Yearly Archives: 2015



Vancouver 2015: Same City, Different Angle

Despite everything I was told in advance, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised in Vancouver.

 The fourth of our five fellowship conferences was held in Vancouver, the city where I’ve lived and worked for more than a decade. The excitement about coming to Vancouver was palpable among many of my fellow cohort members, some of whom had never been to Vancouver. And despite travelling just 2 blocks from my apartment to the hotel, I learned that no matter how much you think you know about your own city, an Action Canada conference in your hometown will show you something new.

 We spent a Friday afternoon in early November visiting Discovery Parks, a hub for technology companies. We visited HootSuite, one of the world’s leading social media companies. And we capped it off with dinner at Sai Woo, a new restaurant in Chinatown.

 The opportunity to hear my city described by others made the conference just as new and interesting as if it was in a city I’d never visited. The way that start-up investors used different words than I would to describe Vancouver’s economic opportunities. Employees of HootSuite speaking about their company, contrasting with how local media describe them. Even the bus trip to Chinatown was a new experience, as the driver took different routes and turns than how I would navigate the city on foot. The result was seeing the same buildings, the same landscapes but from different angles.

 The city’s ability to change, to evolve, and the excitement among people who are trying to build something locally – all of it was on display at that afternoon. I’ve lived here for 14 years, but it was a good reminder that while we often seek out new opportunities and ideas from afar, there are plenty of layers to peel back right at home.

-Kevin Quinlan, ’15

photo credit: Kyle Lawrence

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Dec 8th, 2015
8 Dec 2015



Labrador 2015: The Language of Our Ancestors

Nakuumik, the Innuktitut word for thank you. This is the first of many Innuktitut words I learned during our time in the North. While in Labrador, Fellows learned about Inuit culture, identity and heritage, and the important role that language plays in their preservation. We heard from older Inuit about the challenges of maintaining the language and ensuring its propagation, and from younger Inuit about how learning the language of their ancestors connected them to their community and heritage.

This struggle really speaks to me as it’s one that I live in my own life. Although I spoke it growing up, I’ve almost entirely lost the ability to speak my Indian dialect, Kuchi, the only language my grandmother spoke. And yet, in Nain, the Inuit have come up with an incredibly innovative way of protecting the language that is such a fundamental part of their culture and identity. They recognized the need to adopt new technologies and harness new media for their benefit, and developed a Rosetta Stone CD-ROM language program teaching tool for Innuktitut.

We met Rita Anderson, a Nain elder, who dedicated three years of her time and painstaking effort to creating and perfecting the CD-ROM language program, thanks to funding received from the Government of Nunatsiavut. Rita was instrumental in the development of this CD-ROM, which is now used in the communities and schools of Nain and other Inuit towns along the coast of Labrador, to teach and revitalize the language. The once-endangered Innuktitut language has found new life. Using an innovative technique, the Nunatsiavut government has taken tangible steps to preserve, protect, promote and propagate their traditional language. Now, granddaughters will be able to speak to their grandparents in the language of their ancestors.

– Ayesha Harji, ’15

photo:  Action Canada Fellows with students in Nain

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Oct 26th, 2015
26 Oct 2015



Labrador 2015: Lessons Learned from the Inuit of Nunatsiavut

Resilience, warmth, leadership.  These words come to mind when I recall the Labrador Inuit we met during our latest Action Canada working conference. Like the rugged, beautiful landscape we trekked, the Inuit of Nunatsiavut shared their immense beauty of spirit despite the daily challenges they face.

What we saw and heard was striking. Our time in Nain with members of the Nunatsiavut Government, and workers in their one and only medical clinic, revealed barriers to health unheard of for most Canadians.

Imagine living in a community where the closest obstetrical or palliative care is an hour away by plane. Imagine your family nearly twice as likely to suffer from diabetes, and five times more likely to struggle for enough food than the average Canadian. Here, Inuit youth are 30 times more likely to take their own lives than youth in the rest of Canada. Life expectancy is decades too low.

Lack of housing, lingering effects of residential schools, domestic violence, and geographical isolation all pose challenges to health care – a reality we can’t ignore.

Yet the Nunatsiavut Government is fighting back. Rec centres and programmes getting youth back to the land are emerging. Local role models are leading the way with resilience and creative innovation to transform a community from within.

Nakkumek, Labrador – thank you — for this lifetime of lessons I took away after a few short days in your presence. I hope we can all understand how to give back to you to make an even stronger and healthier Canada.

