Slaight Family Foundation pledges $12M to Support Indigenous Peoples over Five Years

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Canada’s forthcoming sesquicentennial celebrations may be fraught for aboriginal peoples, but one event from 2017 will be remembered as an across-the-board win for all. The Slaight Family Foundation has pledged more than $12 million over five years to 15 not-for-profit organizations working to improve the physical, mental and social lives of Canada’s Indigenous populations at every stage, from childhood through student years and into adulthood.

Moreover, the donation — one of the largest aimed at Indigenous communities in Canadian history — will help buttress the $8.4-billion committed in 2016’s federal budget to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous peoples over five years.

“Indigenous people throughout Canada need support – from within their communities and without – in order to thrive and I believe we all have a responsibility to offer that support, both privately and through government funding,” Gary Slaight, president and CEO of the Slaight Family Foundation, said in a release about the massive donation.

He continues: “We have sought the advice of Indigenous leaders across Canada in the development of these initiatives and are hopeful that these gifts will have a positive lasting impact on the lives of Indigenous Canadians, particularly youth. We are proud to be able to help make a difference.”

Among the 15 organizations set to benefit from the Slaight Family Foundation largesse:

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, committed to building “a pathway of access and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people by creating points of intersection and crossover in the areas of education, culture and the arts;”

Indspire, an educational program offering Indigenous youth over 750 scholarships and bursaries in arts, language and culture as well as a youth mentorship program;

Teach For Canada, providing recruitment, preparation and support of 60 additional Teach For Canada teachers over the next five years.

Scroll down for a complete list of charities.

As noted in the release about its Indigenous initiative, the Slaight Family Foundation “takes a strategic approach to philanthropy, preferring to fund programs that have a tangible impact on people’s lives and are sustainable and longer term.”

For example, in 2013 the Foundation donated $50 million to five hospitals in Toronto to support the delivery of advanced healthcare at all stages of life. In 2015, seven Canadian NGOs received funding from the Foundation to support Canada’s lifesaving efforts in global humanitarianism.

And in 2016, the Foundation selected 11 organizations to support the healthy development of children and youth across Canada.

“Private philanthropy has a very important role today in addressing one of the most challenging and promising areas of public policy investment,” Roberta Jamieson, president and CEO of Indspire, one of the recipient organizations, said in a release.

Jamieson — the first First Nations woman in Canada to earn a law degree — was among the many experts consulted by the Slaight Family Foundation during a six-month research process to determine which charities would have the biggest impact.

“These generous leadership gifts will have a significant impact on the lives of Indigenous people who in turn will help enrich our country on so many levels,” Jamieson added.

The programs and work The Slaight Family Foundation gifts will support:

4Rs Youth Movement

Build the capacity of Indigenous youth as facilitators of cross-cultural dialogue in order to create a foundation of relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth that supports reconciliation at personal, community and systems levels.

ArtsCan Circle

To inspire Indigenous youth to express their emotions and experiences in positive life affirming ways through arts education and programming in two Indigenous communities. Programs are led by professional musicians and artists and provide training for local artists and musicians to continue ongoing programming in the community.

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Critical support for the artistic and career development of Indigenous artists in Canada by providing scholarships that allow for greater access to training programs at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The Slaight Family Foundation’s funding will support scholarships for up to 40 emerging Indigenous artists annually across all artistic disciplines, enabling them to contribute more fully to our rich Canadian cultural landscape.

Camp Onakawana

Increase capacity for the camp that re-introduces James Bay youth as well as youth from the south to the traditional land and waters of Mushkegowuk.  Through harvesting, survival, and cultural skills, from catching a pickerel, to building a winter shelter, to making a hand drum and singing a song in the Cree language, youth collect the experiences and the stories that help both ground and sustain them.

Child Development Institute

Expand and adapt the SNAP (Stop Now And Plan) evidence-based program to two Indigenous communities to help Canada’s at-risk children who are engaging in disruptive behaviour, and their families, learn self-control and problem solving skills to decrease aggressive behaviour and increase emotion regulation. SNAP teaches children and their families how to make better choices in the moment, helping them stay in school and out of trouble in order to have a brighter future.

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund

Help the charity develop programs that will build a pathway of access and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people by creating points of intersection and crossover in the areas of education, culture and the arts. The program will also support cross cultural education through the development and distribution of The Secret Path to schools across the country.

Indspire

To assist Indspire to educate and empower Indigenous youth to attain their full potential and to contribute to Canadian society through over 750 scholarships and bursaries in arts, language and culture; and a youth mentorship program. To support expansion of Indspire’s programs and resources for educators, including the National Educational Conference, and impacting nearly 30,000 students.

Moosehide Campaign

Support to reduce and end violence toward Indigenous women and girls by engaging men at the community level to develop and implement community action programs to reduce violence. Support will also be provided to produce Moosehide squares.

National Arts Centre

Increase exposure and performance opportunities for Canada’s Indigenous artists through the Centre’s festivals, orchestral and Canadian music streams. Artists will also be supported by mentorship and networking opportunities to further their artistic development. The NAC’s Music Alive Program will deepen its impact by working with Indigenous artists and Indigenous communities to deliver music education to children and youth in various regions across the country. 

Outward Bound Canada

National expansion of the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program, supporting Indigenous students in learning to thrive and succeed in school and in their communities, and the expansion of the Women of Courage program to include a specific offering for Indigenous women survivors of trauma.

Right to Play

Support the development and piloting of a mental health training resource for Right To Play’s Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY) program, which will become part of the regular training for PLAY Community Mentors in Indigenous communities across Canada.

Royal Ontario Museum

This province-wide learning program for 5,000 indigenous youth and their peers combines 21st century digital tools with hands-on access to the Museum’s extensive collection of ancestral objects, offering students a unique opportunity to enhance their connection with the cultural heritage of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples. 

St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation

Support a research program to develop a training program for urban front line workers who provide direct service to Indigenous patients to improve attitudes, health outcomes and serve as a role model to be delivered across the country.

Teach For Canada

Support the recruitment, preparation, and support of 60 additional Teach For Canada teachers over the next five years. Teach For Canada works in reciprocal partnership with First Nations in the north to increase teacher retention and engagement which in turn supports student success.

WE (Free the Children)

Expand the Sacred Circle Program that explores personal and cultural identity and builds a sense of belonging, leadership and trust in collaboration with elders and community leaders. The program will also provide scholarships for Indigenous students to attend WE Day.

(Editor's Note: The Slaight Family Foundation supports Samartanmag).

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