York-affiliated projects support Indigenous community

Initiatives out of the Sustainable Development & Revitalization (SDNR) for First Nations Community Engagement, founded at York University and the Schulich School of Business, are gaining momentum with community outreach projects.

Founded in 2015 after two years of consulting with professors, Elders, Chiefs, stakeholders, and government bodies, SDNR has been working to build relationships between Indigenous communities and academia, as well as raising awareness and funds for Indigenous projects.

Charlene Lindsay

Charlene Lindsay

The team also ensures that Indigenous rights are upheld, economic opportunities are created, and prosperity-sharing incentives are carried out, said Charlene Lindsay, director and treasurer of SDNR and York University PhD candidate.

After success with its first fundraiser event in summer 2017, which helped to build a better school for the children of Georgina Island, the Lindsay organized a second, larger event to raise funds for other remote Indigenous communities.

In December 2017, the team ran Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week, which according to Lindsay “drew the attention of thousands” and was the first of its kind in Toronto. It was supported by the York community, and involved several students.

The event featured Miss Teen Canada Emma Morrison as one of the models; Jodi Goodfellow, founder and director of Startup Fashion Week; and Michael Cheena, SDNR’s in-house Elder.

Lindsay also notes that the event paid tribute to the late Professor Wesley Cragg of the Schulich School of Business to highlight his contributions to Canadian Indigenous communities.

The funds raised were directed towards Pikangikum First Nation.

She said she plans for the event to return in the fall of 2018.

Lindsay said the event “speaks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. These calls-to-action are currently being monitored by several organizations, and it’s important to get these types of stories out there so people know.

“It also speaks very highly to the great reputation that York University holds; that it is a place of diversity, inclusion, and above all, acceptance of all races, ethnicities, including Canadian Indigenous peoples.”

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