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Diane Roussin: Indigenous Social Innovation

Diane Roussin is an Anishinaabe ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒃ community leader passionately committed to the pursuit of mino bimaadiziwin(the good life) for all families and children. Her in-depth knowledge of Indigenous issues and solutions flow directly from her strong sense of identity and worldview. She is a proud member of Skownan First Nation in Agowidiiwinan Treaty 2 Territory. Diane is currently the Project Director of The Winnipeg Boldness Project, an ambitious social innovation initiative seeking to create large scale systems change for children and families in the Point Douglas neighbourhood.



Working tirelessly, primarily in Winnipeg’s inner city, for initiatives that promote Indigenous People’s values, world views and ways of knowing, being, doing and feeling, she has led many projects and organizations including as Executive Director of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, as Co-Director of Community Education Development Association, and as Coordinator of The Centennial Neighbourhood Project. She is adept at leading collaborative processes that involve numerous cross-sector partners and stakeholders.Diane serves on the Board of Directors of Animikii Indigenous Technology, the Winnipeg Foundation and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She is a member of the Indigenous Advisory Council at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies and Chair of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative Council.Diane presented at TEDx Winnipeg in June 2018 on the topic of Indigenous social innovation and in January 2018, was awarded the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal for Outstanding Indigenous Leadership. She is a recipient of the Manitoba Women Trailblazers Award by the Nellie McClung Foundation.


Diane holds both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Social Work Degrees. Diane Roussin is an Anishinaabe ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒃ community leader passionately committed to the pursuit of mino bimaadiziwin (the good life) for all families and children. Her in-depth knowledge of Indigenous issues and solutions flow directly from her strong sense of identity and worldview. She is a proud member of Skownan First Nation in Agowidiiwinan Treaty 2 Territory.


Diane is currently the Project Director of The Winnipeg Boldness Project, an ambitious social innovation initiative seeking to create large scale systems change for children and families in the Point Douglas neighbourhood. Working tirelessly, primarily in Winnipeg’s inner city, for initiatives that promote Indigenous People’s values, world views and ways of knowing, being, doing and feeling, she has led many projects and organizations including as Executive Director of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, as Co-Director of Community Education Development Association, and as Coordinator of The Centennial Neighbourhood Project. She is adept at leading collaborative processes that involve numerous cross-sector partners and stakeholders.


Diane serves on the Board of Directors of Animikii Indigenous Technology, the Winnipeg Foundation and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She is a member of the Indigenous Advisory Council at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies and Chair of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative Council. Diane presented at TEDx Winnipeg in June 2018 on the topic of Indigenous social innovation and in January 2018, was awarded the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal for Outstanding Indigenous Leadership. She is a recipient of the Manitoba Women Trailblazers Award by the Nellie McClung Foundation. Diane holds both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Social Work Degrees.


Episode Transcript:


Stuart Murray 0:00

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota and the Dene peoples and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.


Amanda Logan (Voiceover) 0:19

This is Humans on Rights, a podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.


Stuart Murray 0:31

Diane Roussin is an Anishinaabe community leader, passionately committed to the pursuit ofmino bimaadiziwin (the good life) for all families and children. She's gonna let me know if I nailed that or not. Her in depth knowledge of indigenous issues and solutions flowed directly from her strong sense of identity and worldview. She is a proud member of Skownan First Nation in Agowidiiwinan Treaty 2 Territory. She is currently and has been for some time the leader and the project director of the Winnipeg Boldness Project which is an ambitious Social Innovation Initiative seeking to create large scale systems change for children and families in the Point Douglas neighborhood. Diane serves on the board of directors of Animikii Indigenous Technology, the Winnipeg Foundation and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She is a member of the Indigenous Advisory Council at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, and she chairs the Indigenous Innovation Initiative Council. She is presented a TEDx she has been awarded the Governor General's Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding indigenous leadership. And she has been the recipient of the Manitoba women Trailblazers award by the Nellie McClung Foundation. Now, I'm exhausted just reading and I left so much stuff out, Diane. But what an incredible life journey you've had so far. I just want to say I'm delighted. And I want to welcome to this episode of humans on writes.


Diane Roussin 1:56

Aanii Boohzoo. And thank you for having me. And thank you for that very generous introduction.