-Jane Thornton, ’15

Photo:  Jenny Merkuratsuk, Hebron National Historic Site

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Oct 11th, 2015
11 Oct 2015



Winnipeg 2015: À force de conviction

Comment peut-on réconcilier l’ouverture du Musée canadien pour les droits de la personne (MCDP) et l’affirmation dans l’hebdomadaire Maclean’s que sa ville d’origine, Winnipeg, serait supposément la plus raciste au Canada? En juin dernier, l’équipe d’Action Canada a eu l’occasion de rencontrer des Winnipégois passionnés de leur ville, nous guidant dans une riche réflexion.

Visite essentielle lors d’un passage dans la capitale manitobaine, le MCDP est le premier musée national construit à l’extérieur d’Ottawa. Rêve du regretté Israel Asper, cette institution unique au monde ne laisse personne indifférent. Autant de par son contenu que son contenant.

Clou d’une journée singulièrement orchestrée, notre visite du musée fût précédée par une rencontre avec Wab Kinew, polymathe et charismatique défenseur des Premières nations, puis une présentation par Moe Levy, directeur exécutif de la Fondation Asper. Deux leaders exceptionnels, mais ô combien différents, ils nous ont offert une leçon sur la persévérance.

Wab Kinew est né dans le nord-ouest ontarien sur le Traité no. 3. Bien qu’issu de la classe moyenne, il a reconnu avoir été victime d’intimidation raciale durant son enfance au Manitoba. Personnalité médiatique inévitable, il utilise habilement toute tribune qui s’offre à lui pour transmettre le savoir et la sagesse des peuples autochtones. À 33 ans, il a déjà été pressenti pour un jour diriger l’Assemblée des  Premières Nations.

Moe Levy, avec Gail Asper, a guidé le lobby menant à la création du MCDP. Pendant des années, il a arpenté les couloirs du parlement canadien, expliqué l’impact que ce musée aurait sur Winnipeg, et rencontré les grands mécènes canadiens. Le résultat fût exceptionnel. Le parlement canadien adopta à l’unanimité un amendement à la Loi sur les musées en faveur de l’établissement du MCDP à La Fourche, lieu ancestral de rencontre des Premières nations et lieu historique national. Et ce, tout en récoltant 150 millions de dollars en fonds privés.

Le MCDP représente Winnipeg. Complexe, transparent, généreux, controversé,  indissociable de ses origines et – surtout – en évolution. Ce que son équipe en fera, autant par le choix des expositions que les programmes éducatifs développés, déterminera l’importance réelle de cette institution. Par contre, comme Wab Kinew et Moe Levy, le musée a déjà réussi à s’imposer comme une force de changement incontournable pour Winnipeg.

– Simon Gamache, ’15

Le Musée canadien des droits de la personne, vue de l’Esplanade Riel  surplombant la Rivière Rouge à Winnipeg

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Jul 31st, 2015
31 Jul 2015



Winnipeg 2015: Skirt Mafia

So, what is the Skirt Mafia?

Action Canada recently had the privilege of spending the day with Diane Roussin, Project Director of the Winnipeg Boldness Project.

While hosting us at the Project’s site, Diane provided an overview of the innovative governance structures guiding the work of the Project to address gaps in early childhood development programming in the Point Douglas area of Winnipeg’s North End.

I was immediately overtaken by the headway Diane was describing. One question kept replaying in my mind “HOW?!” How was this project funded? How was this project maneuvering between jurisdictions? How did this project get the funders to agree to a First Nations led approach? I’ll tell you how – the Skirt Mafia.

The leadership demonstrated by this group of seven women, the Skirt Mafia, is inspiring. I was nearly brought to tears listening to her talk and learning that, through effective leadership, the Skirt Mafia had built collaborative relationships with the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba.

We learned of the incredible work this leadership has made way for, including a community service of volunteers that take on a variety of roles, from protecting young girls to needle pickup; a First Nations/Inuit/Metis foster parent system of 200 foster families; and commitment by the province for new housing in the North End.

As a First Nations woman and working for the Federal Government in First Nations and Inuit health, I live and breathe the good and bad realities that my community faces. It’s not easy, but it’s leadership like the Skirt Mafia’s that is leading the change on the ground, inspiring me to continue advocating for innovative change reflective of the needs of our clients.

-Pamela Wolfe-Roberge, ’15

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Jul 20th, 2015
20 Jul 2015

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