Photography, art & song champion WB youth ideas

Young people recovering from the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires are using photography, art, song, poetry, prose and written text to express how they’d like to make their community better—in anticipation of the #youthvoicewb social media campaign that will launch in late September. The Youth Voices Wood Buffalo campaign and action research project will champion young people’s ideas for making their community better during the post-fire recovery. The campaign is being coordinated by the RbD Lab, and is supported by local youth-serving organizations, and is part of the Youth Voices Rising project.

Photo taken by Alexis at Fort McKay Youth Centre workshop


To support youth in sharing their ideas, Tamara Plush, Robin Cox and Cheryl Heykoop from the RbD Lab worked with local youth workers in July to facilitate three events in the Wood Buffalo region. At the Fort McKay Youth Centre, 20 youth joined in a workshop to learn photography basics and explore their community through the medium. The workshop included an evening exhibit with friends and family that featured photos expressing their views, including the value of preserving nature, the importance of community and connection, and the desire to address challenging social problems such as alcohol and drug abuse. As an example, Alexis photographed a friend photographing her, and described what it means to her: “The photo I have chosen connects to the community because no one can achieve something by themselves. It’s always a thing you do with people in front of you and giving you guidance.”

The photography workshop culminated in small group discussions between the participating youth and a Fort McKay First Nations band councilor about the changes the young people would like to see; with plans to present their ideas to the local Chief and Council.

For the upcoming #youthvoiceswb campaign, the RbD Lab also supported youth in using creative arts to express their views at a Justin Slade Youth Foundation event. Young people at the workshop engaged in discussions and art exploring diverse ideas for a better community, including creating more outlets for LGBTQA youth, improving the lives of people experiencing homelessness, and increasing the number of vegetarian restaurants in town.

Chris performs at the McMurray Gospel Assembly.


At another event supporting the campaign, young people took the stage at the McMurray Gospel Assembly for a talent show night with the theme of making their community better. They performed acts of poetry, song and prose that will be featured on the #youthvoiceswb YouTube channel when the campaign launches. The photography and art from the three events will be posted on #youthvoiceswb Instagram and Facebook accounts.

The campaign will launch Sept 29, 2017, during Alberta Cultural Days, and run during the Wood Buffalo Municipality election to link youth concerns and ideas to local decision makers.

RbD supports youth consultation on Canada’s Emergency Management strategy

The RbD was instrumental in supporting Public Safety Canada’s (PSC) recent consultation with youth  on the  development of a new, comprehensive EM strategy for Canada. The virtual consultation was held July 6th and engaged youth around questions concerning how to help shape strategies to support a culture of disaster preparedness and resilience, and improve disaster mitigation and response.

The consultation is one of a number of consultations with stakeholders that include emergency managers, government representatives, Indigenous Peoples, first responders, and critical infrastructure owners and operators. The decision to develop a new EM strategy responds to a recognized shift in Canada’s disaster risk profile, characterized by the increasing frequency, magnitude and cost of disasters. The initiative acknowledges the need for greater involvement and investment in emergency management in ways that increase our shared ability to understand and assess these risks in order to strengthen Canada’s collective capacity to better prevent/mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

Public Safety Canada reached out to Dr. Cox and the RbD lab to help identify and engage youth from across Canada in a virtual focus group. Over 20 young people from across the country agreed to be involved. Participating young people offered insights from on a range of questions that focused on how to support greater collaboration among different sectors of Canadian society; ideas for improving risk communication; and suggestions for initiatives that would improve the capacity of individuals, families, communities and organizations to reduce risks and increase resilience.Youth who could not participate will have an opportunity to contribute through their written responses to questions p0sed.

“This kind of consultation with youth is all too rare,” says Cox, adding that “it provides another great example of young people’s commitment to contributing to Canada’s disaster resilience and the valuable expertise and perspectives they bring to this topic.”

The feedback from participating youth will be added to the information gathered from other stakeholders and will inform PSC’s development of the new strategy which they hope to share with the Canadian public in the spring of 2018.