Stuart Murray 2:02

Of course, I had to edit so much out because I know you've done so much. And we're going to talk about your life journey, Diane, because I think that's really what this podcast is about, talking about the education of what it is that you're doing in the boldness project. But just to kind of start it off, as we get to know you. You're extremely busy. You're an incredible leader. Let's start off by asking you like how do you start your day?


Diane Roussin 2:23

In this online world, I unfortunately start my day by looking at my phone and returning trying to return as many messages as I can in your way. I mean, I think all of us are busy. And it's I always say there's always good busy, and then there's that grinding busy. But definitely, I think there's a lot of work to be done out there. And for myself, you know, being asked to participate in so many different conversations, I do view myself as being very privileged and very lucky to be invited in, you've sort of referenced sort of my upbringing, or by my life's work. And, you know, I can remember in my early early days of working here in Winnipeg, where I wasn't invited into circles, and as a matter of fact, I was one of those young folks that sort of down on the ledge with my bullhorn, you know, leading marches down to City Hall, and, you know, really having to create awareness in that way. And so, you know, having to be, you know, we talk about advocacy, and different things like that. And so over time, and where I'm at today, you mentioned some of the things I'm involved in, I'm now actually invited into the into the room, I there's actually sometimes a place mat with our place card with my name on it, you know, I have a seat reserved. And more and more, I'm actually asked to stand at the front of the room with a microphone and say a few things, which is kind of a little bit about, you know, you inviting me here. And so I've seen that evolution, just in my lifetime alone.


Stuart Murray 3:54

And what do you think, has been kind of the progenitor? Why is that happening? Diane, do you think I mean, I don't want you to be modest because, uh, you know, you are a leader, you've been recognized as such. But you're also operating in a in a system, and we're going to talk about systems, but you're operating in an environment where as you say, for the longest time you were asked maybe to attend, but could maybe stand at the back of the room. Now that's reversed and you're at the front of the room, what do you put that down to?


Diane Roussin 4:22

Well, thank goodness, we are evolving and developing as a country, I can make the moral imperative on that I can make the business imperative on that. You know, there's a lot of reasons why that's happening. Obviously, one of the most significant in today in more recent memory is things like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, you know, with its calls to action, and I think the country has really, you know, embrace that and people are really leaning into that conversation. So I'm very again thankful and grateful for the work that's happened there. You know, the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls that the calls to justice report there, I think we're, you know, this, these issues are now so front and center that we can't just ignore them. And folks, you know, want to be a part of the solution. And so trying to understand, you know, the history, the real history of this country, or at least all of our histories of this country, and then trying to figure out how do we move forward? And how might we, you know, build a better candidate or build a better Manitoba and a better, you know, Winnipeg for all of us. So I do think there's more appetite now than perhaps what I was starting out in my career. Certainly growing up, you know, if I could touch on that a little bit, on one hand, I can see now, but I'm very privileged, that I was raised by my parents, I was raised with my siblings, I always knew who my people were, I knew who my family was, I knew where my land base was, you know, Skownan First Nation, my mother was physically born there, she wasn't born in a hospital, she was born by the aunties and cuckoo's, you know, right there on that land. And so when I know all the way through, like, I know who I am, I can go all the way up to know who my great, great, great, great, great grand folks are all the way through to ancestors, you know, in the reality of colonization, the reality of residential schools. And lots of people were taken away, lots of people were stolen, lots of people don't know, they're there, and we're not really stuck with their communities and with their families. And so, I, you know, I had that. Now paired with that, there's always all kinds of sides to the, to the stories, you know, I grew up in grinding poverty, you know, we had no money, and it was we were really poor. I grew up with, you know, things like family violence, and alcoholism, and lots and lots of racism, which obviously continues to this day. I am very obviously, indigenous, and so I walk in this world as an indigenous woman. And I've been treated as such. And again, in the earlier days, there was a lot of negative, you know, acts of racism that I experienced. And, but I also being a First Nations woman, and I know, we might get into this maybe a little bit later on, I happen to be classified as having treaty status. And so I have a number, and I, you know, and which is connected to this thing called the Indian Act, which is, you know, you know, Constitution. And so that's really, which I would, I would maybe chalk up to some systemic racism, you know, along with those individual acts of racism. So, you know, growing up, that has been my reality, my experience was really shaped my views of the world. And that has led me into the work I'm doing today. And all the things that I'm involved in right now, here in Winnipeg, and across the country, which is really about centering indigenous voices in so many things.


