Written by: Fatima Ahmed and Shelan Markus
On April 5th, 2022, Level hosted a Lunch & Learn session with Canadian National Railway (“CN”) to celebrate the partnership between the two organizations. Thank you to Olivier Chouc, Vanessa James, Tyler Banick and the entire Indigenous Employee Resource Group at CN for inviting Level to present and for their commitment to their support diverse Indigenous culture and level the barriers to justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada. The virtual event discussed Level’s unique work and shared its Cultural Humility and Empathy Training with CN employee attendees. The Lunch & Learn session featured a diverse array of speakers that addressed solidarity with Indigenous peoples and the importance of justice education as a tool for reconciliation. Below are some of the highlights from the event.
Shelan Markus, Level’s Executive Director, kicked off the event with opening remarks and a land acknowledgement. Ojibway Anishinaabe Grandmother and Knowledge Keeper, Kim Wheatley, then did a prayer and invoked good intentions for the session. Kim talked about connecting with all orders of Creation, honouring our ancestors, and giving thanks to all beings. Continuing the introduction, Shelan then outlined the concepts of cultural humility and empathy, highlighting their use as tools to tackle systemic barriers in the justice system. She further emphasized how important Indigenous voices and voices of other marginalized communities are to shape justice leadership, laws, policies, and services.
Following the opening, Olivier Chouc, Vice President of Law at CN, spoke about the six-year partnership between CN and Level. Olivier spoke specifically about Level’s Indigenous Youth Outreach Program (IYOP) and the importance of improving the justice system so it better serves and supports Indigenous youth. Olivier identified IYOP as an essential tool to increase access to justice for Indigenous peoples and engage Indigenous students in knowledge about the justice system, critical thinking and leadership skills, and enhance volunteer cross-cultural understanding of Indigenous lived realities. CN commits to the richness of diversity and a justice system that serves all Canadians.
The attendees also got to hear from three of IYOP’s program facilitators: Danielle Davyduke, Paul Porter, and Shawnee Monchalin. They spoke of their experiences working with Indigenous youth across Canada and the positive results that IYOP has yielded.
Finally, Samantha Matters, the Founding Director at Future Ancestors Services Inc., guided the attendees through Cultural Humility Training. Samantha first outlined Future Ancestors’ restorative approach to anti-racist work. She also spoke about why a systemic analysis is necessary to address systemic racism. To conclude, Kim delivered closing remarks, encouraging all to plant the seeds of change.
We would like to thank all speakers – Kim Wheatley, Olivier Chouc, Danielle Davyduke, Paul Porter, Shawnee Monchalin, and Samantha Matters – for sharing their wisdom and experiences. We would also like to thank all attendees that created space for this important discussion. We are particularly grateful to CN for their continued support of Level’s work.