Topic: Education

Dr. Vianne Timmons: Defender Of Native Education

Dr. Vianne Timmons is the seventh President and Chancellor of the University of Regina. She took over in 2008. Dr. Timmons has dedicated her life to education. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979 from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. A year later, she received a Bachelor of Education in Special Education from Acadia University in Nova Scotia. She began her teaching career in Alberta and British Columbia and earned a Master of Education at Spokane University in Spokane, Washington. In 1993, Dr. Timmons received her PhD in Education Psychology from the University of Calgary.

Vianne Timmons

Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor at University of Regina.

Over the years, her accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. She was named one of the “Ten Most Influential Women in Saskatchewan” and chosen as one of Canada’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women” four years in a row (2008 to 2011). In 2009, Dr. Timmons was honoured with the Canada Post Literacy Award, and the following year she received the Canadian Association for Community Living’s National Inclusive Education Award. In 2012, the Canadian Association for Education Psychology gave her the Carole Crealock Award, and she received a Humanitarian Award from The Red Cross in 2013. In 2014, she received the Senior Women Academic Administration of Canada Recognition Award for her leadership in promoting and supporting diversity within Canadian Academic institutions.

Vianne Timmons has always stood up for Native education. “Historically, Canada’s Aboriginal people have been underserved in terms of post secondary education,” Dr. Timmons explains. “That’s a sad and undeniable fact, but something that I have been changing—albeit more slowly than it should since the 1970’s. Many things have contributed to enhanced participation rates across Canada: better access, better funding, better supports. And something I would argue has helped was the creation at the University of Regina in 1976 of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, now First Nations University. FNUniv has played a leading role at the University of Regina, and indeed across Canada, in promoting and delivering post-secondary education for Aboriginal people. And just as importantly, FNUniv and the ReginaU have worked together to educate non-Aboriginal students about indigenous art, history, and culture. This has made our campus a more inclusive and diverse place, and I think it has set an example for other institutions in Canada.”

As president of the University of Regina, she made changes which have resulted in increased Aboriginal student enrolment. “In 2009, my first full year as President of the University of Regina, we launched a strategic plan that focused on many areas, including community partnerships, stabilizing enrolment, internationalization, and Indigenization of our University. In subsequent years, we had a great deal of success in these areas. Our strong focus on student success has resulted in consistent growth in enrolment over the past five years, including increasing our Aboriginal student population by 50% and doubling the number of international students on campus over that time.”

In 2014, Dr. Timmons implemented the peyak aski kikawinaw (Cree for “we are one with Mother Earth) strategy. “Our new 2105-2020 strategic plan, entitled Peyak Aski Kikawinaw, came together as a collaborative plan that was developed through extensive community engagement and inclusiveness. At it’s core, the plan is designed to support our vision for the University of Regina as a national leader in developing educated contributors, career-ready learners, and global citizens, and in generating meaningful, high-impact scholarship. Within the plan, we have identified three strategic priorities: Student Success, Research Impact and Commitment to our Communities. These will be crucial to the University’s success over the net five years and beyond.”

Dr. Timmons maintains active and wide-ranging research programs, with particular emphasis on literacy, learning, and inclusive education. Some of her research initiatives include developing a Canadian Research Network on Disability and Inclusion Indicators, studying the factors that affect the retention of Aboriginal students in university, and developing family literacy programs for rural families, Aboriginal communities, and newcomers to Canada, as well as exploring the connections between inclusive education and children’s health.

Under her direction, the number of Aboriginal students attending the University of Regina is possibly the highest in the country. “The demographics of our province certainly play a role in this, because Saskatchewan has a high population of Aboriginal people compared to many other provinces. At the University of Regina itself, we’ve worked very hard to ensure that the right supports are in place to foster the success of our Aboriginal students. In recent years, we have dramatically increased the number and value of scholarships and bursaries for Aboriginal students, developed mentorship programs for first-generation Aboriginal university student success, and created an Aboriginal Advisory Circle as well as an Executive Lead (Indigenization) position to further Indigenize our campus for the benefit of all students. So I would say there are many factors that have contributed to the fact that Aboriginal Students now make up 11% of the University of Regina student population. But in my mind, these factors all come together in one thing: acknowledging, respecting, and celebrating the fact that the University of Regina is situated on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 lands.”

