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Toronto Metropolitan University Recognizes Orange Shirt Day 2023

Community members at Toronto Metropolitan University wear orange shirts and walk on a brick sidewalk. One of them is carrying a blue flag with bear paws. Another wears a shirt that says "every child matters".

Photo courtesy of Nadya Kwandibens

Every year on September 30, Canada recognizes residential school victims and survivors on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also called Orange Shirt Day. 

The day of remembrance acknowledges when children were taken from their homes and forced to live in boarding schools across Canada. There, they were prohibited from speaking their languages and often abused. These horrific events occurred from 1883 until 1996, when the last of the residential schools closed their doors.

To commemorate Orange Shirt Day 2023, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), a grantee partner of the Foundation, held several events for community members and Indigenous peoples to reflect.

The university raised the survivors’ flag on campus to honor all survivors, families and communities impacted by Canada’s residential school system. Participants also embarked on a silent walk while wearing orange shirts. Additionally, TMU acknowledged the stark difference between the “educational” institutions and experiences for non-Indigenous and Indigenous students.

Saije Catcheway, a Johnson Scholar and third-year TMU student pursuing business management and law, recently reflected on Orange Shirt Day during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

“I see Indigenous people as huge healers,” said Catcheway, who is also on TMU’s varsity women’s hockey team. “I think that our new generation is big for healing—and not just shining a light on the negative [parts] of our history but shining a light on how [our culture] can actually be used as a strength.”

Two community members at Toronto Metropolitan University wear orange shirts and stand outside. One of them is playing a blue hand drum and singing.

Photo courtesy of Nadya Kwandibens

As part of the university’s commitment to systemic changes that support Indigenous community members, TMU is implementing an Indigenous Wellbeing and Cultural Practice Leave, where Indigenous staff from Canada can take up to five personal days to support healing and wellbeing, including cultivating cultural interests and practices however they choose.

Indigenous students at TMU can also access culturally supportive programs and services on campus, including peer support groups and Indigenous traditional counseling through Gdoo-maawnjidimi Mompii Indigenous Student Services (GMISS).

“Reaching out to Indigenous youth and people and just asking [for] their experiences… It’s an easy step to make a huge impact in reconciliation,” Catcheway reflected.

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation funds a matching grant for TMU for program support and scholarship assistance for Indigenous students.

JSF Indigenous Student Excellence Scholars excel and give back at Toronto Metropolitan University: Part 2

The following article was submitted by Toronto Metropolitan University. It is shared here with permission.

JSF Indigenous scholar and student-athlete spends summer mentoring students back home

Following closely in the footsteps of Johnson Scholar Cody Anthony is Saije Catcheway, who has recently completed her second year of a Bachelor of Commerce, studying Business Management and Law.

Catcheway cites coming to Toronto to study and join the Varsity Women’s Hockey team as a “dream come true.”

She too is a recipient of the JSF Scholarship, which Catcheway says reinforced her belief in herself. “This gracious gift showed that my hard work is paying off and relieved a weight from my shoulders,” she says. “I’m grateful for being able to continue my education while knowing that I’m able to pay my living expenses and my transportation home.”

Catcheway is Ojibwe-Cree and returns home for four months in the summer break to Skownan First Nation in Manitoba to mentor students from Grade 3 to Grade 7 through speaking engagements and athletics. Her mentorship initiative is funded by the Ted Rogers Student’s Society Leadership Award.

Education on the reservation only goes to Grade 10, but – thanks to a scholarship – Catcheway, who was born and raised in nearby Winnipeg, had the opportunity to attend and graduate with honors from an all-girls private school. Soon after, she attended college in the U.S., but the high tuition and cost of living led her to leave. She thought her dreams to pursue post- secondary education and play college-level hockey may have ended, until she was accepted to study business at TMU, which she says was always her number-one choice.

She emphasizes that “in the TMU culture, athletics are at a very high standard, but as a student athlete, ‘student’ comes first, academics come first.” Balancing both academic and athletics has helped her hone her time management skills to balance school with practice, training and traveling for hockey games. In the process, she has also been awarded the Ontario University Athletics Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2023.

She feels she’s at TMU “for a reason” and wants to continue to be a role model for her First Nation community and culture, who along with her family have been supportive of her goals.

This summer, she hopes to also mentor the high school students and consult with the Skownan chief, counsel and teachers about expanding opportunities, perhaps online, for learners past Grade 10.

“I want to inspire these kids to further their education. I want to be a role model to promote inclusivity, change and opportunity, especially for Indigenous women in the workplace,” Catcheway says. “I can’t stress enough that you’ve got to love what you’re studying and be passionate about your goals in school in order to do well and to have fun.” She hopes to pursue a law degree after graduation.

