Tunchai Redvers shares a message with Canada: compassion and understanding will empower future generations.
By Sarah Fox
Photography by Jesse Lozier
Tunchai Redvers responds to crises with compassion in the form of innovative solutions.
Last year, as Indigenous youth suicide numbers spiked in Canada—with 100 suicide attempts in Northern Ontario’s Attawapiskat and six female suicides in Saskatchewan—Tunchai didn’t sit idle. She brainstormed how she could show solidarity with Indigenous youth spread wide across the second-largest country in the world.
First, Tunchai banded with her brother Kelvin. Both born and raised in Hay River, a small community in the Northwest Territories, the pair are familiar with the conditions Indigenous youth endure and the stark statistics they face. “[They] continue to experience the highest rates of suicide, addiction, abuse, violence, poverty and inequity…” Tunchai says, “while being the fastest growing population.”
Drawing on the strategy of the It Gets Better Campaign—a multi-media approach that offers support to LGBTQ+ youth around the world—the Deninu K’ue First Nation siblings founded We Matter. The social media campaign invites Canadians to send in positive messages for Indigenous youth to foster an interactive space where they can seek guidance on how to persevere through difficult circumstances.
Tunchai is thrilled to see We Matter progress from a social media campaign to an “on-the-ground grassroots organization.” The co-founder, alongside her brother, has travelled to 12 First Nations across Canada since last August to facilitate workshops. Landed in the community, she is able to tackle accessibility hurdles and forge deeper connections to the youth, including personally delivering USB sticks filled with the positive messages that might not reach the group otherwise.
“I am fighting for a better future for Indigenous youth,” Tunchai asserts. Steadfast in her commitment to extinguish Indigenous youth suicide, she assures, “I plan to do everything I can to let Indigenous youth know they are important, beautiful, loved and cared for, and I will encourage others to do the same.”
And We Matter isn’t stopping at messaging; as Tunchai shares, she hopes to roll out toolkits for teachers, counsellors and youth leaders starting next year. With these resources, she believes awareness around Indigenous history and issues in Canada will increase—which is of critical importance, as she indicates. “There is still a lack of knowledge and understanding, and thus care and compassion of certain groups of people in Canada.”
Through education, Tunchai—who will resume post-graduate studies work part-time in September (she’s pursuing a Master of Social Work degree) on top of running We Matter—hopes to stimulate understanding. “As an Indigenous person, whose ancestry goes back thousands of years in these lands, I still hear, see and receive a lot of negativity, judgement and misunderstanding when it comes to Indigenous people, culture and issues,” she says. To widen our knowledge base, the 22-year-old nudges Canadians to look beyond traditional education. Through a little research, all of us can become more familiar with Indigenous issues—past and present. As Tunchai recommends, “learn about residential schools, the 60’s scoop, Treaties, Jordan’s Principle, and the Indian Act.”
For Tunchai, Canada’s future is dependent on the treatment of each other—a bright one will be the result of kindness evenly spread, within and beyond borders. Read on to find out why Tunchai thinks “we would all be happier and better off if we fostered compassion and care for everyone around us.”
Why is “we” stronger than “me?”
There is no “me” without “we.” We rely on each other as individuals, families, communities, and a nation.
What is the kindest action you’ve been on the receiving end of, and what about the gesture touched you personally?
I’m on the receiving end of kind actions every day, from someone going out of their way to ask me how I’m doing, to someone sharing something with me they didn’t have to, to a stranger smiling and saying hello on the street. These seemingly simple gestures are things I am so grateful for. We need more daily acts of kindness.
Fill in the blank: Moving forward into the next 150 years, our country needs [blank] in order to build a more caring and compassionate Canada.
Talk less and listen more. We need to genuinely listen to the histories, experiences, stories, challenges, and perspectives of each other without judgement or the need to be right. We also need to actively amplify the voices of those who don’t often get a voice at the table. We cannot care for one another if we aren’t willing to listen.
Nominate someone you believe is working to positively change the future of Canada.
Jack Jr. is a youth I know from Attawapiskat, Ontario. He is working to change the future of Canada by learning and speaking his language, spending time on the land, and supporting his peers, community members and elders at home in his community. Not too long ago, young people weren’t allowed to speak their language, so this is one step in the right direction.
Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?
Culture, respect, humility, love, compassion, and the honouring of Treaties.
What small action have you taken in present day to help secure a brighter future for our country tomorrow?
I co-founded We Matter, an Indigenous-led non-profit organization and national campaign committed to Indigenous youth empowerment, hope and life promotion.