The International Minerals Innovation Institute

The mining industry in Saskatchewan is blossoming. The province’s uranium mines produce 30% of the world’s uranium, which has created a multitude of jobs for people seeking employment in the mining industry. The jobs are in the high income bracket and demand specialized training for employees. The International Mineral Innovation Institute (IMII) is a college with a difference; they specialize in training students to work in the mining industry. The Institute wants skilled people to support Saskatchewan’s mining industry and to provide leadership and capacity building in the development programs, technical certificate, and undergraduate and post graduate programs to prepare students for the minerals industry.

International Mineral Institute_Jan2015

International Minerals Institute. Photo courtesy of Northlands College.

The Institute’s goal is to deliver sustainable capacity expansion for skills development through innovative education and training programs that can adjust to cycles in the market and developing technologies. Innovation is enhanced through research and development and knowledge transfer. The Institute wants to serve as a catalyst to address industry wide education, research issues, and opportunities and to attract and retain skilled people who can strengthen Saskatchewan’s industrial capacity and enhance industry sustainability.

IMII is working to close gaps between skills development and state of the art technologies through advanced education and training and innovative research and development. A strong emphasis on leadership from all participants is a catalyst for continuous improvement in safety, minimizing environmental impact, social responsibility, and financial prudence. IMII opened its doors in 2012. On the board of directors were Cameco, the University of Saskatchewan, and Innovation Saskatchewan, a rare partnership of corporation, university, and government. IMII’s long term goal is to position Saskatchewan to be the world’s most innovative and efficient minerals jurisdiction through excellent education and training and research development partnerships. These are lofty goals, but so far they have implemented all their promises, which means we can be optimistic about their future.

Gwendolyn Point To Be Next UFV Chancellor

Dr. Gwendolyn Point will be the new chancellor of the University of the Fraser Valley. Point will take over from Dr. Brian Minter, who was UFV’s first chancellor and served two terms stretching from 2008 to 2014. She will be installed as chancellor at a ceremony in the coming months. The new chancellor-elect has a connection to the Fraser Valley that stretches back decades. She started her engagement with what was then Fraser Valley College in the early 1980s when she and her husband Steven (former Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and now a B.C. provincial court judge) took university-level courses there.

Newly appointed Chancellor of University of the Fraser Valley, Gwendolyn Point.

Newly appointed Chancellor of University of the Fraser Valley, Gwendolyn Point.

From Fraser Valley College student to member of the University College of the Fraser Valley board of governors to UFV assistant professor, Point’s career and educational journey has paralleled the development of UFV from college to university. Her experience as Chatelaine of the Province of British Columbia (the title given to the spouse of the Lieutenant Governor) will serve her well as the ceremonial head of the university. Dr. Point will serve as a member of the Board of Governors and the Senate, as well as presiding over convocation conferring UFV degrees, diplomas, and certificates and serving as an ambassador for UFV at major events. “Ceremony plays a very important role in our community. It is a way of acknowledging and honouring both the person and everyone they are connected to. If you stand up to receive an honour it also lifts up your family and community.”

The chancellor is appointed by the UFV Board of Governors upon the recommendation of the Alumni Association and consultation with the UFV Senate. “The UFV Board of Governors is delighted to welcome Dr. Gwen Point as UFV’s next Chancellor,” said UFV Board Chair Barry Delaney. “Dr. Point has been part of UFV since our early days as Fraser Valley College. She knows us well and epitomizes our commitment to quality education, student success and regional development. We are extremely fortunate to have Gwen serve as UFV’s next Chancellor.”

“I am very pleased to be working with Dr. Point,” said UFV President and Vice-Chancellor Mark Evered. “She brings a unique balance of community and university experience, leadership, and understanding. She has served our university as a teacher, a scholar, an administrator, and a board member, has held a number of offices in government, including the senior office of Chatelaine, and is a passionate leader, mentor, and role model in our community. She will be an outstanding addition to UFV.”

