Student summit in Winnipeg lets racialized, Indigenous students share common experiences

Student summit in Winnipeg lets racialized, Indigenous students share common experiences

A summit in Winnipeg over the weekend is bringing together students to talk about their common experiences with issues like colonialism, racism and sexism.

Prairie RISE — which stands for Racialized and Indigenous Student Experience — was organized by the Manitoba and Saskatchewan chapters of the Canadian Federation of Students.

The event is a closed space for students who identify as racialized or Indigenous.

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"It wasn't a way to be like, 'OK, everyone but white people.' We need to come together as identity groups of racialized students of colour and Indigenous students because we have a particular experience we want to talk about," said Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie, a summit organizer and the vice-president external affairs of the University of Winnipeg Students' Association.

Lavoie, who is Anishinaabe from Sagkeeng First Nation, said the event is not supposed to be divisive. Instead it's intended to address a need for students to talk openly about their experiences.

"We need to have a closed-space event for us to share experiences of colonialism, racism and sexism and its intersectional ways, and not to be judged or undermined or grilled or have to worry about white fragility in those spaces," she said.  

In many areas of her life, particularly on campus, Lavoie said she often has to give the "Indigenous perspective" or finds the severity of her experience is dismissed.

"There is always that expectation on top of racialized and Indigenous students to do the educating all the time. And sometimes we just need to share in order to heal from these experiences," she said.

The summit, taking place at Canad Inns in Fort Garry, began on Friday and Lavoie said they've only had one instance where a person was not allowed in. An Indigenous man came with his girlfriend, who identified as non-Indigenous and non-racialized, and organizers had to turn the woman away, she said.

Lavoie said although it was a tough choice, it was important to maintain the goals of the summit.

"We are pretty up front that this is a closed space," she said.