Stuart Murray 7:53

So a couple of things that I just wanted to sort of circle back on with you, Diane, you mentioned the fact that you have a treaty number, so you have treaty status. That was a change, right? Because I think when, if I understand correctly, when women left the reserve, did they lose their treaty status? At one time?


Diane Roussin 8:11

Yes, there was a history where that get through the Constitution, there's, there's some what we call sometimes Indian constitution, math doesn't always make a lot of sense. But there's a way to where the status can be passed down through generations. And so in the past, there were ways that the men could pass it on, but the women couldn't. And so that's there's been a few amendments to the Constitution on that front, you know, Bill C, 31, and some others. And so, that has been amended a bit. I still think there's flaws in it. But again, there's a lot of flaws in the Indian Act, period. But yeah.


Stuart Murray 8:50

Yeah. So no, thanks for sharing that. And then the other thing, I just wanted to get your thoughts because I, I really appreciate, you know, the kind of work that you're doing through the Boldness Project and other areas that you're involved with with your leadership. You mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation. I mean, that whole commission, you know, it really gripped the country, I believe, you know, I just happened to be very fortunate, I should say, to have an opportunity to spend some time with at that time, you know, one of the commissioners who was on the board of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights with Louie Little Child, and also with the the commissioner, Murray Sinclair. Amazing people. I guess the one thing that I would ask you to and from your perspective, the report was presented, the Commission disbanded. A we have a center here the Truth and Reconciliation Center here is in in Winnipeg, Manitoba. You mentioned that you felt great about that. I mean, I just would love to get your sense of how you see that has had a positive impact. I mean, there's a lot of work to be done on that project. But you know, I mean, there's baby steps right to move this thing forward. So how would you put into words some of the things that you would say to say look since the the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has made their presentations in their recommendations. Here's where I see this country moving in a very positive direction, just maybe give some some thoughts, some specific examples that you can see, because I, I think we need to share more and more of these, because it's so easy to go back to some of the challenges we've had, and they still are there. But let's talk about some of the successes from your perspective, please.


Diane Roussin 10:22

Well, I do think that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in all of its work, I mean, it was some very heavy lifting to do that work. And it's had a lot of staying power. And I think, you know, what, I was really worried in the early days that, you know, this will have its, you know, year and then and then Canada would move on from this conversation. But it but Canada hasn't in Canada has stayed in the conversation and continues to stay in the conversation. So I'm very, you know, happy to see that, you know, the truth Reconciliation commission was, has been built upon, you know, other big, big studies and big commissions in the past. And so we definitely, if you, if you go, if you read through the calls to action, almost all of them, I think, reference UNDRIP, which is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. And so that's another document that we need to go to, and because that would, you know, predates the TRC, and there's a lot of, of really important pathways, if you will, action items, you know, things we can do. In the UNDRIP, we all we had our cap, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal people like that was massive, which again, had a lot of recommendations, it had a lot of suggestions in there, a lot of pathways, a lot of things that we can do as Canadians to make this country a better place for all of us. And again, there's just so many different things we can do. And there is something for every single one of us in all of these reports. And of course I mentioned earlier, but the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. And so if you haven't read those 213 calls to justice, I would encourage you to do so. So there's a lot of ways for us to engage in these conversations, there's a lot of ways for us to take the action. There's a lot of, you know, from sort of the small steps to the big steps, I just think there's so much in front of us that maybe at times it feels overwhelming, but at least I'd rather be overwhelmed and underwhelmed with, you know, with options, you know, the truth is hard. The truth of this country and you know, colonization and all the different things such as, you know, residential schools, all of that is very hard to hold to here to understand to know, you know, my mother, you know, went to the day schools, right, that was right in Skownan First Nation, or, you know, and so, you know, I am would be considered, you know, an intergenerational survivor of the residential school. I personally don't speak my Anishinaabe language to this day, because my mother was born speaking her language. It was her first language, and she was schooled to not speak it. She still speaks it to this day, but it was, you know, very impressive, odd speaking. Yeah, my mum and dad spoke Anishinaabe, and I have a to each other my whole life. But what the school was successful in doing was to convince my parents not to teach it to the next generation. So me and my siblings were not taught to speak Anishinaabe, not they, because they were, my parents were taught that English is a superior language. And that as children, we would be more successful in this world if we spoke English. And so you know, that got sort of beaten into them. And that's what they did. And and so here we are, my siblings were our first language was the English language. And so, you know, I think in the early days, we will talk about the Indian Act, though, that's a conversation. My mom being somebody who was a member of the First Nation community when we passed, we called reservations, you know, she was not allowed to leave the reserve. That was a thing that happened where people could not leave the reserve. And, and so this idea of trying to make it better for your children, so they could have a better life than what she was living. You know, she bought into that. And for a while, that was true. And I think now, times have changed. And now we're really trying hard to lean into language revitalization because we don't want to lose our language. So I appreciate you know, using the language at the top of the show, and so the mino bimaadiziwin would like you know that you would actually yeah, that you would try to say that because I think it's important for all of us to try to use the words and to understand what those concepts mean and and to you know, again, reclaim those there's so much you know, Whippipek, Manitowabe, you know, there's so many what we think are English words are actually not English words. They're actually indigenous words that have been changed a little bit, or the pronunciation has changed a little bit, but they're actually a lot of indigenous words.


