Minister of Community and Social Services, Rajan Sawhney announced on June 9 the start of the Indigenous Community Circles project.
The two-year project aims to raise awareness and get people talking about pressing social issues among First Nations Communities across Southern Alberta.
Franciscan and Friends, a federally registered charity organization, is leading the project, which targets discussions towards First Nations, homeless, addicted, and impoverished populations.
Executive Director of Franciscan and Friends, Denis Grady, said prior to the start of the Indigenous Community Circles project, the organization had been making trips to the the Caribbean and Central America, predominantly with a team of recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.
The teams were invited to prisons, drug and alcohol rehab centers, senior’s homes, and impoverished neighborhoods for a series of fundraising concerts, music classes and ministry visits.
“We really felt that because of the role of media, I really found the opportunity to get acquainted with First Nations and really recognizing the beauty and the culture also the tragedy of what was stolen from them, and the impact of that,” said Grady.
“We really felt if we interviewed and let people from the nation speak… we could capture some of the sentiment in the sense of… where they see going forward with some solution ideas.”
The project has seen the creation of several short interviews to date which address topics such as addictions, community support and engagement, as well as success stories within the community.
“It’s all about relationships, and not once a year… but really engaging, and… changing the stereotype on both sides,” said Grady.
The project is the culmination of a four-year effort led by Franciscan and Friends and Indigenous stakeholders across Southern Alberta.
Following the discovery of the remains of children killed within the former residential school systems, one of the goals of the project is to recognize the importance of listening to members of indigenous communities.
It will also serve as a way to help progress towards reconciliation and building trust.
“Please accept us in our lack of awareness an in our vulnerability as non-Indigenous peoples,” said Grady in a release.
“We give up any power that we have to make things right. We ask to be accepted so that we can dialogue; to be available to hear others, so that we can empathize and have compassion.”
The interviews and results of the project can be found on the Indigenous Community Circles YouTube page.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times