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Truth and Reconciliation Week – Speaker Profiles

Elder Betty Ross

Elder Betty Ross survived 2 Residence School systems. She attended St.Joseph’s Residential School at Pimicikamak Cree Nation, her Nation at a very early age where she encountered excruciating trauma after trauma depicted in her story ‘Sugar Falls’. She’s also a Day Scholar.  

Elder Betty has a humble approach in sharing her Truth that captures the essence of her own personal holocaust towards transformation, acceptance and education of Residential Schools and brings love and peace to people who may share a similar story.  

In essence, today Elder Betty Ross walks and talks with her Indigenous Voice and Pride by sharing Verifiable Truth which is the very First prerequisite of Reconciliation because Truth will always withstand scrutiny, especially denialism of historical traumas from time immemorial.

Laurie McDonald


 Kehteyayak- Laurie McDonald a Nehiyawok from the Enoch Cree Nation in Maskekosiht Alberta, spent six years at the Ermineskin Residential School in Maskwacis Alberta. 

McDonald’s career spanned a lifetime in the field of Education and Social Services. 

Over the last few years, through the Indian Residential School Survivors circle he has maintained his commitment to ensure that the public at large is made aware that the experience and trauma that he endured at the residential School as a Two Spirit person was not only unique but in all probability more profound. 

Laurie continues his wellness journey with the support of his nation, family and the International Two Spirit community.

Lila Bruyere


My name is Lila Bruyere. I come from Couchiching First Nation located on Treaty #3 Territory. My spirit name is Dancing Eagle Woman, I am Bear Clan, a pipe carrier and a retired jingle dress dancer. I am a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother. I am also a sister, an auntie, a cousin and an educator.  

I am second-generation residential school survivor to St. Margaret’s Residential School in Fort Frances, Ontario.

My son and I attended Wilfrid Laurier University and we developed a workshop titled “Intergenerational: A Mother & Son’s Healing Journey”.

I have recently spent three-year term being a member on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s (NCTR’S) Survivors’ Circle.

My goal is to continue being a voice for those who remain silent.  


Alanis Obomsawin 

A member of the Abenaki Nation and one of Canada’s most distinguished filmmakers, Alanis Obomsawin is a director and producer at the National Film Board of Canada, where she has worked since 1967. Her upcoming films are Wabano: The Light of the Day and The Green Horse (working title). These will be her 56th and 57th films in a legendary career now spanning 56 years, devoted to chronicling the lives and concerns of First Nations people and exploring issues of importance to all. Her 2022 film Bill Reid Remembers was named to the short film program of Canada’s Top Ten, honouring the best in Canadian cinema.

Carey Newman (BC) 

Carey Newman, whose traditional name is Hayalthkin’geme, is a multi-disciplinary artist, carver, filmmaker, author and public speaker.

Through his father, he is Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw from the Kukwaḵ̓a̱m, Gix̱sa̱m, and Wawałaba’yi clans of northern Vancouver Island, and Coast Salish from Xwchíyò:m (Cheam) of the Stó:lō S’olh Temexw (traditional territories) along the upper Fraser Valley. On his mother’s side of the family, his ancestors are English, Irish, and Scottish Settlers. In his artistic practice he strives to highlight Indigenous, social, and environmental issues as he examines the impacts of colonialism and capitalism, harnessing the power of material truth to unearth memory and trigger the necessary emotion to drive positive change.

Adelyn Newman

Adelyn Newman-Ting pronouns she/her is 13 years old from Victoria BC. She lives with her parents and her dog Oscar. Her traditional name is Kesugilakw which means leader born to be, and her Chinese name is Ting Li-Wen. On her mother’s side she is Chinese from Taiwan and on her father’s side she is Kwakwaka’wakw, Coast Salish and English, Irish and Scottish. Addy is passionate about youth voices being heard as it will be their responsibility to make the world a better place. When she was 12 she did a TEDxtalk with her father Carey Newman and wrote a book called Finding the Language as a UNESCO child author. She is very excited to begin her first year as a member of the Youth Advisory Council for Children First Canada.

Christa Big Canoe

Christa Big Canoe is a First Nation woman, mother and lawyer. She comes from Georgina Island First Nation, an Anishinabek community.

Christa has been a Deputy Clerk of the Court and an Administrative Justice of the Peace in and for the Northwest Territories. Her first legal practice experience was with the First Nation law firm Nahwegahbow, Corbiere in Rama. Christa was Policy Counsel for Legal Aid Ontario and the lead on the organization’s province-wide Aboriginal Justice Strategy prior to becoming Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) Legal Director. Christa returned to her position at ALS after a two and a half year leave of absence so that she could be senior and then Lead Counsel for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Edna Elias

I’m Edna Ekhivalak Elias, a residential school survivor. A third generation survivor. I’m an Inuinnaq from Kugluktuk, Nunavut, the most westerly community in Nunavut. I love my Inuinnaqtun language; a dialect of the family of Inuit language.