Stuart Murray 15:06

And that's kind of part of I think, the evolution that you refer to Diane, that the country is starting to embrace. You know, there's so much work to be done when you look at, you know, the recommendations that came out of the TRC. And I guess part of me always looks at that and says, You know what, I mean, I just have to look in the mirror because what, what am I doing? How am I doing? To sort of embrace those? What am I learning? And what's my take away from that? And just, we'd love to get your thoughts on this sort of comment, Diane, at the top of my podcasts, I have a pre recorded land acknowledgement. And a lot of events now happen with a land acknowledgement before the event happens. And I've had this conversation with a good friend of yours, a good friend of mine Murray Sinclair. And I've asked if, you know, are we at a point now where the land acknowledgement is almost like checking a box, like, let's just make sure that we do land acknowledgement, and then we'll get on with the program. And you know, I've likened it a little bit Diane to the point that when you get on an airplane, you know, these people are standing up giving you all sorts of security, it's and it's very important, what they're saying, but everyone's looking at their Blackberry or their, their iPhone, or their whatever it may be. And so now we have this significant land acknowledgement, which is, which is incredibly meaningful. If you want to listen to the words and appreciate and understand it, or it can become just something about oh, by the way, did we do a lot of Jonathan land acknowledgement? Yes, we did. Okay, great. What's this meeting about again, and you kind of race past it, and I just wanted to get your, your thoughts. And please tell me I'm wrong.


