Indigenous Women's Circle

Indigenous Women's Circle

The Indigenous Women’s Circle was established on May 24, 2018, to engage with Indigenous women leaders and experts in the public and private sectors on the challenges they face and their priorities for the Government of Canada related to advancing gender equality.

Members serve in an advisory role for a two-year term. Each member brings a wealth of knowledge related to three priority areas at Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE): increasing women’s economic security and prosperity; encouraging women’s leadership and democratic participation; and ending violence against women and girls. Indigenous Women’s Circle members come from a broad range of sectors and include First Nations, Métis, Inuit, youth, and Elders, with representation from all parts of the country.

The Indigenous Women’s Circle supports reconciliation efforts at WAGE. Its involvement in designing Indigenous-led approaches in the National Action Plan to End Gender‑Based Violence, for example, has been important, specifically in how it relates to the National Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. The Indigenous Women’s Circle also provided important feedback on support measures during the onset of COVID-19 and input into WAGE’s incorporation of multiple Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Diane Redsky, O.M., LL.D (h.c.) – Indigenous Women’s Circle Chair

Diane Redsky is a member of Shoal Lake First Nation #40 and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. As a nationally renowned visionary thinker and community leader, she has worked to address myriad issues facing Winnipeg’s urban Indigenous community, including health care, justice, education, and social services. She spent most of her career at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre—the largest non-mandated, non-profit, urban Indigenous-led organization in Manitoba serving Indigenous families in Winnipeg.

From 2011–14, she led the Canadian Women’s Foundation National Task Force on Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada, which made 34 recommendations to end sex trafficking. Diane is currently Chair of the MMIWG2S+ Urban Working Group, which developed a National Action and Implementation Plan entitled “Urban Path to Reclaiming Power and Place, Regardless of Residency” to address the MMIWG National Inquiry Calls for Justice.

Gabrielle Fayant, Co-founder, Assembly of Seven Generations – Indigenous Women’s Circle Vice-Chair

Gabrielle Fayant is a young Métis woman who originates from Fishing Lake Métis Settlement in Alberta. She is the recipient of the 2015 Métis Youth Indspire Award and has been nominated for the Samara Everyday Political Citizen Award.

Gabrielle is the co-founder of the Assembly of Seven Generations, an Indigenous non‑profit youth-led organization, and she was appointed by the Honourable Carolyn Bennett as a youth advisor for the Indigenous Youth Voices Initiative.

Gabrielle is also the producer, writer, and host of the TV show Noongom (meaning “today” in Anishinabemowin), which highlights the current realities of Indigenous peoples. Finally, she is the co‑host and producer of the Michif Hour on CKCU FM, a radio show that talks about Métis history and contemporary issues while exploring Métis artists, past and present.

Brandy Stanovich, MMIWG2S+ Manager, Resiliency Lodge Chelsea Advisor, Native Women’s Association of Canada

Brandy Stanovich is the MMIWG2S+ Manager and Chelsea Lodge Advisor at the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). She volunteers her time as president of the Indigenous Women of the Wabanaki Territories in New Brunswick and, in July 2022, was elected second vice president of NWAC. 

Brandy takes on causes that affect Indigenous families and communities at the local, national, and international levels. Since working with NWAC, she has supported a number of undertakings, such as the Change the Bill initiative and projects focused on language, art, MMIWG2S+, and resiliency lodges. 

As someone who is invested in protecting Indigenous languages, Brandy has worked with Woodstock First Nation to help create a Wolastoqey language curriculum and teach the language to students and families. She is also involved in NWAC’s work on preserving Indigenous languages. 

A mother to eight children, Brandy enjoys spending time with her family, engaging in on-the-land activities, attending sweat ceremonies, canoeing, fishing, gardening, travelling, painting, and other crafts activities.

Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, Ontario Native Women’s Association

Cora McGuire-Cyrette is the Executive Director of the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), which is the oldest and largest Indigenous women’s agency in Canada. ONWA focuses on ending violence against Indigenous women and their families and ensuring equal access to justice, education, health services, environmental stewardship, and economic development.

A proud member of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek (Sand Point First Nation), Cora uses her voice to champion the rights of Indigenous women, cultivate healing, create safe spaces, and support Indigenous women as they reclaim their role as leaders.

Cora was involved in the development of the Ontario Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and currently serves as Chair of Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services and Co-Chair of the Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council of Ontario.

Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, Chair, National Family and Survivors Circle in Canada

Hilda is a member of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and is currently Chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle in Canada. For the past 20 years, she has been a tireless advocate and leader to prevent and end gender- and race-based violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

Through her grassroots advocacy work, Hilda has relentlessly spoken truth to power, holding systems and structures accountable in addressing the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. She has presented at the United Nations and across Canada. It is her firm belief that every member of society has a responsibility—and is part of the solution—in ending all forms of gender- and race-based violence.

Jennifer Rankin, Senior Director, National Association of Friendship Centres, Ottawa

Jennifer is a member of Batchewana First Nation and has lived in Ottawa her entire life. Jennifer completed a BA in Indigenous Studies at the University of Ottawa and has over 10 years’ experience working with various national Indigenous organizations in the field of health, research, and advocacy. 