Before I went to residential school, I lived a lot with my grandparents out on the land. I predominantly Inuinnaqtun. I was 7 years old when they took me from my grandparents to residential school by airplane.  

Despite those experiences at residential school, I was able to see that my language was valuable. I needed to keep it and not lose it. And so today, I am fluent. I can read and write Inuinnaqtun. And I continue learn my language.

Dickie SR Yuzicapi HOKSHEDA

Francis comes from a culturally diverse heritage which represents the majority of the Plains cultures found in Saskatchewan to this day: Ojibway, Cree, Metis, and Dakota. Dickie is unique in that he was raised by his great-grandparents who taught him traditional teachings before attending residential school. Dickie is a Survivor, and a multi-generational trauma Survivor. He attended residential school from 1988-1993. Dickie is currently the owner and chef of the Sioux Chef Catering Company and consults on all facets of indigenous culture. He is a master storyteller and experienced speaker who can provide his own ancestral context and historical connections in ways that bring the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations to practical reality. His workshops are led with great care to his family’s stories and to all participants’ level of Reconciliation. It is about creating understanding with care to lay the groundwork for what needs to be done to heal.

Crystal Fraser

Dr. Crystal Gail Fraser (she/her) is Gwichyà Gwich’in (with English and Scottish heritage) from Inuvik and Dachan Choo Gę̀hnjik, Northwest Territories. Dr. Fraser is an Assistant Professor in History and Native Studies at the University of Alberta. Her award-winning research focuses on the history of student experiences at residential schools in the Inuvik Region. Dr. Fraser serves on national and international committees: she is a member of the NCTR’s Governing Circle, a director for Gwich’in Council International, and is a founding member of the National Advisory Committee on Residential School Missing Children and Unmarked Graves in 2022. 

Cary Miller

A sixties scoop survivor, Dr. Miller is Anishinaabe and descends from St. Croix and Leech Lake communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Her book Ogimag: Anishinaabeg leadership 1760-1845 was published with the University of Nebraska Press in 2010 and she is one of the editors of the most recent edition of Indigenous Peoples within Canada textbook from Oxford press (2023). Her research is in Anishinaabe leadership in the early 19th century, Anishinaabe women’s history, Treaties and sovereignty, Wisconsin Indian History, and Cultures of the Great Lakes Region. She is particularly interested in 18th and 19th century transborder North American Indigenous histories that centre narratives of sovereign Indigenous land use, kinship and diplomacy. 

Jesse Wente 

Jesse Wente is a husband and father, as well as an award-winning writer and speaker. Born and raised in Toronto, his family comes from Chicago and Genaabaajing Anishinaabek and he is an off-reserve member of the Serpent River First Nation. Jesse is best known for more than two decades spent as a columnist for CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. In 2018, Jesse was named the founding director of the Indigenous Screen Office and in summer 2020 he was appointed Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts. His first book “Unreconciled: Family, Truth and Indigenous Resistance” is a national bestseller and was picked as one of best books of 2021 by Chapters-Indigo, Apple Books and The Globe and Mail.  

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux was appointed as the 1st Indigenous Chair for Truth and Reconciliation for Lakehead University in 2016.  

 Cynthia was inducted as a “Honourary Witness” by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2014 and is Chair of the Governing Circle for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.   

 She is a member and resident of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation and has dedicated her life to building bridges of understanding. She sees endless merit in bringing people from diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds together to engage in practical dialogue and applied research initiatives.   

Sandra Bender

Sandra Bender (she/her) is a lifelong human rights advocate and brings her passion for public education to her work. As a second generation Canadian of grandparents who came to this land as immigrants and refugees, she is a staunch Indigenous ally and strives to use her position of privilege to further understanding and reconciliation through outreach and education. Sandra is a proud member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, feminist, and neurodivergent, and believes in bringing an intersectional lens to every aspect of her life. Past work has included Indigenous land claims advocacy, work with the unhoused communities in Winnipeg and Atlanta, work with newly arrived refugees, and projects with the local 2SLGBTQIA+ community.  

Jimmy Durocher

Jimmy Durocher was raised by his Métis grandmother whom Jimmy identifies as his role model of strength and resilience. He attended the Île-à-la-Crosse Boarding School in Northern Saskatchewan and is currently the Chairperson of the Île-à-la-Crosse Residential School Committee. He is a Veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, board member of the Gabriel Dumont Institute and a former President of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan. Fluent in both Michif and Cree, Jimmy is currently the President of the Métis local in Île-à-la-Crosse.  

