Dwight Ballantyne poses with young members of the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan. (Special to The News)

Dwight Ballantyne poses with young members of the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan. (Special to The News)

B.C. man aims to bridge gap between remote communities and rest of Canada

Schools across country to send activity kits to isolated towns for Dwight Ballantyne’s #WeSeeYou Day

Dwight Ballantyne was sitting on a flight back to Canada in March 2019 when he decided he needed to dedicate himself to helping remote indigenous communities like the one he grew up in.

It was his first trip overseas, and against some high odds he had just represented Team Canada at an international hockey tournament in the Netherlands.

This lead to him reminiscing on how far he had come – both in a literal sense, and a figurative one.

Before moving to B.C. to pursue school in 2016, he spent the first 21 years of his life in Montreal Lake, Saskatchewan.

“I was thinking about how drastically my life had changed in three years time,” he said. “I found myself thinking about how stuck I was in a community, and how difficult it was for me to tap into resources, or find opportunities.

“From then on, I wanted to find a way to give back to my people in any way possible.”

READ MORE: Maple Ridge group gives back to northern places

Within a month, he founded The Ballantyne Project with an aim to bring awareness to a segment of the Canadian population that, he said, rarely makes it into textbooks, popular media or social conversation: youth and young adults living in remote Indigenous communities.

He gave inspirational speeches to youth in places like George Gordon First Nation, and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Southend in Saskatchewan, and Tootinaowaziibeeng Treaty Reserve in Manitoba.

That lead to him being approached by some Lower Mainland schools, starting with Garibaldi Secondary in Maple Ridge, to discuss what it was like growing up in a place without many of the advantages those in urban settings possess.

The latest campaign in his effort to aid those he believes are invisible to their fellow Canadians is #WeSeeYou.

“My girlfriend came up with [the slogan],” he said. “I like it because it fits so perfectly with what I wanted to do – shed light on on what’s going on in remote reserves to those in more of an urban setting.”

For the first #WeSeeYou Day (January 11, 2021) The Ballantyne Group is calling on schools across the country to join in to let the thousands of youth and young adults living in remote indigenous communities know they are no longer an invisible segment of the population.

One of the many ways schools can participate is to start a collection of activity supplies (pencil crayons, felt markers, colouring and activity books, beading kits, etc.).

“Those items are a big deal in remote communities, especially now that they’re having a rough time with COVID-19,” Ballantyne said, before drawing attention to Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Southend, a community in the far north of Saskatchewan.

Following an outbreak in October, three young adults committed suicide, and the band is taking it very hard, Ballantyne said.

I want to give everyone a clearer picture of the impact boxes that are filled with activities can have in a remote First…

Posted by The Ballantyne Project on Monday, November 16, 2020

“People have to isolate and they aren’t allowed to visit each other. But before the virus, spending time with each other was all people did,” he said.

“How do you think it’s going to be when you have 10 to 15 people living in a two bedroom house with no internet and nothing to do?”

His initial plan was to draw attention to, and support the single community, but after some social media posts about the campaign drew attention, the program is now planning to help some other remote bands too.

“We’ve got a bunch of people reaching out to us, so it’s quite overwhelming now,” Ballantyne said.

“We have people in B.C., people in Saskatchewan, and people in Ontario who are getting involved and wanting to help.”

A few have already signed up to participate including St. Johns K-12 School (Vancouver), Toronto District School Boards Indigenous Graduating Students, Walnut Grove Secondary (Langley) Indigenous Awareness Student Club (Brampton), Kwayhquitlum Middle School (Port Coquitlam), and the Indigenous Student Leadership Team at Maple Ridge Secondary.

Ballantyne said giving back to communities like the one he still calls home makes him happy.

“It does require a lot of work, but at the end of the day it makes me feel good and I know I’m doing anything I can to help the communities that are considered invisible.”



ronan.p.odoherty@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

charityFirst NationsMaple Ridge

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cascade Falls Regional Park is one of several Fraser Valley parks that saw record usage during the summer of 2020. (File photo)
Residents flock to Fraser Valley parks amid pandemic

Some trails saw usage double during summer months of 2020

A horse on Yale Road West in Chilliwack peeks out from its shelter at the rainy weather on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Several days of rain in forecast for Fraser Valley after single day of sunshine

According to Environment Canada, rain and showers are expected today until Wednesday

At the current rate of new infections, one in 53 Lower Mainland residents will catch the virus over the weeks to come. (Chart: Tyler Olsen)
GRAPHIC: One in 25 Lower Mainland residents may contract COVID-19 by February if virus continues spread

Moderate increase cases would leave one in 20 Lower Mainland residents with virus by February

Chilliwack musician Mauvey won the Dakota Leslie Fan Vote – and $2,500 – at this year’s Fraser Valley Music Awards. The virtual event was held Thursday night (Nov. 19).
Winners of Fraser Valley Music Awards announced in 16 categories

Annual awards honour artists in pop, hip hop, jazz and more

web
Mission RCMP searching for missing man

Asking the public for assistance to locate Rocky Tolfree

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

An Oceana Canada audit of Canadian fish stocks reveals a growing number with critical populations, calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enact existing commitments. (File photo)
B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

Oceana Canada calls for follow through on government commitments

Reverend Patrick John (PJ) O’Maoil Mheana, ordained as Father Luke, has been named the new rector for the Church of the Holy Trinity in White Rock. (Contributed photo)
From chaos to love, White Rock’s newest priest to spread message of hope

Rev. Patrick John O’Maoil Mheana to start work at Church of the Holy Trinity Nov. 30

Randy Bell. (File photo)
Former northern B.C. mayoral candidate arrested after allegedly refusing to wear mask

Randy Bell handcuffed and given a warning at Bulkley Valley Credit Union in Smithers

James Corden on the Late Late Show talking about BC Ferries on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Screenshot)
‘You’ll see it when you see it’: BC Ferries mask graphic gains James Corden’s attention

Turns out, James Corden fans were just as quick as B.C. social media users to pick up on the dual imagery

Most Read