Diane Roussin 16:40

You know, you talked about the airplane. What I love about the airplanes now is the flight stuff is on the screen. And so they always do a really nice land acknowledgement right on the screen, when they're telling you how to buckle up, and so on, and so forth, and not smoke on a plane or whatever. So I love that there's that land acknowledgement right in there. But yeah, you know, it talks about a land acknowledgement. And here's how I sort of pieced it all together for myself for how I see it is being super interconnected, we have to understand the truth. And it's hard, like the truth is hard. There has been some very, pretty nasty things done to indigenous people, not only there's people but certainly indigenous people in Canada. And you know, I really do feel like our indigenous values our indigenous worldviews our existence was very connected to the land. And so we we, we weren't even human centric, we talked about all my relation, we understood that we you know, mino bimaadiziwin to live the good life, is to live a peaceful life and knowing that you are connected to all my relations, and so the interconnectedness understanding that interconnectedness is what leads to that peaceful, really good life. And so all my relations are the land, the water, the trees, the animals, you know, in recognizing we're but one and so our job, um, mino bimaadiziwin, when to live, the good life is to live in, in good balance with all my relations. So we had this concept, and we were tied to the land in a way, like we call the land Mother Earth, right. And so she's our mother. And so we relate to her like our mother, you know, you take care of your mother, she takes care of you it's reciprocal, it's mutual, you know, you worry about what makes my mother happy, what makes my mother healthy, what are the things I need to do to ensure those things because when, and because she does that for me, and so we think about the land in that way. And so we were very much therefore caretakers of the land, we had an accountability to the land, we had a responsibility to the land. And so we were caretaking the land for all of these years, like millennia, to the point where when settlers came, you know, the land was in a very good place, and it was the loud land of plenty, right, there was an abundance. And I think, you know, folks with other worldviews or value bases came and saw that, and, you know, having a more, you know, whether it be a transactional, capitalistic extraction or kind of a, you know, view of things where you want to now manage the land and harness the lead, like, I would never talk about my mother in terms of trying to manage her and control her and harness for like, I just would never use that language. I'm talking about my maternal mother, right. So I think there was a real attempt to remove that relationship between indigenous people and the land. And one of the ways to do that was to cut out our language, try to erase our language, try to erase our ceremony, try to erase our, like our values just just erase us. And so that's what colonization was all about. That's what the residential schools was a part of. And that's what the TRC is trying to show. Right. And so we were put on these little plots of lands, you know, our Additional territories that we would have been responsible for got reduced to very small plots of land called reservations, as another way to try to disconnect us from the land. It was illegal for us to practice our culture, it was illegal for us to practice our ceremony across this country. And so much of our ceremony is, you know, the foundation of our language, it is the it's the connection to the land. So, again, just all these attempts to sever sever, sever, sever. And that's what the colonization was about. And so the TRC is about, you know, acknowledging that collecting the stories of how that, you know, that severing, to places so many different ways. And but the we talk about the hope of it, the TRC also pointed out, how might we take action now to reclaim revitalize, you know, create restitution, like all the different things that how might we create a better path moving forward. And so I think Murray might have been the person Murray Sinclair, you know, the Honorable Murray Sinclair would have been the person to say, you know, we have shown you the mountain, it is now up to you to figure out how to climb it. And that is the work in front of it. That's how the climate, so I do think, you know, we definitely have a lot of work in front of us, I think lots of us are doing really cool work. And I guess that there's like small steps you can take, there's big steps you can take. But I think acknowledging that history is is huge, like, we just can't move forward, unless you unless we as a nation, as Canada as a country, acknowledge the actual facts, because then we don't understand why we're in, you know, I talked about growing up and grinding poverty. I didn't understand why that was. Because it wasn't just me, it was all the people who looked like me, lived in poverty. And I just thought that was this the way we were. And so I know, now that the systems that are in place in the enact being one of them, there is, you know, historic institutional racism in place to this day that many Canadians continue to benefit from, that led to such poor impoverished conditions for particularly indigenous people, because we're not teaching it in our school systems. I don't know if Canadians know that to live our culture. We it was outlawed, that we weren't allowed to leave the reserves, that we were systematically cut out of the Canadian economy. And so, you know, we wonder why indigenous people don't have, you know, intergenerational wealth, right, we don't have those kinds of assets, because we were put on these little plots of land, and, and, and cut out of the Canadian economy. And so now, when we think about how do we move forward, we can talk about things like economic reconciliation, how do the people in this country who have most of the wealth, how do they acquire that wealth, right? Those are some very can be very tough conversations. And a lot of people don't even know that history.


Stuart Murray 22:55

I want to just sort of leap forward a little bit to say, look at all of those challenges that came for First Nations through colonization, through all of those things that you know, the act of giving this little piece of land, let's take that little piece of land called Point, Douglas. And let's take the fact that you are and have been for a number of years now leading a project, which I just think was whoever came up with the idea of calling the Winnipeg Boldness Project, you know, deserves a standing ovation, because it could have been a project about lots of things but to call boldness, it really started to set it aside and say, No, we are going to look at this in a way that has never been looked at before. So you know, all of a sudden, you get people's attention. So in your words, Diane Roussin Who's been leading this project, what is the Winnipeg Boldest Project, and then I want to try to sort of drill down on some of the prototypes that you've been looking at and some of the success that you've gotten, because I know success builds success builds success. And that's what you've been driving forward. So too. So original question to you, Diane, what what is the Winnipeg Boldness Project when you started it, and when you got involved in it, and maybe now talk about some of the things you've seen over the number of years you've been involved?


