MONTREAL -- While tensions between some of Canada’s Indigenous groups and the federal government are at a high, an event held over the weekend at Concordia university is aimed at improving relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

Max FineDay, executive director of the Canadian Roots Exchange, said the event will build bridges between the two groups.

“We have participants from coast to coast,” he said. “Three hundred young people are here talking about what is possible in our lifetime. Often we heard words like decolonization, reconciliation, repairing the relationship. These are ideas but also ideals that a lot of young people are hoping for the future of Canada.”

The Gathering of the Canadian Roots Exchange includes participants like Nigel Adams of Nunavik, who spoke of his experience in a region of Canada where suicide rates have been deemed a crisis. Adams said he lost his brother and wants to find a way to help others heal.

“I feel the shame, I feel the guilt and I feel the grieving all the time about everyone who’s dead already in the North,” he said. “To my little brother, I’m here to say ‘You’re not alone.’”

The weekend includes workshops on identity, reconciliation and decolonization as well as art projects consisting of materials from Indigenous communities across Canada.

“The idea is to take all these materials and create something beautiful,” said artist Megan Kanerahtenha:wi Whyte. “To think of the impact of environmental violence, our traditional ancestral connections to land, to talk about political injustice and put it together on a surface in a creative way.”

FineDay said he hopes the event will shed light on a new path for the future of the country.

“We have an opportunity today, here, now, when we’re talking about these sorts of things, to say what we can do better, what can be done differently, how we can see each other succeed and thrive,” he said. “I think these are the questions we have to be asking. I hope not only elected leaders but all Canadians start asking themselves what their role to play is in this work.”