As stated in the report from the MMIW Indigenous women must reclaim their power and place within the homelands of their peoples. This is the homeland we now call Canada. This is where they have been marginalized, silenced and violated in every way imaginable. The report tells us to recognize the persistent and continued deliberate attacks against Indigenous women at staggering rates. As a result, the MMIW Report has 231 Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians. It is our responsibility to shed some light on these recommendations and do our part to address these issues. We will stand behind, nurture and support Indigenous women as they step into roles of leadership as we know unresolved historical tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples will continue to play out in our workspaces. Our hope is to improve these relationships by illuminating the voices of Indigenous women. Therefore, Grassroots News is happy to welcome Rebecca Chartrand as regular columnist who will write about the hopes, dreams, challenges, insights and aspirations of Indigenous women.
Indigenous women are beginning to emerge as leaders across from the country. Emerging from the grassroots to into all industry sectors, including business, government, academia and non-profit. They are using their life experience and their success to illuminate the issues, challenges and aspirations of Indigenous peoples. It is our job to listen as they shed light on where we must yet journey if we are ever to protect our women let alone achieve reconciliation within this country.
Grassroots is committed to doing its part, we will celebrate Indigenous women and their efforts to rebuild families, communities and our nations. They are stepping into spaces that may not be ready for their courage and commitment to change. They will be challenged, they will have to be bold, and in some cases, they may be silenced as we have seen in the case with Jodi Wilson-Raybould, former Minister of Justice who was at odds with the Prime Minister of Canada. There are many perspectives on what happened and it’s important we give the space and time to gain insight of these experiences. Lynn Lavallee another Indigenous woman resigned from her position as vice-provost of Indigenous engagement at the University of Manitoba citing racism and challenging behaviors as a major issue. At the same time, we want to celebrate the accomplishments of Indigenous women like Rosanna Deerchild who recently won The Medium and the Light Award of the Marshall McLuhan Institute for her work in radio and poetry or Sheila North-Wilson who was the first female Grand Chief for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
It is our commitment to stand behind Indigenous women, to recognize their rightful place as leaders amongst our Nations, communities, organizations and our families. Today we are celebrating Rebecca Chartrand, Executive Director of Indigenous Strategy. In 28 months at the College she has been able to produce outstanding results during a period of restructuring of the School of Indigenous Education at Red River College. Under Rebecca leadership she achieved a great deal in a short period of time. We are celebrating an unprecedent 1.4-million-dollar bursary fund she created to cover tuition and books for Indigenous students. She was able to grow Indigenous Student Supports from 41-60 staff, and in addition uplifted six Indigenous women into the next level of their careers through the creation of new positions, including the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Training position and the creation of an Indigenous HR Consultant position.
Rebecca was able to launch seven new programs to ensure Indigenous students can grow into all Industry sectors. These efforts brought national attention to Red River College. George Brown College in Toronto conducted a national review of Truth and Reconciliation and Anti-Racism/Diversity efforts of post-secondary institutes across Canada and stated, “Red River College is the exemplar to follow”. The report entitled, Dibaajimowin, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, creates College benchmarks highlighting Red River College as the Case Study. Jennifer Lewington a writer for MacLean’s 2020 Colleges Guidebook also highlights the work at Red River College where they feature 101 school profiles and more than 250 cool programs. This of course is a demonstration of Rebecca’s leadership.
We need strong Indigenous leadership in all areas and sectors of this country. We must stand behind them, with them and allow them to tell their stories. Indigenous women are the heart and soul of our nations, they are the truth tellers, the bridge builders and our life givers. And for this we honour them with this column.