Diane Roussin 24:10

Sometimes I know, it can be a little bit confusing to talk about social innovation and social labs and platforms. But if there's one thing you could take away about the Winnipeg Bouldness Project, notice what the Winnipeg Boldness Project is doing is centering indigenous wisdom, indigenous perspectives, indigenous value bases, indigenous views of the world. It is centering our ways of knowing being doing it feeling in all that we do. So it's centering that in trying to identify what we think the challenges and problems are facing us as indigenous people. And it's relying on that to design the solutions that which are those prototypes he talked about? And so that I think is one of the biggest missteps of this country is to not center indigenous experiences, voices values, you wisdoms knowledge systems in the conversation about what do we do moving forward to help, or to create different scenarios and pathways for indigenous people? Again, so part of the truth of the matter is that we haven't been, there are so many systems out there and you know, it can be justice systems, education systems, child welfare systems, you name it, all of those systems are designed for, you know, especially here in Canada, or sorry, in Manitoba, and Winnipeg, we have such large indigenous populations in the prairies, in a per capita sense, and even just just in vast numbers, that there are so many systems they're so expensive to, there's a lot of money being put into those systems. And they are designed quite a bit for indigenous people, they're supposed to help make life better for us, they're supposed to help have better health and wellness outcomes, you know, that's notionally what those systems are supposed to be doing. The real sad fact and the truth of the matter is that those systems are not helping our health and wellness outcomes in a positive way. And at their very worst, those systems are actually harming our families, tearing our families apart, tearing our villages apart, tearing our, you know, nations apart. And so that's the problem. The solution of it for me, again, is involve indigenous people to think about what do we actually see the problem is be and then involve us in figuring out how do we then create different pathways, different solutions, different ways of approaching this. And so, you know, I was very privileged my whole life, but until you once again, I was raised up in a certain way. So I'm very privileged, you know, there. And then I came into Winnipeg to go to school, I went to university, and I was lucky and I had done a little bit of had worked a little bit in the child welfare system was very angry, very disillusioned at what I saw there, in terms of it was all Indigenous kids, hardly any indigenous work workers staff. And, and certainly not using any indigenous approaches and how we were caring for kids, I was super angry, I was looking for something different. And I saw, Okay, I gotta go to school, I gotta, you know, get into policy, or I gotta get to the decision makers, I gotta figure out how to make change, because this can't, this can't be like this is not working. And what I did was, I somehow, you know, stumbled into the north end of Winnipeg. So it wasn't raised here. But stumbled into the north end of Winnipeg, and walked right into the indigenous matriarchs. And so again, I'm not sure if they found me or if I found them, but we found each other, and they took me under their wing, and I have been there ever since. And those again, there obviously, were a lot of Indigenous men too. But from my personal experience, I was really shaped by the indigenous women. That's why I gravitated towards. And again, there wasn't only Indigenous women, there was other women or other men too, but really, who I really took to were the Indigenous women leaders who were running everything in the northeast, they were running all the organizations, like they, and they were systems thinkers, that's, that was the other piece, what they said, resonated with me what they were doing resonated with me. And the first thing that they really affirmed with me is our people are not the problem, the systems part of the problem, our people are just trying to be who they are. They're trying to live and thrive and be, you know, do great for their kids, and just live a good life. But the systems are getting in their way. And so our job is to push back those systems, and then try to change those systems. And that is what the boulders project has been built upon, and continues to try to do, and a lot of those indigenous matrix are still involved with boldness. Again, I say pool, this has been around for 10 years. Well, this is built upon their knowledge and, and generations of work that they have done in the inner city of Winnipeg.


Stuart Murray 29:03

So how is it that Point Douglas became the center for the boldest project?


Diane Roussin 29:09

Well, Point Douglas is a little bit of a, you know, a technical term, because, you know, we have different ways of drawing boundaries in our cities. So, you know, we needed to figure out how we might tap into datasets. And so you know, capital P point capital D. Douglas, has boundaries, street boundaries, and it has postal codes, and it has datasets that we can tap into as as the technical answer to, to their point, Douglas, but I think that others were attracted to what you know, I would affectionately call the north end, because of the strength of the collaborations, the strength of the knowledge, the strength of the, you know, we have so many strong, strong indigenous led organizations serving indigenous families. He's like there's a real strength in the Northland. And I think that's the thing that really attracted, you know, the different stakeholders to be a part of this thing called the Winnipeg Boldness Project. And like I say, then we just sort of had to figure out the technical aspects of datasets, and so on and so forth. Later, so, but I wouldn't say we've been orphaned, and all of the amazing work happening or event. And again, I think our indigenous matriarchs, they understand in a very sophisticated way what the problems are, but an even more sophisticated way, they have been working from a strength based approach about how we build on the strengths of our people, and creating opportunities for our people to come and serve and give up their strengths in all of our organizations. And so that's the beauty of what's happening, and that the hope and the resilience, and the path forward, that's happening in the north end, is that our folks know, how to, you know, create conditions where children and families can thrive. And so the problem becomes, there's so many systems that are getting in the way of that, how might we then change systems, which is why we talk, as the Winnipeg bomb has project, it is a social innovation platform. And for me, the definition, one of the most pointed definitions of social innovation is that we're trying to create systems change. And that's why I got involved with the Winnipeg Boldness P roject is because it was positioning itself as a social innovation platform, it didn't fully understand what social innovation was back then it was that language was new to me. But as soon as they said systems change, I knew exactly that. That's what we've been working on the north end for generations. And I knew, Okay, this is something that I want to be a part of. And this is something I want to help build the infrastructure and ecosystem around so that we might do more of this, because it was something that could then really benefit the indigenous led organizations that are doing that heavy lifting work in the north end.


