The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has elected a new president who brings a history of activism, politics and social advocacy to the role. Carol McBride is set to serve a three-year term after a July 16 vote at NWAC’s annual general assembly.
McBride will focus on building relationships directly with grassroots NWAC members, a vision that helped secure her election.
“You need to work with the grassroots or else what are you fighting for? What are you working towards if you don’t have that relationship with the grassroots?” McBride told Canada’s National Observer.
McBride is an Algonquin leader and was chief of the Timiskaming First Nation, located on the shores of Lake TImiskaming in northwestern Québec, for 13 years. Following her time as chief, she was program director for the Timiskaming Native Women’s Support Group at Keepers of the Circle in northern Ontario, introducing services like an Indigenous daycare and other programming for women and their families.
One of her main priorities is developing Crown relations and bringing a representative to all levels of government. In particular, McBride says she will push for every level of government to enact the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
"As the MMIWG Calls to Justice revealed, a substantive investment in our security and well-being is long overdue,” said McBride in a press release. "I don't plan on letting these important issues idle any longer. We don't have time to waste. Indigenous women have already lost too much.”
As the first female chief of Timiskaming First Nation, McBride expanded community infrastructure projects with a new long-term care home, elementary school, water treatment plant and a band office.
She was also a prominent leader in the fight to stop the City of Toronto’s plan to dump garbage in northern Ontario over two decades ago. During that time, she collaborated with several other First Nations and settler communities to stop the garbage.
“One thing that battle taught me was that working together and working towards a common role really works,” she says.
She also led a successful agreement with Parks Canada, getting 51 per cent Algonquin ownership of the Obadjiwan-Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site.
Her advocacy and activism did not begin in her band council days, however. When McBride was 18, she participated in a 24-hour sit-in with other Indigenous youth at the headquarters of Indigenous Affairs.
She also says she will emphasize the importance of healing from intergenerational trauma, which will include building resources to end the substance abuse crisis in urban and rural Indigenous communities, according to the press release.
NWAC continues to fill the critical advocacy work role in the aftermath of the final MMIWG report. The organization gave Canada's MMIWG2S National Action Plan a failing grade in its June 2022 report.
Matteo Cimellaro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Canada's National Observer