15 Minutes on supporting Indigenous-led causes


Episode Transcript

Lama Alsafi (00:00): Hello, and welcome to 15 Minutes to Change the World, where in 15 minutes or less, you can learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it for the better.

My name is Lama Alsafi and I’m the host of this podcast. In today’s episode, we’re talking about supporting Indigenous causes with Wanda Brascoupé. Wanda has been in the philanthropic sector for 20 years as a volunteer, fundraiser, donor, and connector, and now works as an advisor to Indigenous and non-Indigenous foundations and charities. Wanda has also helped to create the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund in partnership with CanadaHelps. Wanda joins us remotely today from Ottawa. Wanda, thank you so much for joining us. I’m super excited to speak with you.

Wanda Brascoupé (00:56): Thank you for having me, as am I.

Lama Alsafi (00:59): Thank you. So, Wanda, would you please tell us a bit about yourself and your experience working in the charitable sector? And I’m interested to know what motivated you to do this work?

Wanda Brascoupé (01:10): Thank you for that question. My name is Wanda Brascoupé. I’m Bear Clan, I’m Mohawk, Tuscarora, and Algonquin. I am a daughter, an aunt, a sister, a friend, a wife, and I’m a proud mother of three amazing Haudenosaunee women. Philanthropy has been a part of my life since birth. We are a giving people, we are a sharing people. Being Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe, it is a core value of how we work. Moving into the Western charitable sector really took place when my children were young and I wanted to be a part of the urban community that we were living in and I found that I had a knack for bringing people together and fundraising, not knowing that this was actually a career that I could have. It took me about 20 years to get here.

Wanda Brascoupé (02:03): My whole career has focused on my passion for amplifying people, their strengths, and how shifts can occur through inclusion. And what I mean by that is Haudenosaunee people, Indigenous people globally, humility is our greatest strength. It is an honour, probably the most honourable, characteristic that you could have and align that with a Western perspective of amplifying your own voice sometimes didn’t go hand in hand. My passion really came from the fact that I am from a people of abundance. That’s not necessarily a statement that you hear when you hear Indigenous people, particularly in relationship to Canada. We are brilliant. We have ingenuity and we are here. I am here, whole, because of that brilliance and ingenuity that exists in community. I am the beneficiary of that. And the charitable sector alignment is as I know how communities work, I’ve lived in community, and generally speaking everyone around the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund and the work that all of these many, many charities do, they also know how and what is best for their own community. So that’s what brought me into this work. And that’s what motivates me.

Lama Alsafi (03:28): Wanda, what’s the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund and how did it come to be?

Wanda Brascoupé (03:32): The Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund is a cause fund with CanadaHelps and focuses solely on Indigenous-led charitable causes. So the difference between Indigenous-led and, a non Indigenous-led charity is really their governance, their leadership, their staffing, as well as their beneficiaries. And it is important to shed the light on Indigenous peoples and Indigenous-led charities simply because, as I indicated earlier, we come from a people of abundance and systems that have been in place, government systems that been in place, don’t always provide the space and the opportunity for that brilliance and ingenuity to take place at a community level. So with the beginning of the pandemic, we decided to focus on the Indigenous-led charities that provide answers and give direct and transformational work within their own communities coast to coast to coast.

Lama Alsafi (04:37): Maybe, Wanda, if you can tell our listeners as you see it, what are the biggest challenges for Indigenous charitable organizations in Canada today, or Indigenous-led charitable organizations in Canada today? And how are these organizations working to overcome these challenges?

Wanda Brascoupé (04:53): You know, with the declaration of the COVID pandemic, communities across Canada and around the world face an unprecedented moment. One of the challenges was our collective way to deliver services that communities depended on. And for Indigenous communities and Indigenous-led organizations working to respond to COVID in the context of preexisting economic and health disparities, the impacts were even more pronounced. So the biggest challenges were that, like I said, the Indigenous Peoples are not a deficit model, but the systems that we work with generally are from a deficit model, and Indigenous charitable organizations were already five steps behind a non-Indigenous charity. And because of those preexisting economic and health disparities, it was going to take more effort and potentially more resources to be able for them to service the communities that they do serve from coast to coast to coast.

Wanda Brascoupé (05:58): There are 52 organizations in the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity fund, this cause fund that we’re talking about today. They are working to overcome the challenges much like all of us, but with what we’ve seen-you know, staffing issues, connectivity issues, remote issues-there’s been a plethora of initiatives that the average person or the average charity does not have to come against. I’ll give you an example of one organization that services in the area of health and, in transitioning into COVID because they’re used to the face-to-face like many of us were, their desktops were not camera ready. So not only were they trying to service people, they were trying to get the hardware just to be able to provide the service in a global pandemic.

Lama Alsafi (06:47): Wanda, how does coming from a place of humility facilitate good practice in fundraising, and in fundraising for charities?

Wanda Brascoupé (06:58): Good question. Humility is a common value when it comes to reconciliation that everyone can utilize. It is a place of I don’t know what I don’t know, or I do know what I do know, and I want to hear what you have to offer as well. So humility is a truth. It is a value. It is an underserved value in Western society, but it’s also potentially the bridge that will bring reconciliation to reconciliation to fruition.

