culture, facing obstacles such as systemic discrimination, misrepresentation, and economic, spiritual, and family oppression. Yet throughout his life he remains an example of a survivor, and one who is not only surviving but using his privilege of knowledge and consciousness to benefit his community and the community at large; his neighbors. Michael values education for combating the oppression of his people, and the oppression of all peoples. Michael believes that through self-definition, minorities can change they way that they are perceived by the world at large.

If you know someone doing similar work to Michael, we want to know. Email us or let us know by using #VanDialogues on Twitter.

Check out this presentation Michael gave at TedX Manitoba.

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