January 6, 2014 From the President

Philanthropy’s Role in Facing Canada’s Challenges: Partnership Building with Aboriginal Youth

As we begin this New Year 2014, we also begin a year in which we intend to foster more active sharing of perspectives and ideas on philanthropy’s role in addressing the challenges of Canada in the 21st century. This is the overarching theme that we have adopted to shape our program for our next biennial conference, being held this time in Halifax from Oct 20 to 22, 2014. We expect at this conference to feature stimulating discussions on the social challenges we face as a country, and on philanthropy’s active role in finding new approaches and catalysing change.

One of the challenges we are certain we must confront today is that of ensuring the healthy development into adulthood of aboriginal youth. The demographics alone tell us that young aboriginal people are one of the fastest growing part of our population. Socio-economic data tell us that this population is also confronting significant barriers to education, housing, employment and good health. Historically, this challenge has been one for governments alone to face. But more and more, private philanthropy in Canada is stepping up.

In December, Stephen Huddart and Erin Montour of the J.W.McConnell Family Foundation wrote, in an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail: “This is what reconciliation [with aboriginal peoples] in Canada should be about – the creation of a partnership society that builds on the best of all cultures. The philanthropic and community sectors, which do not have a long history of engagement with indigenous people in Canada, have an important role to play. Through true partnership, we can change the statistics. This is about all of us, and the kind of country we want to build together.”

The McConnell Foundation and other private foundations such as the Counselling Foundation of Canada and the Muttart Foundation as well as the Vancouver Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation have taken a leadership role in fostering the engagement of philanthropic players as partners with aboriginal communities and organizations through the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada These foundations and all of us indeed have been made more aware through the actions and voices of aboriginal youth, in such movements as Idle No More, of the challenges and the opportunities for partnership. As Stephen and Erin eloquently put it, “a generation of indigenous and non-indigenous young people envision a better future for themselves and future generations. As Canada moves from a narrative of past failure to one of future possibilities, it is critical that we give more attention and support to these young leaders and the partnerships that sustain them.” Exciting examples of such partnerships are described in the e-publication from McConnell, Leading Together: Indigenous Youth in Community Partnership. These are stories of hope and respect to set against the media stories of neglect and disappointment in aboriginal communities, and a positive beginning to our consideration of philanthropy’s opportunity in 2014.

1 Comment

  • Bernadette Dean
    on March 18, 2014 Reply

    As an aboriginal Inuk (Inuit) woman reading this gives me hope; for too long this beautiful country of Canada has remained quiet about “past failures”, it has been devastating but we are a resilient people (one by one) and positive change can happen when we come to an understanding, mutual respect & trust go hand in hand, if we want a stronger Canada with a future of possibilities, we have to start some where.

    Growing up in Nunavut/NWT born to Inuktitut speaking only parents and attending English only school/education leaves one not valuing our native tongue as much as English, it sends a message to self that our native language is not as important as English, and it leads to confusion and question of identity.

    Bernadette Dean misleads many to think that I am not aboriginal but when you see me you would know I don’t look like a “Canadian” I always say it’s my Canadian name, I have 3 Inuit traditional names.

    Thank you for your vision on reconciliation.

Add comment