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The Canadian Roots Exchange’s 6th National Truth and Reconciliation Conference is underway in Sudbury. The event opened with a youth panel discussion featuring, from left, Candace Day-Neveau, Ariam Yetbarek, Caitlyn Baikie, Melanie-Rose Frappier and Hasan Sinan. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC) The sixth National Truth and Reconciliation Conference, organized by the Canadian Roots Exchange, is taking place in Sudbury.

The three day event kicked off on Thursday and opened with a youth panel discussion about strengthening ties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Caitlyn Baikie, an Inuit woman who works as the manager of the Students on Ice Foundation, noted the diversity of participants.

"We heard from an activist who is protesting Canada as a government as a whole. We heard from an immigrant, we heard from someone who doesn’t have her Canadian citizenship and we heard from a Métis youth as well," she said.

"Getting to hear about what lights people’s fire, if you will, and why they’re here was very interesting and it set a great tone for the rest of the conference."

The Students on Ice Foundation helps raise awareness about issues affecting Arctic regions and the people who live there

Baikie says it’s equally important for activists to work within the existing framework to influence policies that infringe on Indigenous rights. Members of the audience take in the youth panel discussion at the Canadian Roots Exchange’s 6th National Truth and Reconciliation Conference in Sudbury on Thursday. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC) "I do truly think government has been around for a long time, it will continue to be around, and I’m not sure yet as an Indigenous person what I feel about dismantling a structure like that, or what that could mean for Indigenous people," she said.

"What that means for us, I don’t even think we know yet." ‘Work for our culture’

Indigenous activist Candace Day-Neveau also spoke at the event. She says she’s aware some of her words make people uncomfortable.

"For young Indigenous people, don’t always work to appease the white man, don’t just work to get that diploma," she said.

"We have to work for our culture, we have to work for our languages."

She says she helped create the Native Nation Youth Council near her home on the north banks of Lake Superior "to bring pride and pro-liberation to Indigenous youth and Indigenous people."

She explained part of her work is trying to get young people to reconnect with their Indigenous roots by keeping their dying languages alive.

"Working with Indigenous people to create Indigenous-inclusive spaces has been a very passionate part of my work," she said.

About 250 people are taking part in the three-day event, leading up to Saturday afternoon’s closing ceremonies.

With files from Benjamin Aubé

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