The National Arts Centre (NAC) Indigenous Theatre and Facebook Canada hope to help hundreds of Indigenous people create online content about their lives and culture through a new initiative.
"It's another avenue for Indigenous creators to be able to get the support that they need to be able to be who they are, and to celebrate who they are," said artist, poet and activist Zoey Roy, who works with NAC's Music Alive program.
Through #ReconcileThis - Indigenous Voices Online, Facebook Canada will donate $400,000 to NAC Indigenous Theatre for the four-year initiative to help fund, train and provide equipment to Indigenous people to share their stories online. The initiative will also fund four one-year associate producer positions at NAC Indigenous Theatre.
Roy, who is Dene, Cree and Métis, said companies like Facebook need to do more as part of their corporate social responsibility.
"The reality is our communities oftentimes are still living in third- or fourth-world living conditions, and Facebook has no responsibility to them," said Roy.
"They just get to engage the beautiful parts of indigeneity and turn a blind eye to the dark parts of where we came from."
She said she is excited to see what becomes of the partnership, and hopes the new initiative will lead to more opportunities for people who live in Indigenous communities.
Inspired by 'brave Indigenous voices'
Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada, said he wanted to make a contribution to Indigenous creators after hearing about the discovery of what are believed to be the unmarked burial sites of children's remains adjacent to a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., and the death of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, who livestreamed abusive remarks of hospital staff in Joliette, Que.
"One of the things that has really struck us at Facebook is seeing the way in which there have been brave people, brave Indigenous voices, who have really put their own perspectives and their own voices online to shed a light on the challenges that they may be encountering in their lives," said Chan.
Chan said the goal will be to provide things like microphones, tripods and training resources so that Indigenous people can create content that isn't mediated by a third party.
Lori Marchand, managing director of NAC Indigenous Theatre, said the donation will allow money to be transferred into the hands of Indigenous creators.
"We cannot change what has happened in the past," said Marchand, who is Syilx.
"We can empower the future, and this is certainly what this project is about."
Marchand said they expect to begin the program in September.