Update on things happening in Rotary and indigenous communities, including current events – Rotary luncheons with guest speakers, open community and cultural gatherings, etc.



Emotional plea for Indigenous mental heatlh workers at Trudeau's town hall in Thunder Bay

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heard an emotional plea for mental health supports in Indigenous communities during his town hall meeting Friday evening in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Justin Trudeau visited the northwestern Ontario city Friday

Christina Jung · CBC News · Posted: Mar 23, 2019 12:08 AM ET | Last Updated: March 23
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Thunder Bay on Friday for a town hall meeting at Lakehead University. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heard an emotional plea for mental health supports in Indigenous communities during his town hall meeting Friday evening in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Approximately 850 to 900 people attended the event at Lakehead University's gymnasium with questions ranging from the SNC-Lavalin affair to his government's environmental record.

But the call for Ottawa to do more to secure mental health workers in First Nations came from a 26-year-old woman who left her community of Sandy Lake, about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, to study in the city. 

"What do you plan on doing for the mental health of Indigenous people in the north?" Forrest Sawanas asked Trudeau while fighting back tears, highlighting several "horrific things," alleging sexual assault and physical violence in her community.

"If there are teachers who are willing to live in the north for the academic year, there shouldn't be an issue with providing mental health workers in the north," she said.
26-year-old Forrest Sawanas from Sandy Lake First Nation highlighted several "horrific things" that have happened in her community. She asked Justin Trudeau what his plans were for providing mental health support for Indigenous people in the north.
The supports are needed to help people cope with the intergenerational trauma of residential schools, she said.
  1. started his answer by first thanking Sawanas for "her courage and her strength," and then told the public that, "I think Canadians need to hear that."

"[The] kinds of things that if they happened, even in a big city like Toronto or Vancouver would be screaming headlines for weeks and that are collectively still met far too often with shrugs because it happened in 'those' communities," he continued.

"That's unacceptable."

"We are not the country that we like to think of ourselves as," Trudeau added.

While not addressing whether more mental health workers would be on their way to First Nations, Trudeau said the federal government still has more to do to invest in Indigenous communities, including in areas like housing, education as well as mental health.

"We have an awful lot to do," he said.

Trudeau faced a receptive crowd in Thunder Bay — both of the city's ridings are held by Liberal MPs — but was challenged, not only on support for Indigenous communities, but also on climate change, the environment and infrastructure.

The Prime Minister largely used the questions to defend his government's record and highlight its accomplishments, while acknowledging Ottawa still has more work to do.



RCMP cadet program helps First Nation youth build relationships with police

Some Eden Valley youth gather in Chief Jacob Bearspaw school gymnasium to participate in activities with Turner Valley Boys and Girls club as part of cadet training.

Turner Valley RCMP partnered up with Chief Jacob Bearspaw school to run a cadet program for Eden Valley youth

Livia Manywounds · CBC News · Posted: Mar 23, 2019 5:00 AM MT | Last Updated: 2 hours ago
Eden Valley youth gather to participate in cadet training with Turner Valley RCMP. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

A program in Eden Valley is giving kids in the community a first-hand look at what it's like to be a police officer. 

The cadet training program has Eden Valley youth gather in Chief Jacob Bearspaw school gymnasium to participate in activities with Turner Valley Boys and Girls club.

Turner Valley RCMP started the cadet program five years ago using the same model as the Maskwacis Cadets from Northern Alberta. 

Turner Valley RCMP Constable Larry MacDonald is the program's drill instructor. He said working with the youth is a proactive community service, which engages Indigenous youth, and fosters a trusting relationship with the local RCMP

Turner Valley RCMP Constable Larry MacDonald is the drill instructor for cadet training which aims to engage Indigenous youth. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

"They know who the police are, they know if they ever get in trouble or scared, or they need help, they [can] call us and contact us," MacDonald said.


