Community leaders to discuss off-reserve Indigenous life

Indigenous drums

York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) is hosting its annual Smyth Dialogues event on April 24, featuring three Indigenous community leaders engaging in a panel discussion centred around off-reserve Indigenous life.

Bobbi-Jo Virtue
Bobbi-Jo Virtue

Panellists Christa Big Canoe, Jennifer LaFontaine and Sylvia Maracle will visit York University’s Keele Campus for this hybrid event, taking place both in person and via livestream from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The panel will discuss their work and experiences supporting Indigenous people in Canada who live their lives either mostly or entirely off reserve. All York University community members are welcome to attend.

This special event will be moderated by Bobbi-Jo Virtue, an Ininew (Cree) from St. Peter’s/Peguis Community in Treaty 1 territory and assistant professor in York’s School of Public Policy. A Q-and-A session will follow the panel discussion.

The Smyth Dialogues is an annual public event series made possible through bequests from the late Delmar Smyth – the inaugural dean of the former Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies at York University – and his late wife, Wanita. The event series reflects the pair’s shared desire to profile ideas that help prevent violence and promote peace, justice and human security.

About the panellists

Big Canoe is an Anishinabek woman, mother and lawyer from Georgina Island First Nation who has been before all levels of court, various tribunals and standing committees providing Indigenous perspective and representation. She took a 2.5-year leave of absence from her role as legal director of Aboriginal Legal Services to be senior and then lead commission counsel to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

LaFontaine is a Ukrainian and Métis woman from Duck Lake, Saskatchewan. For the past two years, she has worked in the City of Toronto’s Indigenous Affairs office and is currently the manager of placekeeping. In this role, she works to increase the visible landscape of Indigenous people in the city, including the street names, public art, murals, storefronts and restaurants, and land for Indigenous community to gather for ceremony and culture.

Maracle (Skonaganleh:ra) is a Two-Spirit Mohawk, Wolf Clan member from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territories who has served as the executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres for over 40 years.

Visit the Smyth Dialogues web page for more information and to register.