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

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
NTC president calls for ‘massive change’ after Indigenous woman shot by police in Hitacu

“We need to get to the root of what is actually happening with the RCMP and our communities”

Hotel Zed Tofino has won a Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Award. (Westerly file photo)
Hotel Zed Tofino wins commercial building award

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board holds virtual gala.

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Most Read