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The Importance of National Aboriginal Day

June 21, 2012

On this National Aboriginal Day, Canadians from coast to coast to coast celebrate the richness of Aboriginal culture and heritage and the incredible contributions made to this country by Aboriginal peoples. While this is laudable, and there is indeed much to celebrate, we also know there is a great deal of work still to be done to improve economic prospects and social outcomes for Aboriginal Canadians. At the same time, Canada is struggling with labour and skills gaps and needs to invest in building a strong workforce for the future. 

Each year, Actua delivers science and engineering programming that engages 30,000 Aboriginal youth in more than 200 communities nationwide. We create positive learning environments that promote the development of critical thinking skills, creativity and, most importantly, self-confidence and a love of learning. We show youth how science, technology, engineering and math impact their lives and how these fields are connected to their community and culture. Through hands-on activities, role playing, and mentorship, we introduce Aboriginal youth to the wide variety of related career choices that are open to them. We also reinforce that their voices matter and that their participation in these fields is critical for Canada to achieve its full innovation potential.

Actua supports a growing network of 33 members located at universities and colleges across Canada delivering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics educational programming for youth. We are driven by the belief that all youth – regardless of their socio-economic situation, gender, ability or location – need experiences that build science and technology literacy. This literacy is a key building block of innovation and the future economic and social prosperity of our country.

Our work is inspired by the unwavering commitment and perseverance of our community partners in improving educational experiences for their youth. We also work with business leaders including the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) and GE Canada, as well as federal, provincial and territorial governments, and Canada’s leading universities and colleges. In partnership, we strive to fulfill a common goal - to empower Canada’s youth and fuel a much-needed diverse and skilled Canadian workforce.

This summer our members are working closely once again with Native Friendship Centres, First Nations, Hamlets, and other Aboriginal community groups across Canada, delivering hands-on programming that inspires youth to envision positive futures for themselves. Whether they are designing and building a roller coaster or testing their solar ovens (that really work), the bottom line is that they are having fun - and they are believing in themselves as learners.

Our collaborative approach makes it possible to mobilize the wisdom and input of all community players, connect with scientists who know the landscape, and local Aboriginal Elders who incorporate traditional knowledge into our curriculum. Connecting with representatives from local industries, helps youth make a link between what they are learning and how they can use their new skills in the future.

This National Aboriginal Day we celebrate that by working together, we can ensure that Aboriginal youth have the necessary bridge to connect them to the wealth of study and career choices that await them.