McMaster University names Indigenous artist Santee Smith as next chancellor

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HAMILTON – McMaster University has become the second Canadian institution in as many weeks to announce that its next chancellor will be an Indigenous person.

The Hamilton school says Santee Smith, an artist, dancer and choreographer from the nearby Six Nations of the Grand River, will take over as the honorary head of the university in November.


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She takes over from Suzanne Labarge, who has held the position at McMaster for the past six years.

The announcement comes two weeks after the University of Lethbridge announced that it was appointing its first Indigenous chancellor in the school’s 52-year history.


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Charles Weaselhead, a residential school survivor and former chief of the Blood Tribe, will officially assume that title in the spring.

Smith – a two-time McMaster graduate with degrees in physical education and psychology, as well as an master’s degree in dance from Toronto’s York University – says she’s honoured to be named the school’s next chancellor.

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Ontario names former Lac Seul chief as ‘special adviser’ on Indigenous affairs

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The Ontario government has named the former chief of Lac Seul First Nation in northwestern Ontario to an adviser’s role to the province’s Indigenous affairs minister.

The province announced on Friday that Clifford Bull will be a « special adviser » on Indigenous affairs. A written release stated that Bull will advise Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford on economic, social and jurisdictional issues affecting Indigenous communities.

According to the government, Bull will also « serve as a liaison » on behalf of Premier Doug Ford and Rickford, with Indigenous communities.

Bull was chief of Lac Seul from 2006 up until earlier this year. The province said he has also served as a band councillor for the community and worked as a social worker supporting residential school survivors.

« He has a proven track record of bringing communities and individuals together to achieve common goals, » Rickford was quoted as saying in the government’s announcement. « As special adviser, I know he will help create meaningful opportunities to strengthen the relationship between Indigenous communities and Ontario. »

Bull ran for the PCs in the newly-created Kiiwetinoong riding in the 2018 provincial election, finishing second behind the NDP’s Sol Mamakwa.

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Writing Celebrity Names on Disposable Cups Was the Best Hosting Move I Ever Made

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“Obviously we need a Beyoncé,” I say. “Does baby shark count as a celebrity?” It is the night before a holiday party I’m throwing, and my husband and I are labeling disposable cups.

There is no party problem as guaranteed as this one: You will put down your glass of punch to reach for a cucumber spear loaded with dip, then reach back for your glass and realize you have no idea which of the four on the coffee table is yours. It’s the challenge that gave birth to wine charms, but a) I’m using disposable cups, not wine glasses, and b) I am not especially cool, but I am definitely cooler than wine charms. In the past I’ve asked guests to write their names on their cups, but unless you’re standing guard by the bar, that directive gets lost pretty quickly. Plus I learned I have a lot of friends named Dan.

So I deployed a strategy I picked up at a Friendsgiving a few weeks before: pre-labeling disposable cups with celebrities’ names. It is now my new favorite party trick. Even the brainstorming was fun, as we threw out names we thought would be familiar to the group—athletes, actors, politicians, musicians, writers, our new five-month-old baby—then committed them to cups. We stacked these cups next to the cider, then waited to see just how unconfused people would be about their ownership.

It worked. (Though not perfectly, I realized as I took a sip of what I was sure was my Ariana Grande cup, then discovered it was actually Aretha Franklin.)

Beyond practicality, it was a legit highlight of the party. It was an icebreaker among people who didn’t know each other (“Who’s on your cup?”). And people were excited to talk about “their” celebrities. My friend Yaran told me repeatedly that he was upset he drew Les Moonves. I learned that Teddy has an inexplicable beef with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Laura was jealous that someone else had gotten RBG. Have you ever seen anyone get this animated over a wine charm?

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Ontario’s child protection association names first Black CEO

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Ontario’s child protection system — a sector struggling to address anti-Black racism and the overrepresentation of African Canadian children in foster care and group homes — has appointed its first Black chief executive officer.

Nicole Bonnie, director of diversity and anti-oppression at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, will take the helm of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) in January.

Her appointment to the association that represents the province’s 47 children’s aid societies comes in the wake of an ongoing Star investigation into kids in care and last summer’s uproar over the Toronto society’s decision to hire a CEO with seemingly no experience in child protection or previous work in the area of diversity.

Bonnie, who previously worked at the Peel Children’s Aid Society, is replacing Mary Ballantyne who is retiring.

Her appointment “is very welcome and exciting news for us,” said Caroline Newton of the OACAS.

Bonnie, who is out of the country, said in a statement to the Star she is “honoured” to lead the association.

“Child Welfare in Ontario is changing in fundamental ways,” she said. “We are listening to the families and communities we serve, and reimagining child welfare in a way that supports them to thrive.”

She said she wants “to help build a child welfare system based on the pillars of respect and empowerment, reconciliation, equity and belonging, and consistent and excellent services across the province.”

The appointment also comes as more than 300 Black children’s aid workers from across the province gather in Toronto this week to discuss the sector’s efforts to fight anti-Black racism and the challenges faced by front-line staff.

“Black people who work in child welfare are often seen by the community as traitors or as not standing up for Black people,” said Kike Ojo, manager of One Vision One Voice (OVOV), a provincially funded program of the OACAS.

“But it’s just not true. People who work on the inside are often fighting like hell to make things better for Black people,” said Ojo, whose initiative is sponsoring the two-day symposium.

Of the province’s 11,000 child welfare workers, about 1,000 — or 10 per cent — are Black, Ojo said.

She said she hopes the symposium, the first of its kind, will be the beginning of a formal network of Black child protection workers in Ontario who can support one another as they push for change from the inside.

“I want to shine a light on why there is so little progress and what it’s like for people on the inside who are change agents,” she said. “I am trying to create protections for them.”