Currently, Point is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at UFV and teaches First Nations Studies courses, including Stó:lō Nation Development and Stó:lō Communications and World View. She will be resigning her position as a faculty member at UFV in order to take on the voluntary chancellor role. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree from UBC, a post-baccalaureate diploma from SFU, and a Master of Education degree from the University of Portland and is near completion of a doctorate in education from SFU. She also holds an honorary Doctor of Education degree from the University of Victoria.

Point brings extensive teaching and educational leadership experience, from elementary to postsecondary, to her new role, as well as extensive government experience from her work with provincial ministries and her service as Chatelaine of BC. She is a respected Stó:lō leader, mentor, and cultural advisor. She has contributed her cultural knowledge and experience to numerous books, conferences, workshops, and communities, often as an invited keynote contributor. She has also received numerous prestigious awards over the course of her career.

“It is a real honour to be asked and a privilege to take on this role,” said Point, a member of the Skowkale First Nation who lives in Chilliwack. “I started my post-secondary education here, and I was very grateful for the access it provided at the time. It was wonderful to not have to leave home to get an education. It was a very special experience when I returned here to teach full time in 2005. Now becoming chancellor and playing a leadership role at UFV sends a message that dreams do come true and good things do happen.”

She said that she will miss teaching and the opportunity it provided to pass on knowledge about Stó:lō culture and history to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. “My grandmother told me that what you know has no value. It’s like sand in your hand unless you pass it on to others. I know that teaching the community about the Stó:lō people has made a difference, and I really believe that it is an act of reconciliation. It is helping to create a better understanding of recent history. Every class, I would see a shift and transformation in the students.” Point added that becoming Chancellor will allow her to continue to provide leadership and mentorship to young people. “My elders said that your greatest teaching method is one of example. You can’t do anything directly about others’ choices, but you can help by setting an example. I feel blessed to have the opportunity.”

Outgoing Chancellor Brian Minter also has a strong connection to the University of the Fraser Valley. He was named UFV’s first Chancellor when UFV received university status in 2008. He also taught night school courses in horticulture in the 1980s and was chair of the Board of Governors when Fraser Valley College was transformed into a degree-granting university college in 1991. He is a donor to UFV and hands-on supporter of the UFV agriculture program. Minter was granted an honorary Doctor of Technology degree from UFV (then UCFV) in 2001.

“The UFV Board of Governors offers heartfelt thanks to our outgoing chancellor, Dr. Brian Minter,” said board chair Barry Delaney. “His decades of service to the university as teacher, board member, donor, advocate, and Chancellor have in no small way shaped UFV into the outstanding university it is today.” UFV president Mark Evered said, “It was an honour to work with Chancellor Minter. His passion and dedication to UFV has created an outstanding legacy of excellence and community connection. I have learned a great deal from Brian, and I am forever grateful for his mentorship, guidance, and friendship throughout my tenure as UFV president.”

Outgoing chancellor Minter called working with staff and students at UFV “an absolute privilege” and welcomed Dr. Point to the new position. “The values and culture of UFV, as well as its mission to become one of the best undergraduate universities in Canada, make UFV a very special place and one with an amazing future. This university has touched many lives and provided opportunities for so many people in the Fraser Valley, and indeed around the world. The education they have received at our university has added incredible value not only to their future prospects but also to our communities and our country. The success of our students will be UFV’s ongoing legacy, and I’m so appreciative of having played a small part in this unique journey. I will always be a strong supporter of UFV in any way I can. The appointment of Gwen Point as our new chancellor is brilliant, and we will all benefit greatly from this new relationship. I wish her and everyone at UFV continued success.”

Alliance Pipeline Aboriginal Student Awards Program

Alliance Pipeline Aboriginal Student Awards Program

“Education is really about making yourself employable. The more education you get, the better the job you’re going to get,” says Chief Clarence Louie. Alliance Pipeline has cultivated a strong working relationship with First Nations and strongly believes that a productive and positive relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal People is one of the key components of its long-term business and responsible growth. They also believe the best way to help Aboriginal communities build a bright future is to contribute to the personal growth and education of Aboriginal youth today. That’s why the Alliance Pipeline Aboriginal Student Awards Program provides scholarships to Aboriginal students pursuing post secondary education.
Every year, up to 30 Aboriginal students pursuing post-secondary education are awarded up to $2,000 to the cost of their tuition. Students must be members of an Aboriginal band from British Columbia, Alberta, or Saskatchewan. They must be already accepted to a technical school, college, or university program. Applicants are chosen based on relevancy of the program to the oil and gas industry, career aspirations, demonstrated community involvement, and academic merit.

