OOE’s Paul Dewar launches Youth Action Now

by Tara Hogeterp  

As many of us are aware, long-time Old Ottawa East resident, community activist, teacher and former Member of Parliament Paul Dewar was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year. When he shared his diagnosis with the community, he also shared with us his vision, and his hope through the June 19th launch of a new organization, Youth Action Now.

Hundreds of people gathered that evening at the National Arts Centre to learn more about his initiative. What friends, family, neighbours, former colleagues and members of the Ottawa community heard was Paul’s positive vision for the future and his belief in the importance of young people.

The focus of the evening was very much about the strength and the power of youth, and their engagement in the community. Youth were very much present and a part of the evening, with young First Nations students opening the event, Paul and Julia Sneyd’s sons, Nathaniel and Jordan, acting as hosts for the evening, and Baraa Arar, a young Ottawa activist, speaking to the importance of youth activism.

Paul focused his words on the young people who have inspired him over the years, for example, Shannen Koostachin from Attawapiskat, who dreamed and advocated for schools in First Nations’ communities. Her death from a car accident, while attending school outside of her community, sparked a national campaign called Shannen’s Dream that advocates for education rights and safe schools across Canada. Paul also spoke about Jonathan Pitre, who despite his pain, acted as an advocate and ambassador for others with his rare condition. He referenced Autumn Peltier, the young water activist who spoke at the United Nations on the importance of water. And finally, Paul mentioned Hélène Campbell, who campaigned for increased awareness for organ donation and inspired people to fill out their organ donor cards.

Paul also shared with the room the fact that the day he was diagnosed was the same day as the Parkland School shooting. He spoke of his despair that day and the hopelessness he felt. However, in the days that followed, watching the students stand up and take action, he found inspiration and “hope for change.”

It is for the all the young activists that Paul has started Youth Action Now, which aims to unleash the power of young people by supporting collective leadership at the grassroots; bringing young leaders together to share experience and develop plans of action; and honing skills, building confidence, and forging allies.

Paul, his family and supporters made it clear that the future is hopeful. Paul’s message, “the most precious natural resource is our youth”, rings true. His wife, Julia laid out the path forward, “come, and they will build it.”

To learn more about Youth Action Now, donate or volunteer visit: http://youthactionnow.ca

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