NS Mi'kmaq graduation rates reaches "amazing" levels, yields $600M, 10-year agreement with Canada

The graduation rate of NS Mi'kmaq students has risen from 30 to 90% in the last 20 years, according to the Canadian Press and the Government of Canada has recognized the NS Mi'kmaq community by signing a 10-year education agreement worth $600M. Chief Leroy Denny of the Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton stated that the province's Mi'kmaq First Nations originally did not have their own schools and students had to be bused to other communities. "It was a dream - a dream that if the Mi'kmaq could control our own education that we could reach levels near believed possible by Canadians," said Denny. "We know that our youth will grow into strong, proud Mi'kmaq when they are given the opportunity to learn in an environment that values the strengths of Mi'kmaq language and culture." CP reports that the high school graduation rate among First Nations students in the province is now considerably higher than the national average for students living on reserve.

Metis Nation signs Early Learning and Child Care Accord with Canada

A newly signed accord between the Metis Nation and the Government of Canada ensures that the nation will have the authority and funding to create culturally relevant and supportive early learning programs and child care. The Metis Nation Early Learning and Child Care Accord comes in addition to $450M that Canada has provided to strengthen early learning and child care (ELCC) programs and services for Metis children and families in the Metis Homeland. "For over twenty years the Metis have been left out of federally funded Indigenous Early Learning Programs. During this time, the lack of federal committment to reconciliation with the Metis Nation has hurt our children and our families," stated David Chartra.

RRC pop-up restaurant serving Indigenous specials

Bannock tacos and Three-Sisters Soup are being served at a new pop-up restaurant at the Notre Dame campus of Red River College. Students will work with Prairie Lights restaurant to make breakfast and lunch until mid-April. "The big thing they will learn is timing and working under pressure: being able to produce dishes to customers' expectations and to the kitchen's standards, with the pressure of having a busy restaurant," said Instructor Michael Fitzhenry, who noted that only one student had previously worked in the industry. RRC student Larissa Evans stated that she's "excited to get to cook with the rest of the students and be able to make the bannock tacos."

New project focused on improving digital literacy, curriculum kicks off in NWT

The Digital Literacy Project has kicked off initiatives to develop a new curriculum and increase professional development training capacity for community-based instruction in Digital Literacy. The new, regionally appropriate curriculum will include digital literacy basics, digital content and connectivity in the NWT, and more. The project - the Digital Literacy Exchange Program - is reportedly supported by four Indigenous organizations in the NWT, Aurora College, Aurora Research Institute, the University of Alberta, and Computers for School NWT. "Given recent IRC success with e-Learning programs including IFA-101 modules, waiting lists for our newly expanded SunChild E-Learning Centre, and recent direction from our 42 Directors to advance distance learning opportunity within our communities," said Inuvialuit Regional Corporation CEO Duane Ningaqsiq Smith. "IRC applauds the new commitment to Digital Literacy, Northern educators and Northern curriculum."

Lakehead developing land acknowledgement walk

Lakehead University has announced that it is developing a land acknowledgement walk. The program grew from talking circles with Indigenous Elders and advisers, and will explore the history of the land that the campus is located on and encourage discussion about decolonization. "What I heard from a lot of people was an interest in.. trying to engage our student body and our community body on what does it mean, for example, to be a non Indigenous person on campus or on a land that is traditional territory of Fort William First Nation," explained Office of Sustainability coordinator Ledah McKellar, "and what does that history look like.. and what are the implications of this history?" McKellar noted that the Office considers recognizing Indigenous rights as part of sustainability, given that the Indigenous people were living "sustainably for thousands of years beore (it) became a buzzword."

New Northern ON internship program to broaden support for Indigenous, skilled workers

 The Government of Ontario has announced that it is revamping an internship program that will create more opportunities for Indigenous peoples and address the skilled labour shortage across the province's North. Among the changes to the province's Northern Ontario Internship Program will be a removal of the requirement that applicants be recent university or college graduates. "Changes to the internship program ensure our government is well-positioned to assist northern employers in providing work experience to a broader range of interns," said Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford. "We are removing barriers to participation in the Northern Ontario Internship Program so that more organizations can provide on-the-job career development and address skilled labour shortages."




