Change-maker binds inner-community gap and encourages friendship between indigenous youth and police.
By Sarah Fox
On a camping trip with her family, Lynda Kitchikeesic noticed garbage littered along the side of the road. She asked her parents to turn back to the ranger’s station, where she could grab garbage bags. Lynda spent the next two days of her vacation picking up garbage that “shouldn’t have been there.” She was six-years-old.
Today—an adult—Lynda continues to approach life and work with a “see something, do something” attitude. While her volunteer work puts a strong focus on reconciliation between police and indigenous peoples, Lynda’s action extends across multiple causes, as she believes that the issues Canada faces are each dependent on the resolution of the other.
“Without environmental protections for the things we require for life—air, water and food—nothing else will matter.”
Lynda is a board member on the Ottawa Police Race Relations Committee and the founder of Flotilla for Friendship. Every summer, Flotilla for Friendship brings indigenous youth and police officers together to canoe the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River. Approaching its 17th year, Flotilla is expanding. This summer, it hits the water in Toronto and Cobourg.
“I knew by sharing culture, ceremony, and other traditional knowledge with police and youth we could begin to have understanding on an individual level, which is how friendships are made.”
Surrounded by nature, indigenous youth and police officers get one stroke closer to understanding and appreciation for each other—ultimately, paddling towards building a more unified and compassionate Canada.
Lynda’s 5 tips on how to be a change-maker:
1. “You don’t have to join something to do something good.” As a six-year-old, Lynda picked up the garbage because it bothered her that it was there. If she didn’t do it, who else would? Lynda encourages others to follow that little voice in their head. “Getting involved often means you initiate an action to right a wrong … volunteering is our reaction to something we see that is unjust or unkind.”
2. “Let people know what you’re doing.” Lynda knew she had to spread cultural knowledge among local police after an incident involving a group of indigenous drummers escalated to police threatening to search the individuals’ instruments and medicine bags for drugs. Lynda shares her knowledge and enthusiasm for the work she does with anyone who wants to listen. She says, “Growth comes from people knowing what you’re about.”
3. “Stay with it.” In her experience, “The better you get at it, the more fun it is for you and everybody else.” Lynda looks forward to Flotilla’s expansion this summer, the result of many years of dedication to the event. “Over 17 years, Flotilla for Friendship has only gotten better.”
4. “Diversify your volunteering.” Lynda stays engaged in various issues by involving herself in different projects. This way, she says, “You’ll never tire of it. You don’t have to be the keeper or the lead. You can just contribute.”
5. “Do it because you enjoy it—not out of duty.” As Lynda prepares to bring Flotilla for Friendship to two new cities this summer she says, “I visualize it in my head and it brings a smile to my lips. I seriously plan to keep smiling for the rest of my life.”