Jessie Ramsay is one of the recipients of the Alliance Pipeline Aboriginal Award. She graduated from UBC Law in May 2014. She completed her undergraduate degree at UBC, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in psychology and minoring in First Nations Studies. While at UBC, she held executive positions with the student body at large as well as within the Indigenous Law Student’s Association.

“My long term goals are to connect with the various Aboriginal communities in BC and represent the rights of Aboriginal people through my position in the Justice system,” Jessie said. “As a near future lawyer, I know that within this role I carry great responsibility and have the opportunity to help those that have been historically and currently marginalized, as well as engage in economic development where it is appropriate. I think it is important not only to be aware of the colonial past of Aboriginal people but also to engage in the current and future opportunities available.”

Jessie’s advice to students: “Do what you are passionate about. Also work hard; if it was easy, everyone would do it.” She is also grateful for the assistance she received from Alliance Pipeline. “Receiving the Alliance pipeline Aboriginal Award significantly impacted my ability to attend one of this country’s top institutions for 8 years, that being UBC. Their continual support, not only financially but morally as well, encouraged me to continue moving forward. I owe a lot to Alliance Pipeline.”

Students interested must apply before the deadline which is July 1st. The program application and information are available online at

Brinkman Forest Ltd. Contributes to SFU’s Executive MBA in Aboriginal Business and Leadership Program

For over a decade Brinkman Forest Ltd. has been fortunate enough to work with First Nations communities in northwest British Columbia, forming strong partnerships that create value and spur economic development in the region. Traditionally these partnerships focused on the management of forest resources, which remains the core of what Brinkman Forest Ltd. offers its clients today. However with the changing resource landscape in British Columbia, our partnerships are now navigating new economic opportunities related to proposed natural gas pipelines. Should these projects get approved, our partnerships are positioned to maximize both the employment of Aboriginal people and the involvement of First Nations-owned businesses, while implementing innovative approaches to mitigate environmental impacts. Brinkman Forest Ltd. is grateful to be a part of the learning and discovery that is implicit in shaping an improved economic reality for the region and we look forward to continuing to add value to our existing partnerships and to forging new ones in the future.

As a way of contributing to the future successes of Aboriginal businesses and the professionals who lead them, Brinkman Forest Ltd. has provided financial support to the Executive MBA in Aboriginal Business and Leadership program offered at Simon Fraser University. This program will help students develop skills and expertise required to lead successful businesses, which in turn increases income independence and control over traditional territories.

Brinkman Forest Ltd. would like to wish the best of luck to all current and prospective students of the Executive MBA in Aboriginal Business and Leadership program, as you build the skills for a successful future.

Brinkman Forest Ltd. Contributes to SFU’s Executive MBA in Aboriginal Business and Leadership Program

Good heart, good mind, good feelings

Elder Butch Dick, Songhees, offers a welcome, in Na’tsa’maht, Camosun’s Aboriginal Gathering Place

VICTORIA, BC – With traditional drumming, singing, dancing, and food, Camosun unveiled the new name and purpose for its Aboriginal Education department: Eyēʔ Sqȃ’lewen – Centre for Indigenous Education and Community Connections.

“Eyēʔ Sqȃ’lewen – pronounced Eye. Sh-KWAW-leh-win – is a term offered to the college by Lkwungen Elder Elmer George,” explained Indigenous Education Co-Leader Janice Simcoe. “It references ‘good heart, good mind, good feelings’ – the experiences we want students to have during their journey here.”

Along with the new name, Simcoe explained how the new model is based on the Camas flower, which has always been important to local Indigenous people as a staple food and trading item, and which also is a symbol of beauty and survival. The six petals represent the six purposes of the new Centre: services to students, community connections, courses and programs, special projects, Indigenization and research. Students are at the centre of the petals, the roots represent Indigenous knowledge and caring and the stems provide the relationships that hold it all together.