Stuart Murray 31:54

So you talk about systems change. And you know, I was on your Winnipeg Boldness Project website, which is a great website, I would encourage everybody to go and look at it, because there's some great work and lots to learn from that website, Diane, but you talk about systems change, you talk about child centered ideas, for those people that might be listening and saying, I Diane keeps talking about systems and system change. What are systems? And what system changes? Are you specifically referring to? And how are you looking at making some of those changes and in over the course of time, and as you say, this has been not the last 10 years at the Winnipeg Boldness Project has gone way, way before that. But now you're into it, share some of your your thoughts on some of the systems that need changing and how you're going about doing that.


Diane Roussin 32:42

I also, you had mentioned at the top of the hour, I was fortunate enough to do a TED talk. And so I had laid out a little bit of this there as well. But when you look at stats, for instance, and so I have to do a little plug for data sovereignty there, the more that indigenous people can be in charge of their own data, in terms of determining what gets collected, how it gets collected, how it gets stored, analyzed, you know, how we then use it to generate different kinds of information reports, you know, we need to be charged with that. And that's, that's the indigenous data sovereignty piece that I will will say...


Stuart Murray 33:19

And I'm going to just stop you there for a second, because I think you I saw you on social today, that specific issue you put out there about why indigenous people are fighting for data sovereignty, so you know, fits very much with where you're going.