Dale LeClair

Dale LeClair was appointed to the role of Director, Indigenous and Northern Affairs at Canada Post in December of 2018. In this role, Dale is responsible for Government and Community Affairs for the Northern region and with Indigenous communities across the country. He takes a leadership role in corporate planning and strategy processes representing Indigenous issues and identifying major themes and opportunities in future business plans. As well, Dale collaborates with human resources to develop strategies and programs for recruitment, selection, retention and development of Indigenous employees to help improve the diversity of Canada Post’s workforce. Dale joined Canada Post with over 20 years of executive management experience with both public and private corporations.  

Tracie Léost

Tracie Léost, Indspire Youth Laureate and award-winning young Métis leader, activist and athlete from St. Laurent, Manitoba, in Treaty 1 territory. Tracie upholds her responsibilities as an emerging matriarch by serving her people and ensuring that all Indigenous youth have opportunities to grow and flourish. She is the founder of the Waanishka youth empowerment movement and most recently served as the Métis Youth Delegate with the Canadian Delegation to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Brenda Gunn

As a proud Metis woman, University of Manitoba law Professor Brenda Gunn combines academic research with activism pushing for greater recognition of Indigenous peoples’ inherent rights as determined by their own legal traditions. After earning a JD at the University of Toronto and an LLM in Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy at the University of Arizona, Brenda worked at a community legal clinic in Guatemala on a case of genocide submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She has also worked with Manitoba First Nations on Aboriginal and treaty rights issues. Brenda continues to be actively involved in the international Indigenous peoples’ movement. She developed a handbook that is one of the main resources in Canada on understanding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has delivered workshops on the Declaration across Canada and internationally. She has also provided technical assistance to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2013, Brenda participated in UN training to enhance the conflict prevention and peacemaking capacities of Indigenous Peoples’ representatives, which continues to impact her research. She aims to do research that will contribute building a more just world for her daughter, her nieces and all their relations.

Maata Evaluardjuk-Palmer

Maata Evaluardjuk-Palmer is one of the last generation of Elders born and raised out on the traditional lands of the Inuit. During her youth Maata survived in a natural environment with her family before they were relocated to Frobisher Bay, Nunavut by the Government of Canada. This resulted in a culture shock as many families were removed from their traditional lifestyles and placed into a settled Canadian styled community. As a child Maata attended the Apex Federal Day School from 1960 to 1967, then attended Churchill Vocational School from 1967 to 1968 and went on to Keewatin Community College for Office Management.

Maata has sat on many boards such as the YMCA, the Mid-Wifery Training Program, the Manitoba Inuit Association Band, Inuit Health Research Committee, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s Survivors Circle. Maata is a grandmother and great-grandmother who enjoys being involved in community events and educational programming whenever she can.

Dorene Bernard

Kesatum tan teli L’nuwey, Kiwnik Clan, Sipekne’katik, Mi’kmaki, is a traditional Mi’kmaq woman, of the Sipekne’katik Band, residing in Indian Brook, N.S.  She is the mother of 4 children and grandmother of 9 beautiful grandchildren. She is a Survivor of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, the 3rd generation to attend within her family. Dorene earned a BSW Degree at Dalhousie University in 1991, and her MSW in Aboriginal Field of Study at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in 2013. Recently, she coordinated the IRS Legacy Project at Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre, working with survivors and families in the Atlantic region to document the history of the IRS Legacy and survivors’ profiles for the archives, which she continues to do.


Stun, is an award winning Canadian Indigenous Hip-hop artist from Oxford House, Manitoba. Over the years, he has shared the stage with artists such as: Crystal Shawanda, Hellnback, Leonard Sumner, Merkules, Illiano (of YSMG) and the formally known city sensation, “Winnipeg’s Most”.With his 2017 release titled, “The Influence”, the hip hop-songwriter blossomed into the industry world with a very well driven perspective. Sharing stories of heartache and struggles, the project leaps into reality with a love speech of lyricism. With much intended songs like “Hold The Pride”, which charted in the top 10 on the Indigenous Music Countdown, the vessel brought upon a very refreshing sense of a concrete wilderness. Moving forward, in 2019, Stun dropped his sophomore album, “Braided Up”. Which received the attention of many, gaining performances at great events like Festival du Voyageur. In the year of 2020, Stun had been awarded, “Best New Talent”, for his self directed music video, “Play It Right”at the 1st Annual “Indigenous Screen Awards”, held by Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival. While in good company, Stun was also nominated for, “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” at the 2021 International Indigenous Hip-hop Awards. As 2022 approached, Stun Received the award for “Best Hip-Hop” at the “Indigenous Super Stars Awards Show”, hosted virtually by Rhonda Head. His performance brings the vibe of the moment to life. With cleverly written punchlines and adjacent word play, Stun involves his own aspect of lyricism into the music. He is the inspirational role model for young Indigenous men and boys. Displaying his ethnicity and culture to the full potential, while practicing the general outlook of an indigenous being. He’s a Husband, A Father, A Powwow Dancer and say the least, A Hip hop Artist/Producer. With nothing but genuine kindness, Stun is here to spread the knowledge, From Nation to Nation…