The naming ceremony took place September 26 in Na’tsa’maht, Camosun’s Aboriginal Gathering Place at the Lansdowne campus. More than 200 people witnessed the celebrations which included prayers, songs, dancing and words of welcome, and concluded with a traditional gifting ceremony and a meal that included barbeque salmon and bannock.

Camosun has been providing education for First Nations/Aboriginal students and communities since the 1970s but significant growth began in 1991 when the college formed a First Nations Advisory Council and hired a full-time First Nations Coordinator. Since then, the Aboriginal student population has grown from 125 to more than 1,000 Aboriginal students from 50 different Nations.

Camosun is now recognized as a provincial leader in Indigenous education, service, programming and community engagement. Camosun offers 10 different Indigenous-specific programs from Indigenous Studies to Indigenous Business Leadership, in addition to strong partnerships with the Indigenous areas of the University of Victoria, Royal Roads University and other organizations on Vancouver Island. The Camosun College Student Society also supports an Aboriginal student events and advocacy group called the First Nations Student Association.

Territorial Acknowledgement

Camosun College serves the communities of southern Vancouver Island and the south Gulf Islands located in the traditional territories of the Lkwungen (Esquimalt and Songhees), Malahat, Pacheedaht, Scia’new, T’Sou-ke and W̱SÁNEĆ (Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Swawout, Tseycum) peoples. We acknowledge their welcome and graciousness to the students who seek knowledge here. The college’s name “Camosun” (pronounced Cam-O-sun) is originally a Lkwungen name for an area of Victoria “where different waters meet and are transformed.”

First Nations Students To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro


“As you know, we have various stereotypes in our community of inner-city east side teenagers, of Aboriginal youth, of alternate-program students, etc. And some of our students have internalized these stereotypes; we start to believe the stereotypes. For example, we start to believe that inner city students and First Nations students have lower graduation rates.

Actually, if we look beyond the superficial statistics and adjust for the effects of class and income, our students have among the highest grad rates (all things considered) and are among the most resilient students in the city. So, us teachers are forever looking for ways to challenge the stereotypes—it’s in our professional blood. The other stereotype is that alt-program kids are not quite as good or able as regular-program students. This is silly. We all learn differently, and we are all unique. But communities define and self-define ourselves. In this case, alt-program kids define themselves as ‘on the margins’ and they ‘look in’ on mainstream/regular-program students. We want to shift the margin to the center of achievement; we want the students on the ‘margins’ to achieve something that no other public school kid has ever achieved. We feel that this kind of transformative experience is what public education should really be all about; in fact, it is what public education is about,” says Andrew Schofield, vice-principal of Britannia Secondary.


Several Native students attending the Streetfront Alternative school at Britannia Secondary have been selected to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The trip is the first in a series of expeditions that the Street2Peak students will participate in over the next decade. The purpose of the trips is to give disadvantaged students an opportunity to share their stories of struggle and success with the rest of the world. Kilimanjaro was chosen because of its size and scope. The trip had to be of such significance that the world would take notice of their accomplishments. The students would learn that it doesn’t matter where you come from; it matters where you go.

Vice-Principal Andrew Schofield was responsible for choosing the destination. “It would be pointless to simply go to Tanzania, climb the mountain, and come back. Near Kili is the town of Moshi. What if we did volunteer work at an AIDS orphanage? The Serengeti plains are quite close, along with Olduvai George, the Cradle of Humanity. Perhaps we should try to expose our students to these sites of great ancestral resonance. Lastly, a short flight/bus ride from the Serengeti/Moshi/Kilimanjaro area is Dar-es-Salaam and the Slave Forts of East Africa. This was the site of one of humanity’s great tragedies: the center of the slave trade and the great African Diaspora. Our students, representatives of a colonizer and colonized family histories, would surely benefit from travel to these sites. The education that really shakes up our kids and our communities must start with a dream. Our dream is to really transform the lives of these students and their families. One way to do that is by putting them on top of Kilimanjaro and on the Serengeti.”

