NEWS

Connecting to our future

From oppression to opportunity

Michael Champagne
Michael Champagne

BY AMIE LESYK
Winnipeg Health Region
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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Michael 'Redhead' Champagne doesn't just talk the talk - he yells, rallies and advocates - tirelessly. The young man who grew up in Winnipeg's north end has become a voice for Aboriginal youth and the community, and is helping to create a positive image and opportunity for the neighbourhood and its residents.

"I am trying to speak in such a way that I reflect my community in a positive light. Often when we open the newspaper or we turn on the radio or check out the news, the only news stories we get to hear about young Aboriginal people are the violent ones, or the suicide ones - negative." This is something Champagne wants to change.

The energetic 25-year-old sits on a couch in the family room of Selkirk Avenue's Indian Family Centre. Champagne has worked at the centre on top of his numerous other commitments and jobs, which largely involve Aboriginal youth programming with a variety of community organizations including the City of Winnipeg.

Two years ago he created Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO) and since then he's been in the newspapers, on the radio and even meeting and greeting Premier Greg Selinger. Champagne couldn't be happier about having a larger audience to share his message with.

"I'm so encouraged and want to keep going in this work and continue to mentor other young people." Ultimately he wants to see good news replacing the bad.

Often relaying his message through a megaphone, Champagne has been urging Aboriginal youth to craft positive futures and positive communities. Every Friday AYO and community members unite at Selkirk Avenue's Bell Tower in an effort to build spirit in the community and show the North End is about more than crime or statistics. He's showing youth they can have an impact.

Champagne understands how today's Aboriginal youth feel. He hasn't always felt the confidence and purpose that's evident today. Born in Shamattawa in north-eastern Manitoba, Champagne was adopted and raised in the north end of Winnipeg by a low-income family. He struggled through his adolescent years with depression and thoughts of suicide.

"Because of the opportunities I've been able to access here in the north end and abroad, those opportunities have given me a lot of confidence." Champagne believes youth hold the key when it comes to making change. "In youth organizing themselves and challenging systems and challenging the way things are, we can cooperatively create a better tomorrow not only for us today but for future generations."

Micheal will be sharing his story and his message with Winnipeg Health Region staff and patients during the CEO Grand Rounds in Aboriginal Health happening June 20 at the Brodie Atrium - Bannatyne Campus. He'll be providing perspective on Aboriginal youth and talking about his mission to build a better tomorrow for our community as a whole.

Michael says health-care providers can make a huge impact in helping their Aboriginal patients on their healing journeys. "You have a lot of power to turn things around, not only for the individuals you are serving but for their families and their entire communities as well."

The CEO Grand Rounds in Aboriginal Health take place at noon on June 20 at Brodie Atrium (727 McDermot). The event lands in the middle of the region's week of events celebrating National Aboriginal Day.

"This week of events is a way for our patients, their families and staff to celebrate Aboriginal cultures and helps provide cultural education for our staff," explains Winnipeg Regional Health Authority CEO and President Arlene Wilgosh.

Celebrations are taking place at a number of sites in Winnipeg between June 18 and 22. To find out about events happening near you click here.

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