It wasn't until he entered university that Josh Butcher really reflected on his own experiences as a Métis person in Canada.
"As a kid, I recall hearing many racist stereotypes about Indigenous people," recounted Butcher. "Kids have enough things to worry about in terms of being accepted and not becoming a target for bullies. When Indigenous youth hear negative comments about their culture, a growing sense of shame can form in the background."
Butcher is thankful that from an early age he was able to overcome the hurtful comments. Instead they fueled him to prove the bullies wrong and he became inspired to teach other Indigenous youth to do the same.
Many Indigenous youths are faced with bullying, but organizations like Indspire are working hard to breakdown stereotypes and inspire these youngsters to achieve their highest potential.
An avid volunteer, exceptional athlete, bright student and advocate for children with disabilities and LGBTQ2 athletes, Butcher grew up helping others.
That mentality followed him throughout his young life and led him to the University of Saskatchewan, where he now studies medicine.
As a participant in the 2017 Indspire Cross-Canada Youth Laureate Tour, Butcher speaks to Indigenous students with the goal of inspiring them to embrace their culture and believe they can achieve anything if they work hard.
"At first, I didn't think I had anything to offer these students," Butcher explained.
"While doing some self-reflection, I realized that I had a lot of questions about who I am and where I come from. I reached out to my dad to ask him questions about our Métis heritage."
Like Butcher, his dad had decided at a young age that concealing his Métis heritage was the best way to avoid bullying and social isolation.
Feeling like he didn't belong in the nearby Indigenous community, or the adjacent predominantly white community, his dad spent most of his time at home on the family's farm in rural Alberta.
"My dad’s childhood stories, as well as the stories from the rest of my family, helped me realize that I have something to offer these students. I can be a role model and encourage them to be proud of their Indigenous heritage. No one should ever feel the need to hide who they are, because we are all capable of greatness.” – Josh Butcher, Indspire Youth Laureate
The tour is visiting seven major cities this year in celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation. Adrianna Simon is just one of the hundreds of students who had the opportunity to hear Butcher speak at the Saskatoon leg of the tour.
"Listening to Josh speak was incredibly motivating," said Simon. "What really struck me was his determination to ensure that we are not only embracing our Indigenous culture, but also making our communities and families proud by working hard and realizing our dreams."
Education for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is the key to breaking down stereotypes and moving the needle on change in Canada, Butcher said. Removing the financial barriers to education is the first step in making that change a reality.
"My dream is to become a cardiologist to help my community," added Simon. "Josh told me that no matter how other people treat me, I have the ability to achieve my goals if I work hard and never give up. I will always remember those words."
In celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation, TransCanada is honoured to continue our 24-year partnership with Indspire, as well as our partnerships with 4-H Canada and Trout Unlimited Canada to further connect Canadians through initiatives with lasting positive impacts in our communities.
Stayed tuned for more stories throughout the year about these incredible organizations.