Most of the students headed for Kilimanjaro have not had the opportunity to travel anywhere; taking an airplane will be a new experience. Alannah Wong, one of the students making the trip, told the Vancouver Sun, “I think this trip to Mount Kilimanjaro is not just sending a couple of kids from the alternative school to go to Africa. We’re actually showing people you can rise up above whatever’s going on in your life.” The trip will last 19 days (seven days on Kilimanjaro, three nights on the Serengeti, five days of volunteering in an AIDS orphanage, three days in Dar-es-Salaam). The trip will make an impression on the students, and Schofield believes it will help the students on many levels down the road. “Self perceptions changed, inter-generational transfer of narratives of despair and defeat disrupted, vision of self worth and agency emerges. We can already see these transformations occurring among the students as they meet fundraising targets ($24,000 raised at first Family fun run event thanks to community support) and fitness targets set by Streetfront.”

Britannia Secondary has been very sensitive to Aboriginal issues. Their administration deserves recognition for coming up with original and ground breaking solutions for Aboriginal education. Last year, 24 out of 26 Aboriginal students graduated thanks to the assistance of private mentors, and now Aboriginal students are getting ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. “To take away a man’s hope is the cruelest of evils,” Winston Churchill once said, but to give people whose souls have been trampled on not only hope but also a sense of self and a belief that anything is possible if you truly want it is a major contribution.

Vancouver School Helping Aboriginal Students Graduate

Britannia Secondary School

The number of Aboriginal students attending post secondary institutions, university, or college has been on the rise for several years. Unfortunately, it is still far short of what the numbers should be, and the solution seems to have eluded Native leaders and education ministers. The most obvious problem that has prevented Aboriginal students from moving on to post secondary is the low percentage of Aboriginal students who actually graduate from high school. A shocking 40% of Aboriginal people in Canada did not finish high school, according to a report from TD economists Francis Fong and Sony Gulati. “There is a crying need to boost high school completion rates.”

The Vancouver School Board started a project last year that might increase the number of Aboriginal students who make it through high school. The VSB started helping students on a personal level, students like Gerald Angus who was having problems but was given assistance. “They make sure I’m always attending class and I’m always working.” The school calls home if Gerald is absent, and teachers and counsellors work with him to make sure he passes courses that are problematic.

In 2013, the Vancouver School Board looked at 26 Aboriginal students from the Britannia Secondary School, which has a high Aboriginal population with poor marks in certain courses and who were destined to not graduate. The students were given special assistance from teachers and counsellors who made sure they were ready for the tests. Personal problems were discussed, rides to school were arranged, and a lot of diligent work and a will to succeed resulted in 24 of the 26 students graduating.

Special care can make a huge difference when it comes to Aboriginal students. “Every individual has a different story,” Superintendent and chief executive officer of the school district Steve Cardwell told the Globe and Mail, “and we need to be attuned to that individual story to ensure that they are successful, rather than trying to provide blanket support that can sometimes be hit and miss.” The personal support approach should be adopted by schools across the country or given special priority, but it may solve only part of the problem. “The first priority should be on much-expanded pre-kindegarten, early childhood and early primary in schools-reserve and provincial with high Aboriginal student cohorts,” Simon Fraser Professor John Richards told the Globe and Mail. “It can make quite a difference.”

Warren Williams, an Aboriginal education worker at Britannia Secondary School, has noticed the powerful effects of the personal approach of the Britannia staff and the support that was generated to make it happen. “It focused people’s work, energy, and attention throughout the district. It’s about regaining that trust. It’s a slow process but the more people are working towards it, the quicker the process will happen, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Aboriginal Police Officer Desiree Craig


A police career is a high calling, one that demands total commitment, strong will, and a cultivated sense of discipline to live up to the expectations of police departments in every major city of Canada. Vancouver has more than the usual crime problems such as homicide, theft, gangs, and drugs. The city is home to people of many ethnicities, with large Asian and Indian populations as well as three First Nation Reserves within the city. The VPD has done an excellent job recruiting police officers from Asian, Indian, and Aboriginal backgrounds to enable better communication and ensure that issues within the different communities are dealt with sensitively.

Desiree Craig is of Métis descent. She was born in Renfrew Ontario and spent some time in Alberta before coming to Vancouver. From an early age, she wanted to help people, and by the time she was 15, Desiree had set her sights on a police career. She studied criminology at Quantlen Polytechnic and prepared to join the Vancouver Police Department. It was not the easiest decision in her life because of domestic problems that had plagued her childhood. “I had to leave my biological family and most of my friends behind. They were either bad role models, into drugs, or had drinking problems. I knew I could not be associated with them, especially with wanting to be an officer. I made the best choice of my life by leaving, and it was healthy. I don’t regret any of it.”

