Joanne Dallaire, Shadow Hawk Woman of the Wolf Clan, is Cree Omushkego with ancestry from Attawapiskat, Ontario. Joanne Dallaire is the Elder for the Aboriginal Education Council at Ryerson University, she continues in her role as Traditional Counselor for Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services and she is recognized as the Elder for Ryerson University. She has facilitated talking circles on behalf of the Council in areas such as University advancement in identifying how to create a respectful working relationship. Joanne also participated in the working group which created Ryerson’s first Aboriginal Knowledge and Experiences certificate. She speaks at variety campus wide events on a various of topics. As a traditional counselor, she counsels the faculty, staff and students, offering holistic support as well as providing Aboriginal students with the skills to be self-sufficient, strong, proud of their identities and in control of their goals and decisions. Joanne, through her business, Healing Works, works supporting Aboriginals with several agencies within Toronto, the YWCA, Queen West Community Health Centre, Toronto District School Board, Aboriginal Legal Services, Chiefs of Ontario, Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, the Dodem Kanonsha and maintains a private counselling practice. She mentors several women within our community. Joanne has received an Honorary Doctor of Laws in the Community Service Faculty at Ryerson University June 2011 in recognition of her life’s work.
Advocacy and Human Rights Award
Monica McKay, is a member of the Nisga’a Nation and is from Laxgalts’ap (Greenville), British Columbia. She is also a member of Wilps (house) Heewa’a, and of the Gisk’aast (Killerwhale) Pdeek (clan). Monica began as a student at the School of Social Work at Ryerson University. Through hard work and desire to create a safe space for Ryerson’s Aboriginal Student population, she created and built Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS) and was it’s first Coordinator. She sought out funding to expand RASS to the support hub that it is today. She was eventually promoted to Director, Aboriginal Initiatives. Monica’s respectful, caring approach has nurtured several students, colleagues, and Toronto’s Aboriginal community members towards success and self-empowerment.Monica has been active within the TDSB, Toronto Police Services as well as a committee looking at Aboriginal issues within the City of Toronto. Today she is a board member of the Toronto Birth Centre and also incoming Chair for the Aboriginal Reference group for the Council of Ontario Universities.
The Good Path Award
Christine Smith (McFarlane), Saulteaux from Peguis First Nation. Christine has overcome many obstacles in her life and has learned and developed strength from her cultural teachings and language. This has led to her being given her spirit name Misko Nootin Kwe, Anishnaabe for Red Wind Woman. Christine experienced a turbulent childhood as a product of the 60s-70s Scoop, impacting her mental and physical wellbeing into her adulthood. In 2005, Christine entered the Academic Bridging Program at the University of Toronto and enrolled part time at the university, while doing freelance work with First Nations media outlets and a work-study position at First Nations House, University of Toronto. It is through her writing that she has learned to heal and find her voice. The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health has recognized her person recovery with depression, anxiety disorders and eating disorders when she won the Transforming Lives Award in 2012.
Monica Forrester, Trans-woman from Curve Lake First Nation. Monica is very active in the LGBTQ2S community as the founder of Trans Pride Toronto-Transitioning Together, a non-profit agency working to better the lives of Trans people. She also coordinates a bi-monthly drum group for Aboriginal sex workers which is hosted by Maggie’s Toronto. She worked at The 519 for ten years, and currently works with Maggie’s and Elizabeth Fry in Toronto as outreach coordinator and a counselor. She has also worked with PWA Circle of Care, Sherbourne Health Bus and PASAN/Black Cap. She is very vocal for the rights of Sex workers, trans-women and marginalized women of colour, reflecting on her own life experiences online, in printed newspaper articles, or during one of her powerful speeches. Her work in harm reduction and sex work education are a great contribution and resource for the safety of Toronto’s sex worker community. Monica was also present as a speaker at several of the Sisters In Spirit Vigils held every October 4th at Allan Garden.
Challenger (Youth) Award
Cheyenne Squires, Anishnawbe Kwe from Neyasshiinigmiing (Cape Croker) Ontario. Cheyenne grew up on the Cape Croker reserve and moved to Toronto when she was 13 years old. She has been actively involved on different Councils since moving to Toronto, beginning with the One Nation in Unity Youth Council based out of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. Currently, she is employed with Native Child as Casual Relief Staff and she is also an Assistant to the Aboriginal Youth Employment and Skills Building Program AYESBP, a program which she had partaken in to obtain her GED. She is also a member of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto’s Youth Advisory Council and serves as the indigenous youth voice as a member of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games Youth Advisory Council. Cheyenne has shared her story with the United Way Winter Relief program, in hopes of communicating her tribulations as well as success with others, especially her Youth peers, who experience similar struggles. She wishes to become a Child and Youth Mental Health Worker.
Culture Keeper Award
Pauline Shirt, Plains Cree from Saddle Lake, Alberta. Pauline has been an active voice in Toronto’s Aboriginal community for over 40 years. She helped found Wandering Spirit Survival School (now known as First Nations School), and during the 80’s she was the Vice President of ‘Indian Rights for Indian Women’ which helped reinstate ‘Bill C31’ Indian Status to Native women who married Non-Native men. Currently, Pauline shirt dedicates her time between working at George Brown College Aboriginal Services, performing opening and closing prayers for Government and community events, as well as balancing her time between her family and community members. Pauline is well respected as an elder, a member of Three Fires Medewiwin Lodge and as the Buffalo Dance Society. Pauline shares her teachings, wisdom, and her heart with great humility and love.