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

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

Trixie, an Elf on a Shelf like the one pictured here, will hiding around Osoyoos' parks in December. (Contributed)
Can you find Trixie the Elf in Osoyoos?

The elf has left the shelf to hide in the parks around town

The Campbell Mountain Landfill and other landfills operated by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will have reduced hours from December 2020 to the end of February 2021. (Contributed photo)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen landfills reduce hours for winter

Measures will take effect from December 2020 until end of February 2021

The lights are on to kick off the holiday season at the Naramata Inn. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Naramata’s Christmas light competition starts Dec. 3

Naramata Inn sparkles with 25,000 lights, local menu and wines

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Garage in Kelowna burns to the ground, blaze deemed suspicious

Fire crews responded to the scene just after 4:30 p.m.

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

(Ty Hainsworth / Facebook)
No injuries after fire rips through South Okanagan fruit stand

A fruit stand caught fire Tuesday afternoon, closing Highway 97 for two hours

Damien Smith, with father Thomas Smith, is “frozen” with joy as he watches a special message Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recorded for Damien’s 9th birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy celebrates 9th birthday with family, community and Ryan Reynolds

People from around the world send birthday cards showing young Canoe resident he’s not alone

A major reconstruction project on 32nd Avenue is nearing completion and the road is now re-opened to traffic between 33rd Street and 35th Street. (City of Vernon photo)
ROAD REPORT: More roundabouts coming to North Okanagan

New intersection lights up Dec. 13, 30th Street paving delayed, PV Road completed in Vernon

Most Read