Indigenous women leaders speak out

In Communities, IndigenousLeave a Comment

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By Charles Blouin-Gascon

Cheryl Mckenzie has a strong and high-pitched laugh that she’s not afraid to use. Right now, she’s laughing because it’s been said that, “She credited everyone and their cats and dogs for her success.”

Mckenzie was the first speaker in Ryerson University’s ‘Indigenous Women Leaders’ series presented by the school’s Centre for Indigenous Governance (CIG). Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance at the CIG, was excited to hear that Mckenzie had accepted her invitation at the Arts & Letters Club on Oct. 6, 2011. “(She) is truly amazing,” she says before adding that, “I always say that I haven’t arrived until the day that I appear on APTN.”

APTN is the acronym for Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, where Mckenzie has worked since 2001 and is now host and producer of two staples of the programming, InFocus and Investigates.

Over 40 minutes and in front of about 80 people, Mckenzie spoke of her path toward becoming a television producer, one that included undergraduate studies and a major in philosophy. She also showed a montage of APTN interviews that showcased her colleagues and community leaders. Palmater says that Mckenzie is “giving a voice to these people who have been denied a voice for too long” through her work with APTN.

The Aboriginal people in Canada have traditionally been a matriarchal society, but the Indian Act of 1985 changed that tradition and asked of men to act as leaders when they had never been. The consequence was simple. “Our leaders haven’t been properly represented,” says Palmater.

Considering the plight of the Aboriginal people in Canada, potential solutions need to be elaborated on a long-term basis, thinks Scott Clark, associate professor at the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

But for now, Palmater would probably settle on long-term meaning the next lecture in the ‘Indigenous Women Leaders’ series. On Nov. 17, 2011, the speaker will be Mary Simon, an important figure for advancing social justice for the Inuit.



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