Lama Alsafi (07:33): Well, that leads us to the next question here. So, you know, Wanda, in this moment, many Canadians are learning about Indigenous history and the ongoing and traumatic systemic legacy that colonization has left, and really frankly, continues to have on Indigenous communities across Canada. You know, many Canadians are also learning how they can be better allies in the movement towards truth and reconciliation. So I wonder, what’s your message to Canadians, perhaps those who were previously unaware, misinformed, or only peripherally aware about this history and who are coming to terms with it, how can they work to become better allies in this movement?

Wanda Brascoupé (08:15): You know, asking yourself that question, how to become a better ally is step number one, and pondering it. But actioning it is another thing. So what I’ve said and shared with my non-Indigenous friends and colleagues: start from where you’re comfortable and what interests you. We as a society, have this desire to, you know, have the right answer in 180 characters or less, and we want to, you know, get our point across, and perhaps in the social media, not be able to have a true dialogue. Becoming a better ally is if you’re interested in music, let’s just start there. If you’re interested in human rights or interested in climate change, or you’re interested in the arts, or if you’re interested in whatever, whatever it is that you already have an interest in, it is allowing that space to have Indigenous voices come in.

Wanda Brascoupé (09:19): If we are utilizing social media, invite Twitter voices that you would not otherwise. It’s as simple as doing a search, reading books. There are a plethora of opportunities that you can Google and search again, but start from what you’re interested in. If you’re living in an urban sector, look for an Indigenous organization that you may not even know is in walking distance from your home or within your city. You can start by giving. You can start by volunteering within your own community and/or searching a little bit more again through the cause fund and perhaps finding something that is of already of value and an interest to yourself and including Indigenous peoples, organizations and activities.

Lama Alsafi (10:13): Wanda, what do you want policy makers to know about how they can better support Indigenous causes in Canada?

Wanda Brascoupé (10:20): That’s a great question. I would like policy makers to know that Indigenous-led organizations, causes, charities and nonprofits exist and that they should be included in the conversation.

Lama Alsafi (10:35): Can you tell us, can you share with our listeners, please, Wanda, maybe some exciting or innovative work that you know of that Indigenous-led charities are doing today in Canada?

Wanda Brascoupé (10:45): I’d be happy to. I wish I could go through all 52 of the ones that are on the cause fund, but I will pick three. Your listeners may or may not know that there are Indigenous-led learning institutions. So the first one I’m going to do is called FNTI, First Nations Technical Institute. They have been around for 34 years and just in the Tyendinaga area of Ontario. They have a 96% graduation rate. They have a school for aviation. They also are groundbreaking in social work. They’re groundbreaking in applying Indigenous ways of knowing in food sovereignty and food justice. They are also, a hundred per cent of their students get positions after they graduate, so that’s one. The next organization I want to talk about is the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation, and they are based out east. They are a youth focused organization with two main purposes: to receive and maintain, to advance education by providing publicly available scholarships and bursaries, but they’re doing it through, while it’s education-based, they’re doing it through leadership roles and closing the gaps in their way of approaching programming and education for youth leaders. They’re doing some incredible work. In Québec and Labrador, there is an organization called the First Nations and Inuit Suicide Prevention Association of Québec and Labrador. Their mission is providing services to prevent suicide to Indigenous Peoples and the Inuit population. The work that they’re doing is innovative and lifesaving. It is healing as well as sharing the true history of Inuit and First Nations people in that area.

Lama Alsafi (12:46): So Wanda, where can our listeners go if they’d like to learn more about the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund and the work that you’re doing?

Wanda Brascoupé (12:54): Thanks for asking. Please go to canadahelps.org. There’s a cause fund, or just push in “Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund CanadaHelps.” You’ll be able to find us, you’ll be able to find a bit more information. We have a little blog on what is Indigenous-led. The purpose of the cause fund was to share with donors across Canada the difference between Indigenous-led and non Indigenous-led. It really is to shed light on the brilliance and ingenuity that exists in communities, and in particular the transformational work that Indigenous-led charities are doing from coast to coast to coast.

Lama Alsafi (13:32): And Wanda finally our last question, what are some of the ways that anyone listening right now, whether they’re at home, they’re in their car, how can they better support Indigenous causes, now, whether in Canada or around the world?

Wanda Brascoupé (13:44): Supporting Indigenous causes here in Canada, you can go to the canadahelps.org and look for, under Cause Funds, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Fund, that’s one. There are numerous other Indigenous-led charities, and you can even put that into Google search, you know “Indigenous-led charities Canada.” Around the world, you know, Indigenous Peoples globally have a common thread. And that common thread is to live together in a respectful way. There are Indigenous-led charities and causes globally. And again, I just recommend that you look in your backyard and if there is a friendship center in Canada that you may or may not have known that has been in your city or in your area, donate or get involved.

Lama Alsafi (14:42): Well, Wanda Brascoupé, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s really a pleasure to have you as our honoured guest. Thank you for sharing your time with us. Thank you for sharing your passion and for so generously sharing of your expertise. And just for me personally, I want to thank you for the opportunity to learn from you.

Wanda Brascoupé (15:06): Thank you.

Lama Alsafi (15:07): Thank you. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in. As always, you can find every episode of 15 minutes to Change the World on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and by visiting our website at care.ca/podcast.