Motivational speaker and Winnipegger Michael Champagne is used to being in the spotlight talking about all the good things in Winnipeg.

His challenge for a group from across Canada this week is to turn all the negative talk about Winnipeg being labelled the most racist city in Canada into a positive teaching and learning opportunity.

"I think it's important to focus on the things that bring us together," said Champagne.

The Bridging The Gap national youth conference organizers hope the 300 students and young people at the three-day gathering will be inspired to combat racism in whatever city or town they come from.

"My goal for this conference it to basically bridge the gap and help dispel stereotypes and just bring help people together,” said Diandre Thomas-Hart, one of the organizers.

High school student Grace Genaille hopes so too and wants to make her experience as a Winnipegger and native youth more positive in everyday life because right now she says, even when she's with her parents in a store, there's tension.

"They watch us and you know you can tell that they're following us we know that. They think we're going to try and shove stuff in our pockets,” said Genaille.

Max FineDay is from Saskatchewan and he said, while the topic of racism and the negative effects from it are discouraging to many in Winnipeg, the view from outside is that at least this city is talking about it.

"I think Winnipeg is really the leader and is leading Canada on these conversations around race," said FineDay of the Canadian Roots Exchange.

The conference runs until Saturday.