Posts tagged ‘career’

An Exciting, New Opportunity

It is my pleasure to announce that I have moved to a new, exciting employment opportunity with Ishkonigan, Inc., a consulting firm owned and operated by former National Chief Phil Fontaine.  I’ll have the opportunity to support collaboration between First Nations and corporate Canada that will enable economic development that respects the unique culture, perspective and values of indigenous nations.  I am quite excited about this opportunity to work closely with Phil, his managing partner Scott Patles-Richardson and the whole Ishkonigan team.

Further, I have taken a two-year leave of absence from the Ontario Public Service to accommodate this opportunity.  It also allows my family to better look after the personal and health needs of our children by providing the flexibility to work from my home office and reduce my travel burden.

Usually, I’d leave the announcement to my Assistant Deputy Minister’s office to address my departure from MTO.  However, with such a quick move over the winter holidays, a few gossipy-type individuals have taken it upon themselves to fill in the information gaps.

To be clear:

  • I have requested the two-year leave for personal, family health reasons.  Because of this leave, I am required to fill out a mandatory Conflict of Interest form for the Deputy Minister to sign off.
  • This doesn’t mean that I’ve been “let go” because the ministry is doing an investigation into a conflict of interest involving a family situation.
  • The Deputy Minister and my ADMs were all completely supportive and there is nothing untoward about the request or circumstances.  I’ve been deemed to be fully-effective in my role with MTO.
  • I did not leave as a form of protest to coincide with Idle No More.  That’s just silly.

And I thought the Moccasin Telegraph was bad.  Sheesh.

I wish I could have given my appropriate goodbyes to my colleagues at MTO as well as the community leaders and officials I had been working with.  However, the powers-that-be are still figuring out the transition plan and how the news will come out at the MTO.

On that subject, I do want to comment about working for the Government of Ontario.

As an Anishinaabe man, it is indeed kind of strange working for the Crown.  But I thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it.  I feel that more indigenous people should consider working for the government.  There are so many good and diverse opportunities in the public service once you have your foot in the door.  Believe you me, if there were more of us working for the Crown, making policy recommendations and making decisions, the Crown-First Peoples relationship would be a whole lot different.

I recall receiving some criticism from one or two people who thought that I was just a “token Indian” hired as a brown face to deal with all the Indian problems.  In fact, I was hired as a Director, a senior position within the government structure and competed successfully against many qualified non-natives who wanted the job.  I wasn’t hired because I was Anishinaabe, I was hired to take MTO into a different direction:  “A New Way of Doing Business” with indigenous people.

My underlying philosophy in establishing this brand new MTO Aboriginal Relations Branch was to change the culture of the organization.  I wanted to foster a new relationship based on respect, meeting our legal obligations and upholding the Honour of the Crown.  This was to be done by creating a heightened awareness and bringing First Nations perspective to MTO, not the other way around.

We used the medicine wheel as the basis of our strategic framework.  We started our meetings with ceremonies and sought the guidance of our Elders.  This is something that has rarely been done by government.

I was encouraged to use my abilities as a speaker, motivator and traditional teacher.  We created new and innovative ways of providing indigenous awareness training, with messages and curriculum that includes the perspectives of Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Mushkegowuk, Lene Lenape and Métis people.  I was always pleased to receive messages of thanks and personal stories about how I was able to touch people.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve seen people change.  I’ve seen the start of a transformation.  We’ve celebrated relationships, culture and people.  We became more than just a ministry that required to consult – we became partners in engagement.

I’d like to truly thank all those who supported my time in the OPS including ADM John Lieou, ADM Gerry Chaput, Deputy Minister Carol Layton, Deputy Minister Scott Thompson, former Deputy Minister Lori Sterling, retired ADM Brian Gaston, and Greg Coleman.

I’d especially like to thank my team at the Aboriginal Relations Branch.  It was an honour to work with you all:  Vera Gevikoglu, Donna Bigelow, Megan Chochla, Jasmina Konopek, Jeff Kerr, Real Bouchard, Dwayne Pamajewon, Joe De Laronde, Meghan MacMillan, Katherine Jin, Matthew Rosenfeld, and Giles Benaway.

