As LEVEL’s inaugural Youth Policy Program wraps up, we chatted with Marcus Reid, one of the 16 participants of the program on their reflections and experience.

With Heiltsuk/Nisga’a First Nation roots, Marcus was urban born and raised on unceded territory of the Katzie, Semiahmoo, and Kwantlen people in the city of Surrey, also living as an uninvited guest on unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam land through living displacement.

According to Marcus, living on these lands does not permit reaping benefits from Coast Salish people. Whether Indigenous, person of colour, or white, he believes everyone has the responsibility to value the Indigenous way of life and we are all accountable to dismantling systems of Indigenous oppression to achieve liberation of other identity margins the right way. Post-secondary education, relationships with Elders, renewing of culture, and connecting with like-minded people have enabled him to establish this worldview from his own impacts from and self-perpetuations of colonization.

Tell us about yourself and what brought you to the Youth Policy Program.

I am a mixed-race Indigenous person who has grown up urban across Coast Salish territory. This social and geographical upbringing has permitted me to experience oppression in a distinct way. I am registered under the Indian Act, which operates the legislative racial inequity against federal government-recognized First Nations in Canada. Yet, my white privilege has almost always prevented racial microaggressions from targeting me unlike visibly fellow Indigenous peoples, black folks and other people of colour. The times where I would experience direct racism from non-Indigenous people would spark when I’d self-identify as native through school, housing, healthcare and other institutions. Experiencing racial inequity only through self-identification has allowed me to witness overt amounts of racism against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) and to ultimately understand the structures that uphold white supremacy. This is what put me on a path towards learning public policy and when I stumbled upon the youth program with Indigenous and racialized newcomers alike, I knew this is what I was looking for!

As a young person, why are you interested in public policy?

Everyone should be interested in participating in public policy because public policy affects us all. However, not everyone is included in important decision-making, so I am determined to advocate for my communities and other voices that are ignored at the decision-making table.

What issue(s) do you want to see systemic change in?

I want to witness systemic change in as many oppressive systems as I can! Indigenous land/rights infringement, white supremacy, male, cis- and hetero- privilege. My understanding is that for this to happen, we need a revolution of resisting and standing in solidarity together, to combat complex social oppression.

Why does it matter to have young people’s (especially those who are Indigenous and racialized migrant and refugee folks) voices at the table?

For me it matters to have representation of everyone at the table. It still seems like decision-makers need to receive this memo. This also extends to young people such as BIPOC youth, because people that run between intersections of marginalized groups have complex lived experience required for the solutions to complex oppression.

As a YPP participant reflecting on their time at the end of this program, what are some words of advice you would give to someone from the next cohort?

Next cohort please enjoy your time! Walk kindly yet fiercely with your cohort. Learn from and respect EVERYONE. Please be cognizant of the space people take, including yourself. Pay much attention to the staff and faculty. And don’t be afraid to challenge the politicians. Lastly, start thinking about your policy ask early!!

Why does racial equity matter?

We are all people, yet everyone who doesn’t fit into white characteristics is dehumanized. This dehumanization has manifested through colonization and it is time to decolonize so everyone is treated with equality and equity.