Karen Drake

Karen Drake is a member of the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, and Counsel at JFK Law’s Toronto office. She researches and teaches in the areas of Canadian law as it affects Indigenous peoples, Anishinaabe constitutionalism, Indigenous pedagogy within legal education, property law, and dispute resolution including civil procedure and Indigenous dispute resolution. In her practice, she focuses on helping Indigenous nations exercise their inherent rights through the implementation of their Indigenous laws, and on using Aboriginal and Treaty rights to advance Indigenous self-determination. She is a member of the legal advisory panel for RAVEN and previously served as a Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, on the Board of Directors of the Indigenous Bar Association, and on the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

Caleb Behn

Caleb Behn is Eh-Cho Dene and Dunne-Za from the Treaty No. 8 territory of northeastern British Columbia.  He is a graduate of the University of Victoria Law Program (Specialization in Environmental Law and Sustainability) and was called to the BC Bar in 2015.  Caleb’s work has focused on the intersection of water, energy and indigenous law.  A former ‘lands manager’ for the West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations and a Senior Researcher at the Centre for International Governance Innovation Caleb was also a founding member of the Decolonizing Water Research Collective and the subject of the documentary film ‘Fractured Land’. 

Caleb now resides in his mother’s home community, the West Moberly First Nations.  Formerly he was based in Ottawa where he was the Special Advisor on Water to the Assembly of First Nation and then Legal Policy Advisor to National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  He is now the Director of Rights in the Rights and Justice Branch at the Assembly of First Nations.  

In his spare time Caleb cares for Elders in his home community where he continues to hunt, fish and garden in his home territory and undertake projects related to indigenous law and technology, most recently with the Berkman-Klein Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. 

Armand MacKenzie

Vice President of Government Affairs at Sayona mining company, Armand MacKenzie practiced law for 15 years and was principal legal advisor on territorial rights for the Innu Nation.

On behalf of national indigenous organizations, he served as special advisor/negotiator in the drafting and adoption of the United Nations General Assembly Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the Inter-American Declaration on the Rights indigenous peoples.

In the UN field, he is considered by his peers as an expert in relations between extractive industries and indigenous peoples. He has negotiated numerous impact and benefit agreements for several mining companies and indigenous communities. For the last 15 years, Armand MacKenzie has been active as an executive, consultant and manager in the mining sector, notably with Dynacor, New Millenium Iron Corp, Tata Steel, Nouveau Nouveau Monde Graphite and First Phosphate.

Finally, as a businessman, he was the first indigenous person to sit on the Board of Directors of the New York organization, Canadian-American Business Relations Council.

Salma Zein

Salma Zein was the Alberta winner of the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation’s 2017 Imagine a Canada contest. The Imagine a Canada contest took her to Edmonton and Ottawa, where she participated in roundtable discussions, and met people from across the country including Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor and Canada’s Governor General. Her memorable experience with the Imagine a Canada program inspired her to continue her advocacy as an Indigenous ally through participating in a Banff reconciliation panel, providing her poem for display at the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum in Banff, and supporting the 2021 relaunch of the Imagine a Canada program. She is currently a third year student in the Bachelor of Health Sciences (Health and Society) program at the University of Calgary. Salma aspires to become a physician, using her knowledge of health disparities to serve diverse communities in Canada. Salma loves to volunteer in her community, having volunteered in the hospital and presenting science demos to inspire children in Calgary elementary schools to love science. She also loves to be creative through art and writing.

Makayla Webkamigad 

Aanii, Niimiibin Bineshe Kwe, miinawa Mkwa Shki Keh Kwe ndizhinikaaz, mkwa miinawa jiigaak ndodem, Wiikwemkong ndonjibaa, Baawaating ndidaa. Anishinaabe kwe endow. Greetings, my Anishinaabe names translate to Dancing Bird Woman and Bear Medicine Woman. My English name is Makayla. I am  Bear and Crane clan. I was born in Calgary, Alberta and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, but originally come from and belong to Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Manitoulin Island, I am three Fires Confederacy; Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi. I am the granddaughter of four residential school survivors, and through my poems I tell my life story. 

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NCTR’s spirit name – bezhig miigwan, meaning “one feather”.

Bezhig miigwan calls upon us to see each Survivor coming to the NCTR as a single eagle feather and to show those Survivors the same respect and attention an eagle feather deserves. It also teaches we are all in this together — we are all one, connected, and it is vital to work together to achieve reconciliation.