Her career has just started but she knows she is on the right track. She has received support from her fellow officers and enjoys her work. “I don’ t know if I can make a change. I know I want to help people. A lot of the population in the Downtown Eastside are Aboriginals. I can relate to them, as I’ve had to live through physical and mental abuse just like some of them have. So I would be approaching them on a level of understanding. I could tell them that there is more to life and they do not need to have limits on their aspirations. If I can change just one person’s life in my career, it will make everything worth it.”

Desiree’s offers this advice to anyone who is thinking of a career in the VPD. “Honestly, any program they want to take will be fine. A lot of people take criminology, but that isn’t necessary. Psychology degrees are good. Sociology and any programs that will interest them, they should take. There is also the Aboriginal Cadet Program, which is aimed at mentoring and coaching Aboriginal youths from 19 to 29 years who have demonstrated a desire to become police officers with the VPD. The cadet program runs through the summer, and selected students are exposed to many aspects of policing, including ride-alongs. The program is not on a volunteer office; students are paid a salary for attending the program.”

Dolly Parton Foundation And First Nations Launch Preschool Literacy Project In Manitoba

Draven Campbell

Representatives from Manitoba First Nations communities, public foundations, the private sector, and government gathered at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg on September 25th to announce a province-wide effort to provide Aboriginal pre-school kids across the province with free monthly books for five years from a US-based foundation run by legendary country superstar Dolly Parton.

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the Dollywood Foundation will provide a new, age-appropriate book each month for every child (ages 1 to 5) enrolled in the program in 55 of the 63 First Nations of the province. Each child will receive a book on the third week of each month, addressed in their name from Canada Post. Right now, the total stands at about 10,000.

The province-wide strategy was initiated by early childhood development worker Karen Davis of the Ebb and Flow First Nation in 2003 when Davis took a 45-hour bus ride to Nashville to watch Inuk hockey player Jordin Tootoo play his debut NHL game with the Nashville Predators on October 3, 2003. While in Nashville, Davis visited the Dollywood Foundation and told them of her desire to start a literacy program for preschool Aboriginal children in Manitoba. The chance meeting initiated the formation of a local First Nations steering committee to oversee the effort and at least nine trips to Canada by David Dodson, who is now secretary of the Dollywood Foundation of Canada. “This has been a long time coming, and I’m thrilled this day has finally arrived. But this is only the beginning,” said Davis.

Support for the province-wide effort has been led by the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, with significant financial contributions from the Winnipeg Foundation, Hugo Munro Construction, and the Frontier School Division, adding up to about $1 million. Another $250,000 in additional funds is needed to secure support for the eight remaining First Nations communities for the five-year distribution period.

There are plans to add culturally specific books printed and distributed by the First Nations Education Resource Centre as well and an initiative to enhance current efforts to inspire parents to become more involved with the education of their pre-school children. Davis sees this as a natural progression of the program because the books are addressed to the children themselves as they build their own personal libraries. “I hear from parents all the time. These children are so excited because they know these books belong to them, and they know Dolly Parton sent them. It’s like it’s their birthday on the third week of each month,” said Davis. “This will plant a strong seed for family literacy,” Davis continued. “In our communities, we don’t have libraries or access to pre-school books, so this gives us an opportunity to promote literacy, language, and learning.”

The first book the children will receive is I am a Rainbow, signed by Dolly Parton herself, and the last book they receive is Look out Kindergarten, Here I Come, completing a personal library of 60 books. In Canada, the Dollywood Foundation’s efforts focus on rural and isolated communities and includes a territory-wide program in the Yukon and a large program in Fort McMurray, AB. “We’re hoping that what is happening in Manitoba will have a ripple effect in other provinces that they can replicate,” said Davis.

Davis said the success of the program lies in the low cost of the books. Each book costs just $3.80, including shipping. “That’s the gift of the program. It’s very easy to replicate,” said Davis. Since it’s founding in 1988, the Dollywood Foundation has provided over 50 million books to children in the USA, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada. Find more information at [].