Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
North End community activist, youth mentor and public speaker Michael Redhead Champagne has left Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, an organization he co-founded a decade ago.
He was one of three people on the AYO organizing team that cut ties on May 24.
In a vague statement on its Facebook page, the AYO said the trio stepped down (last weekend) "due to concerns raised within the community," but offered no details.
"They are no longer part of the AYO organizing team and are no longer welcomed in our spaces. We asked them to do so we can ensure that there are no urgent threats to community or the young people in our circles," the AYO said on its Facebook page. "As a first step of accountability, AYO has started reaching out to some of those that have been harmed. We want to ensure their needs are met first and that their voices are prioritized."
CBC Manitoba has identified Jenna Wirch and Ninoondawah Richard as the other two individuals who severed ties with AYO.
In a statement on his blog, Champagne stated that leaving the organization was far from a spur-of-the-moment decision. When the Free Press reached out to Champagne Saturday, a representative said the statement would be his only comment on the matter.
"I have been stepping away from organizing and representing Aboriginal Youth Opportunities for a number of years. While I have disagreed with many of their choices over that time, I have continued to stand by them out of respect for Indigenous youth voices. My official plan to retire in celebration at AYOs 10th birthday on March 17, 2020 was foiled by the coronavirus and my role was left in limbo," said Champagne.
"The allegations mentioned were not related to me, however, in an attempt at accountability I have officially stepped away so AYO can respond as a youth movement. I have been and will continue to support them should they have any questions or need my help with any restorative justice processes they deem fit or any succession plans. I will not comment on anyone other than myself. I will continue my work in the community and look forward to seeing the exciting things that come next."
Since 2010, the AYO has brought together young people volunteering within the community, mentored by community leaders such as Champagne. The organization has no home base, no paid staff and no board of directors, however, it plays a critical role in the North End, offering guidance to youth on issues of education, housing, recreation and safety.
Members meet each Friday at 6 p.m. at the Bell Tower, located at Selkirk Avenue and Powers Street.
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Updated on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 11:08 PM CDT: Edited