Black workers who advocate for Black families are often criticized by their superiors as being “biased” or “unprofessional,” Ojo said.

“The pushback is incredible. It has cost many workers promotions because they are seen as disruptive,” she said.

“In 13 years of senior leadership in the sector, I have never heard that said of a white worker — that they are being biased or unprofessional in their dealings with a white family,” she said. “This is just one of the forms that anti-Black racism takes.”

Jean Samuel, the OACAS’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion said Bonnie’s appointment will “give hope” to Black workers in the system.

“It really is going to help Black staff feel their voices can be accepted and embraced to help reimagine the work that we need to do,” said Samuel, who was at the symposium Wednesday.

“Nicole is the first Black CEO in our sector. She’s also a Black female,” Samuel said. “It shows there’s a future for child welfare that is going to look and feel a lot different than it has historically.”

This week’s meeting of Black staff follows a similar gathering of Black youth in care who met in Toronto last summer to share their experiences.

If provincial funding ends, Ojo said she hopes the sector will continue to support annual gatherings for both youth and staff.

The OVOV initiative was launched in January 2015 to address the overrepresentation of Black children in the care of children’s aid societies, a problem highlighted in a 2014 Star investigation and most recently by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission.

According to the latest statistics released by the Toronto society, 32 per cent of children admitted into care in 2017-18 were Black while they represent just 8 per cent of city residents under age 18.

A report by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission last spring found Black children were overrepresented in 30 per cent of CASs, an admission rate 2.2 times higher than their proportion in the child population.

The commission called on societies to improve data collection and increase efforts to address anti-Black racism within their internal policies and structures.

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb

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UQAM joins growing trend toward letting students use preferred names – Montreal

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A major Quebec university is joining a growing movement toward allowing students — including transgender students who’ve long sought the provision — to use a name other than their given name on campus.

The Université du Québec à Montréal announced this week the policy will come into effect next semester. It will extend to all non-official documents and resources, including student cards, university email addresses and the student directory. Professors will address students by their preferred names.

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Their legal first name will continue to appear on official documents such as diplomas, cheques and financial documents.

“Starting January 4, 2019, in an approach that is inclusive and neutral, UQAM will be the first French-language university in Quebec that will allow, under certain conditions, all students who apply to add a chosen first name to their student file,” Danielle Laberge, vice-rector in charge of academic life, told students and staff in a statement.

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Already, about 100 online requests have been made since Monday’s announcement, about half of them from transgender students. Other people making requests include foreign students who prefer to go by a different name.

“For UQAM, it’s a policy that’s neutral and inclusive and offered to the entire student body,” spokeswoman Jenny Desrochers said.

In allowing a name other than the one that appears on a birth certificate, UQAM follows English-language institutions in Montreal that have instituted similar policies, including Concordia and McGill universities. Several junior colleges in the province also have preferred-name policies, as do numerous post-secondary institutions across the country.

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A group that promotes LGBTQ rights at UQAM and that had pushed for the policy change hailed the announcement as a long-awaited victory.

“About three years ago, we brought forth the concerns of students who wanted to change their names on their identification cards or other documentation,” Roxane Nadeau of the organization La Reclame said.

“They were mostly trans students.”

Being thrown into an environment where their preferred name — the name they have come to be known by in all aspects of their lives — was not recognized could be traumatic, she said.

“They would start at university, (and) it meant taking measures, improvising for each professor, each class, each semester, for their entire university career,” she said.”It’s difficult and victimizes them with each interaction with a teacher to correct a piece of information that shouldn’t be used in the first place.”

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Desrochers said the policy takes into consideration the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and 2017 federal legislation that provided protections for transgender Canadians.

She said the university’s new rector, Magda Fusaro, made the policy a priority after she arrived in her position in January.

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The university’s registrar will have the final say on whether a name is accepted. Certain names would be rejected — such as a disgraced historical figure.

“The university reserves the right to reject requests judged abusive or eccentric,” Desrochers said.

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Trudeau names journalist, Indigenous activist and diplomat to the Senate

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named three new independent senators to the Red Chamber: a journalist, an Indigenous activist and a diplomat.

« These three new independent senators bring a wealth of experience with them to the Red Chamber, » Trudeau said in a media statement.

« Whether working as a community educator and researcher, a journalist, or an ambassador, all three have gained a deep appreciation and understanding of this country. I have full confidence that they will be excellent representatives for their regions and for all Canadians. »

Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons, who won the National Newspaper Award for column writing in 2017, will sit as a senator from Alberta. 

Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal accepts the award for columns at the National Newspaper Award ceremony in Toronto in May. (Galit Rodan/Canadian Press)

Patti LaBoucane-Benson, also from Alberta, has « dedicated her life to helping Indigenous families » and working to improve « opportunities for vulnerable youth » in her province, says a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The third new face in the Senate will be Peter Boehm, a career diplomat who most recently served as the deputy minister for the G7 Summit and personal representative for Trudeau.

All three were recommended by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments. Trudeau then passed on those recommendations to Governor General Julie Payette, who will formally appoint the new picks. 

Trudeau has made 43 Senate appointments since his election.

Like the other Trudeau appointees, each of the new picks is expected to sit as an Independent or non-affiliated senator — part of the prime minister’s stated campaign to eliminate partisanship from the chamber over time.

The Independent Senators Group (ISG) now constitutes the largest bloc in the Senate and holds a plurality with 47 seats, followed by 31 Conservative senators and 11 Liberals.

There are still 10 senators that identify as Liberal, even though Trudeau brought official Senate affiliation with his party to an end while still in opposition. There are also eight non-affiliated senators and six empty seats.

Author and Indigenous activist Patti LaBoucane-Benson with her book The Outside Circle, which won the 2016 Burt Award. (CBC)

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