She has been working with the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) for over nine years, managing the administration of Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples (UPIP), which provides core funding to NAFC provincial and territorial associations and friendship centres across the country. 

In September 2022, Jennifer was promoted to the position of Senior Director, a new role that will provide senior-level operations support to the NAFC.

Liz Stone, Indigenous Knowledge Leader, Sir Sanford Fleming College

Liz Stone is an Indigenous Knowledge Leader at the Fleming School of General Arts and Sciences. She has held multiple positions at Fleming College, including Academic Chair of Indigenous Perspectives and Professor of Indigenous Studies. She has also been the Executive Director of Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle, which provides counselling services to Indigenous women and families.

Marjolaine Étienne, President, Quebec Native Women’s Association

Marjolaine Étienne, an Innu from Mashteuiatsh and a fellow of the Centre interuniversitaire d’études et de recherches autochtones at the University of Quebec in the Outouais, is the representative of the Indigenous peoples of Canada to the General Secretariat of the United Nations. She is also a member of the Advisory Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples.

Trained in human sciences and community work at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi, Marjolaine Étienne has a wealth of professional experience, with more than 15 years of political life and community development within the Innu First Nation of Mashteuiatsh. Between 2003 and 2010, she was an elected member of the Conseil des Montagnais du Lac St-Jean, then councillor and vice-chief of external relations. Concerned about making the voice of elected Aboriginal women heard within the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec-Labrador, she set up a working group to provide them with support and training.

Melanie Omeniho, President, Les Femmes Michif OtipemisiwakFootnote *  (also known as the Women of the Métis Nation)

Melanie Omeniho is a descendent of the historical Métis community of Lac Ste. Anne and is a proud member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Her political and advocacy career led her to play a role in the development and incorporation of Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak and to her election to three terms as President by Métis women across the homeland.

Melanie has extensive experience in the areas of community development, social programming, and family and children’s services. She has worked to develop programs and advocate on behalf of her community to effect changes to various social programs to better meet the needs of the Aboriginal community. She received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in recognition of her work in education, Aboriginal youth, and advocacy for families involved with Children’s Services.

Rosemary Cooper, Executive Director, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

Rosemary Cooper was promoted to Executive Director of Pauktuutit on February 14, 2022, following a two-year term as Acting Executive Director. Rosemary joined Pauktuutit in 2016 as Senior Political Advisor after having served as Political Advisor at Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Prior to moving to Ottawa, Rosemary served in the Nunavut Government as the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services when the Government was formally established. She also served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs. Born and raised in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Rosemary is fluently bilingual in Inuktut and English.

Kaelyn Mercer, Tapui’tjitja’amitj Program Coordinator, Native Council of Prince Edward Island

Kaelyn (she/her) is a Mi’kmaw youth from Ktaqmkuk, residing in Epekwitk. She has spent years advocating and volunteering with different organizations regarding human, animal, and environmental rights and was the Feminist Youth Ambassador for the St. Johns International Film Festival. As a queer Indigenous woman who is reclaiming her culture, Kaelyn now works as the Tapui’tjitja’amitj (Two Spirit) Program Coordinator at the Native Council of PEI, providing supports and programs for 2SLGTBQQIA+ Indigenous peoples, with a goal to raise awareness and educate others to reduce gender-based violence. She focuses on advocacy and work around decolonization, anti-racism and intersectionality.

Sheila Isaac, Director of Mi’kmaq and Indigenous Post-Secondary Recruitment and Retention at the Department of Advanced Education for the Province of Nova Scotia

Sheila Isaac is a Mi’gmaq lawyer from Listuguj, Quebec, and resides in Membertou, Nova Scotia. She has one daughter, Chantal, and two grandchildren, who live in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Sheila is a highly regarded expert in Indigenous history and on Indigenous women’s leadership. She has been a researcher and policy analyst for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and the Odawa Native Friendship Centre. Sheila has worked in her community as the Band Manager and as the Director of Human Resources. She also worked with a team of Mi’kmaq lawyers on the Supreme Court of Canada Marshall decision. She has been a guest lecturer and keynote speaker for several organizations and grades Indigenous proposals for the federal government.

Sheila is appointed to the Indigenous Education Committee for the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada.

Sylvia Maracle, Consultant, Sylvia Maracle Consulting

Sylvia Maracle has altered the landscape for urban Aboriginal programs and policies through her tireless work ethic, her ability to foresee emerging issues, and her inability to accept “no” for an answer. Her achievements and work with the National Association of Friendship Centres, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations, National Aboriginal Head Start, and numerous regional and local organizations are internationally renowned. Sylvia retired after 43 years as Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres and started her own consulting business.

Sylvia Maracle travels the continent to First Nations and urban centres, lending her expertise and experience. The development of a national network of service delivery agencies, like the Friendship Centres, will be felt for generations to come. Maracle has received national, provincial, and local recognition for her work and volunteer efforts. Maracle is Mohawk from the  Wolf Clan from Tyendinaga.

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