Manitoba First Nations hockey player signs contract with Florida Panthers

Brady Keeper, who played with the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard before going on to play for the University of Maine hockey team, has signed a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers.


Brady Keeper, 22, played for Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard

CBC News · Posted: Mar 19, 2019 5:00 AM CT | Last Updated: 5 hours ago
Brady Keeper, 22, has signed a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers. (Hockey East Association)

A Manitoban from Pimicikamak Cree Nation is headed to the National Hockey League.

Brady Keeper, who played with the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard before going on to play for the University of Maine hockey team, signed a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers.

"He's a skilled puck-moving defenceman," said Alfie Michaud, Keeper's coach at the University of Maine and a fellow Manitoban, from Selkirk. "He moves [the puck] quick, he thinks very quick, he's got a lot of upside to him because he's such a raw talent." 

Keeper, 22, has come a long way from where he started, Michaud said.

"It's bittersweet to see him go, because you see where he was and what he's become. But at the same time, at least you feel that you can keep helping him and grow."

News of Keeper's signing was met with an outpouring of support from folks back home. Michaud said a post on his Facebook page has received more than 1,000 comments.


"His community has been going through a lot of tough times here, probably within the last five years. And so to have him come from that community, I guess he's that beacon of hope for a lot of those kids," Michaud said.

Life away from home hasn't always been easy for Keeper, Michaud said. When he first arrived at the university, Michaud said, Keeper bought several plane tickets to fly back home, but always cancelled them, eventually maxing out his credit card.

"I think he did that three or four times in a five-day stretch," Michaud said, but he and the other coaches convinced Keeper to stay.


OCDSB to introduce Grade 11 English course with all-Indigenous reading list to more schools

A mandatory Grade 11 English course with an all-Indigenous reading list is spreading across the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, reports CBC. Inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and introduced by the OCDSB, the class reportedly seeks to "undo the damage caused by the country's residential school system." "It provides different perspectives for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students," said Jane Alexander, who oversees the secondary school curriculum for the School Board. "It's an opportunity for them to look at contemporary Canadian themes and literature that maybe they have not been able to do before." CBC notes that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action include mandatory age-appropriate curriculum on Indigenous history and residential schools from kindergarten to Grade 12. It also calls for the creation of a senior-level position in provincial and territorial governments dedicated to Indigenous content in education.

U of T's Office of Indigenous Initiatives looks to bolster cultural compentency with day-long workshops

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives at the University of Toronto is looking to fill in gaps in people's knowledge of Indigenous communities by offering day-long cultural competency training workshops across the university. "It's to make people realize that we all have different world views, different belief systems, different spiritual practices and different cultures," says John Croutch, a cultural competency training officer at the university. "These differences don't make someone less than. In fact, diversity adds to the value of our society by bringing different ideas into the mix." Croutch notes that one of the core aspects of the training is having people understanding the shifting history of settler-Indigenous relations in Canada. "And reconciliation, that's not our job," adds Croutch. "That's the rest of society's job. To gain the understanding and knowledge of the past and come to grips with why Indigenous people are in the socio-economic conditions they are in."

Saugeen First Nation, BWDSB sign new Education Services Agreement

The Saugeen First Nation and Bluewater District School Board have signed a new Education Services Agreement to ensure the continuation of student learning opportunities. The agreement is an extension to one that was previously made between the Nation and the Bruce County Board of Education. "Education is a vital component to the success of our young people's future," stated Saugeen First Nation Chief Lester Anoquot. "Bluewater District School Board recognizes the diverse community it serves, and I am pleased we will have a signed agreement going forward into our children's future. "Blackburn News reports that the agreement includes common services for all students, as well as additional programs and services or equipment to meet the needs of students from the First Naton. "In addition to our board's commitment to equity and inclusion and strong focus on promoting Indigenous education," added Alana Murray, BWDSB Director of Education, "we are constantly working towards our strategic goal of promoting confidence in our education system and encouraging partnerships."