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation continues to make higher education accessible for three additional Indigenous students who are studying Professional Music, Midwifery and Sociology at TMU and who are passionate about making a positive impact in their communities.

JSF Indigenous Student Excellence Scholars excel and give back at Toronto Metropolitan University: Part 1

The following article was submitted by Toronto Metropolitan University. It is shared here with permission.

Cody Anthony is the first JSF Scholar to graduate from Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) in Canada. He is one of five Indigenous students at TMU whose academic and career dreams have become tangible and achievable thanks to support from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

“I’m so grateful for the Johnson Scholarship Foundation award. It gave me peace of mind, so instead of worrying about meeting basic life necessities, I got to focus my attention on Indigenous initiatives and community impact,” he says. “It has prepared me for a lifetime of community work, which is exciting.”

Anthony identifies as a mixed urban Indigenous person, whose father is Dene with roots from the Deh Gah Got’ie Kue First Nation in the Northwest Territories. In May 2023, he graduated from TMU’s Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) with a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours in Business Management with an interest in Pre-Colonial Indigenous Entrepreneurship and Modern Economic Reconciliation.

“A lot of people don’t know the history of business or commerce between First Nations groups before colonization in what we now call Canada. I had the opportunity to work with the Indigenous Advisor at TRSM, Michael Mihalicz, to help develop an e-learning module called ‘Indigenous Entrepreneurship: A community-driven approach to new venture creation,’” says Anthony.

For this project, he gathered archaeological transcripts and evidence of trade amongst First Nations before 1941. “We did business differently, which was really cool. Gift giving was important, as was equity amongst relationships and partnerships. And leadership meant caring for one another.”

Mihalicz, who in addition to being the Indigenous Advisor in the Office of the Dean, is also an Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship and Strategy Department in TRSM, says:

“Cody moves fast and efficiently, and I was really impressed.” He adds, “He has some incredible ideas and is committed to creating space for Indigenous Knowledges to exist within TRSM. Cody is also committed to bridging the cultural divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples at TMU through community-building activities that bring everyone together in a way that maintains the integrity of our identities and voices. One really big initiative that he founded was the inaugural Reconciliation in Business conference in 2022.”

The conference was spearheaded by the Ted Rogers Indigenous in Business student group, which Anthony also founded. His vision for the conference included uniting Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Toronto to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call-to-Action 92 by accelerating the fight for Indigenous economic sovereignty and self-determination and against the economic injustices Indigenous communities face, by closing the socioeconomic gap, and by unlocking the emerging C$100-billion annual Indigenous economy.

Mentorship at the heart of the JSF Indigenous scholar experience

Anthony credits mentorship opportunities as being key to his success at TMU.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing people support me in the journey. I could always depend on Michael Mihalicz,” he says.

Mihalicz first met Anthony through the Indigenous Student Welcoming Committee, where TRSM advisors reach out to welcome all incoming Indigenous students.

Mihalicz introduced Anthony to Sana Mulji, Senior Advisor for External stakeholder Engagement and Strategic Partnerships with Indigenous Initiatives. Mulji recruited Anthony to join the Indigenous Initiatives team, which works to integrate Indigenous art, curriculum, Knowledges and worldviews at TRSM, and she was key in helping Anthony run Reconciliation in Business 2022.

“Sana was imperative to my whole student experience, and she has helped my personal development so much,” says Anthony.

He also credits fellow student Hadia Siddiqui, Vice President of Speaker Relations of TEDxTorontoMetU, for her mentorship and guidance in producing his February 2023 Tedx Talk, titled “The Future is Indigenous,” which connects his personal experiences with the history of entrepreneurship and trends towards prosperity for Indigenous groups. The talk is scheduled to be released in Spring 2023.

“Hadia is an incredible student and helped me craft the perfect Ted talk,” he says, adding that there are others who served as invaluable peer mentors throughout his academic journey.

“I had the opportunity every single day to go out there and meet new people and be part of different projects, and have a huge network of incredible people that are going to support me down the line,” he says. “I wouldn’t have been able to get that without the scholarship.”

Now that he’s graduating, Anthony jokes that the first thing he is looking forward to is sleeping in during the summer. After that, he’s planning a career in advocacy, Indigenous entrepreneurship, economic development and, eventually, politics. “I’m really interested in supporting Indigenous youth and speaking up for the voiceless.” His advice for Indigenous students who follow in his footsteps: “Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to bring your Indigeneity to Toronto Metropolitan University.”