Chi-miigwetch.

The Dirty Bit and A Little Bit More

Superbowl – It’s been a couple of years since I’ve watched football in earnest. I still may, or may not watch the Superbowl on Sunday. However, my team has always been the Green Bay Packers. But I reckon I was more of a Brett Favre fan. I lost my allegiance and interest in the NFL when he moved on to other teams. Nevertheless, I’ll be wearing my cheese-head on Sunday. Prediction Pittsburgh 24, Green Bay 17.

How about those Leafs?!? – Just kidding.

Weight Watchers and Workouts – I’m still on track and everything is looking good. I’ve lost about ten pounds so far. I hope to do better at my weekend weigh-in now that I’ve included regular exercise into my routine. Using the elliptical is still tough, but I hope it will get easier as I get used to it. I’m still doing 20 minutes at a time. I watched a great documentary refuting the Bering Straight theory on my Palm while I exercised. It’s better to have a good distraction rather than listening to that annoying voice inside me saying “you can’t possible finish this.”

My new job– I’m looking forward to working with Ljuba Irwin and Roger Obonsawin at the OI Group. In my role as Director, of Governmental Relations and Business Development I will represent the interests of the OI Group in dealing with all levels of government and with First Nations across Canada. I will be developing new and existing business opportunities as well as enhancing the profile of the OI Group and marketing of their innovative human resource products and services. A notice was sent out to all OI employees, past and present, and I will begin working on negotiating a possible political resolution to the outstanding tax cases.

Tourism and Culture – It’s bittersweet to be moving on from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. The Culture and Strategic Policy Branch has a lot of great, professional people. Certainly, all the folks that work in my Unit are top notch. On the other hand, I felt the Ministry was not able to use my skills, experience and networks to their best advantage. And although the Ontario Public Services would like to attract top, diverse talent from the Aboriginal community – they have a lot of work to do in order to retain that talent in their organization. All in all, it was a great experience and good orientation to policy within the provincial government.

The Commute – Only five more days of commuting downtown for me. The combination of driving, parking, walking, taking the subway and walking again is taxing. The average 24 km trip takes about an hour the morning and over an hour-and-a-half in the evening. Although I may complain about the commute downtown, I’m actually going to miss it a lot. It represents most of my alone time with my sweetheart. Nothing is better when she looks at me with those beautiful brown eyes and reaches over to hold my hand. The commute will now be to Brantford, but only a couple of days per week. It’s a lot further but I’m used to travelling in my car long distances. I think I’ll cope well. Now, what’s the best route through traffic?

Birdwatchers, a film by Marco Bechis

Movie Weekend – Deb and I are going to see The Rite starring Anthony Hopkins. We’re horror, suspense movie freaks. Although, I’m intrigued by a film called Birdwatchers. It’s about a small band of Guarani people in Brazil who begin to occupy a rich farm-owners land. The film shows their struggle for land, loss of their environment, poverty, suicide and how they must pose in stereotypical garb on the riverbank for boatloads of tourists. The reviews are sad but favourable. The film is cast with first-time actors and a largely, improvised script. I know it’s playing at the Bell Lightbox but I wonder if it will play closer to home?

Dirty Bit and a Little Bit More – If you can name the artists of these two song titles (without Googling) you are truly an inter-generational music-lover.  Check out the answers here.  Other tunes with “bit” in their title:  Just a Lil Bit by 50 Cent, Give a Little Bit by Supertramp, and Little Bit by Drake.

My Life in Retrospect, 2010

Really, it’s been a rather uneventful year.  Which is a good thing.  No big changes, other than another contract job in the Government of Ontario.  Had a couple of great vacations and a blissful home life.  However, a little ticked at Black Bloc anarchists and Rob Ford, two entities spurred on by angry mobs.

NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR:  The G8-G20 fiasco here in Toronto.  Our offices were closed for a day or so.  A major portion of downtown was fenced off.  Police in riot gear on every corner.  And thousands upon thousands of protesters.  For kicks, Deb and I drove through it on June 26 after a morning at the St. Lawrence Market.  Although, I can’t condone the instances of bad policing and the conduct of some individuals.  I also can’t condone the massive, systematic arrests and abuse of emergency police powers.  However, what got lost in the story was the violent protests and use of black bloc tactics by anarchists.  Sure, the police may have abused their powers – but could you imagine what would have taken place if they weren’t there?

I CHEERED for World Cup soccer.  It’s not a very big part of culture in northern Ontario.  But everyone in the city goes crazy at World Cup time.  And now wonder.  Everyone has a team to cheer for based on their nationality.  While we Anishinaabeg may never have a team to cheer for.

I JEERED Mayor Rob Ford.  Knowing George Smitherman, he was definitely the best man for the job.  Hands down, the Toronto mayoral race was also the year’s biggest political disappointment.

BEST MOVIE:  The King’s Speech.  We just seen it last night.  It is a fascinating story about King George VI.  The acting is absolutely superb.  Colin Firth is so believable in the role.  As is the Queen Mum, played by Helena Bonham Carter.  Geoffrey Rush plays the likeable speech therapist, Lionel Logue.  One of the most comedic scenes is when Logue’s wife comes home unexpectedly to discover that her husband is being paid a visit by the new King and his wife Elizabeth.  These British royalty films are great.

CAREER:  Presently, I am the manager of culture policy for the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.  I’m responsible for managing the policy direction of the Government of Ontario in the areas of heritage, archaeology, libraries, museums as well as the Ministry’s role in cultural planning, renewable energy and Aboriginal Affairs.  I have a great staff of fourteen people.  What amazes me most is the constant turnover.  Staff are always coming and going so I spend a lot of my time managing human resources, filling vacancies and making sure we’re being responsive to senior management.  It is gratifying to know that many of the things we do go a long way to preserve the rich cultural heritage of the province.

NEW WEBSITE:  I wanted to do it last year but the designer I wanted was so incredibly busy.  However, I’m satisfied with the look and feel of the design.  But what lot of people really don’t know is, I am the developer. The content, function, database operation, and programming is all me. The technology stuff is great.  The best thing about it, for the first time, the website was developed completely with open source programming.

FAMILY:  Deborah and I having the time of our lives together.  We are working on being more healthy – eating right and staying in shape.  Katherine Faith turned 15 years old, with a mind of her own, a boyfriend, pretty good judgement and aspirations of driving the car.  In fact, I took her on a couple of joy rides and she did really well.  Griffin turned 11 and Miigwans turned 8.  Jasmine turned 12 and Fiona turned 8, just like Baby.  Singing:  “When you’re eight, you can do so much more.  When you’re eight, you can walk around outdoors.”

ROAD TRIP:  These seem to be a thing of the past, as most of my road travel is limited to getting to and from Nipissing and to attend ceremonies a few times per year.  The longest road trip, once again, was a family drive to Spring Ceremonies, June-13, 2010 in Wisconsin.  A total of 2524 km.  My car just turned over 150,000 this morning.

VACATION:  Who can forget the trip to Varadero, Cuba!  Lots of great beach and swimming action, some pretty good snorkelling and great family fun with the Girls.  Deb and I also got to spend some time in Montego Bay, Jamaica in a lovely villa with our friends Joe and Fiona.

I CRIED WHEN when I found out that Warren passed away.  He was younger than me… a family man… with a young daughter and newborn twins.  So tragic.  I was glad to know him and happy to know he’s still with us through his young family.  Rest in peace, Warren Monague.

I CRINGE WHEN people on Facebook write “R.I.P.”.  If you are so thoughtful, and want to offer a sincere condolence, can’t you write out Rest in Peace?

MEMORABLE MEAL:  Steak and lobster dinner at Joe and Fionas with her uncles Robert and George.

MEMORABLE MOMENT:  Floating peacefully, about a km out from shore, in the warm, ocean water off Varadero, Cuba.  Nothing around, accept me and the Spirit.