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

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Gitxsan Nation extends fishing ban for non-Indigenous permit holders indefinitely . (Photo courtesy, Travis Murphy)
Gitxsan Nation extends ban for non-Indigenous fishing permit holders across their territory

The move comes after the province backed away from ongoing discussions with Gitxsan chiefs and DFO

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Most Read