Diane Roussin 33:31

Yeah, and that's, again, one of the boards is set on as the Animikii Corporation, which is the largest indigenous tech company in North America. And so they're really pushing to, to, you know, for indigenous data sovereignty. And so it's really a great organization to be part of. So with that, the data is showing us that, you know, over 90% of the kids that are in the care of a child welfare system, and in Manitoba, are indigenous. And we're like right now at the, you know, at the highest, probably 20% of the population anywhere from, you know, 15 to 20% of the population, we're projected to be soon 25% of the population, which is another one of those business imperatives, but what do we need to, you know, really get things right with indigenous people. But right now, we're about 20%. Why is it that 90 or more percent of the kids in care are indigenous? And it is not because we don't know how to care for our kids. Right? There's something else happening, they're creating those kinds of numbers and outcomes. If you look at the justice system, the conservative number is that 70% of those incarcerated are indigenous. Again, it's not because we're criminals. You know, there is something going on in society that is creating those conditions, creating those outcomes and creating those numbers. I can go on, who is not being employed, who is not getting educated, who is the most unhealthiest whether it be, you know, diabetes or anything else who is suffering the most from the Mental Health issues, the indigenous numbers are almost always overly represented. And again, it's not because we don't know how to go to school, it's not we don't know how to learn, we don't how to start businesses, like it's not our individual capabilities and capacities. There are systems in place that are creating those conditions. The racey thing to say, and I love the work of Cindy Blackstock, if you've followed anything she's doing, like she is doing amazing work. And I know she has lots of really good people around her. But when you can google Cindy Blackstock, you'll see a lot there, I had the privilege of spending just a bit of time with her throughout my time at Boldness, and, you know, I talked about those systems being broken, because they're not, you know, creating the kinds of health and wellness outcomes for Indigenous people that we would want. And she said, she, she corrected me. And she said, you know, those systems are not broken, those systems are actually doing exactly what they were designed to do. And that really, is a awful thought to have. But it's correct. It's true. And I now realize, yeah, like those just because those systems do benefit. Somebody, they are benefiting. And so that's the question that we really need to ask ourselves is who is benefiting? And so again, I feel like that's a really good question for Canadians to ask themselves is, what am I benefiting? And why am I benefiting? And who isn't benefiting? Right? That is a very important question and conversation to have in this country. So so so those are the stats, right, which say, you know, these are systems are having harmful effects on our families. So we need to center the indigenous experience when we're trying to think about different ways to either change those systems or to design different systems. And so you know, again, back to the boomers project, that's what that platform is set up to do is to be a place where indigenous people can come, we can build the trusting relationships that allow us to, you know, think about different things that haven't necessarily maybe been thought about before. Or we can take risks we can do the emergence, the iteration, you know, it's very startup, it feels very startup, you know, it's very, that's why we do rely on and connect a lot with folks in the entrepreneurial world and in the business world, because, you know, in a corporate environment, people wouldn't question the amount of say, budget or time energy spent on research and development, you know, we have computers, phones, cars, what they you name it, we design prototypes, we test them, we don't just make one thing and throw it in the market. Like, we want to make sure that this product or service is going to really meet the needs of the consumer, right. So there's a lot of r&d that goes into the development of a product to make sure we got it right. So that the thing will then be very useful and sell and make billions of dollars, right? I mean, that is the thinking behind r&d, or some of the thinking behind r&d. We never actually apply that on the social side. So if the justice system isn't working, the child welfare system isn't working, where is their r&d space, to try different things to, you know, try different solutions, like, you know, just experiment. And so Boldness does that we're into, like, the 12 different prototypes at various stages, right now, we get our community to weigh in on what they think the problem is, we get our community to think about what the solution might be, our community is engaged in all these different ways in the design of the prototype, then we go to test the prototype. And so it's actual families that are testing the prototype. And we have these rapid feedback loops, and you know, things like that. And then our families are able to tell us, what's working for them and what's not working for them. And so, you know, at some point, we get to a place where we think we've got this prototype to a place where families are pretty happy with it. And then that's the thing we want to hold up to decision makers, you know, policymakers, funders, allies, you name it, we want to hold those solutions up as promising practices we call them POP's in our world, proofs of possibility, is what we call our POP's. And so there are a lot of people who get attracted to that. And so back to this, you know, we all have a role. Certainly, indigenous voices are what centered, but indigenous people, by and of themselves, need lots and lots of allies and stakeholders to get us to a place of, say, a fully skilled, totally embedded idea or concept that you know, what these prototypes. So we are the other piece about the Social Innovation Lab is that we are a cross sector collaboration. We have people involved in our lab, that are from the corporate sector, their corporate government, different philanthropic sector, they're from, you know, the community, universities you name it, because we cannot, the world is moving in a different way that we are facing Global challenges like we have never faced before. We that leadership is now required to be able to deal with issues of complexity. I think, you know, we can't work in a siloed, you know, sort of ways anymore. And so instead of a siloed way, we need to understand our interconnections way more. And I think that indigenous knowledge systems hold complexity quite well. They are able to really understand the interconnectedness of all the moving parts, we call that holistic thinking. And so I think it's time for indigenous knowledge systems to step forward. And, you know, be used in the design of some of these solutions that are trying to tackle these big, you know, global issues. And not only, you know, global issues, but right here that are the and the indigenous knowledge systems can be used to design solutions that better meet the needs of all my relations, you know, and again, not trying to be human centric here.


Stuart Murray 40:58

Yep. So then that's just take a second if we could and just explore one of the prototypes of you mentioned 12. And I just sort of went, I went through them, I picked out a couple, but let's just talk about one. And one of the support for dads, increasing family togetherness. Talk a little bit about that prototype and how it's doing from your, your sense. I mean, I guess POP's, if that's the right way to sort of look at it, but how are you feeling about that particular prototype?


Diane Roussin 41:24

The idea is not new, it's been around. And so again, you know, somebody's concept has been around in our community for a long, long time. But I don't know that it had really had as much traction, or, you know, maybe as much structured kind of resourcing, as I'm starting to see now. And so, you know, in indigenous community, we know that it takes a village. And so there's a role for men. And, you know, we have a continuum of, of folks that it takes to raise children. And so certainly, there's male roles. And I think that the way that many of our systems are designed, it's to separate families, and it's to separate out men and women. And so, you know, we're trying to say that what the supports for Dad was able to do was get some resources in place where we could actually go talk directly to dads, and ask them, you know, what is it that you need? What do you see your role as being? And so they just told us? And, you know, Stewart, I know, it sounds maybe just too simple or too, pollyanna? I'm not sure. But people don't go and ask the dads that question. And again, we relate that to a lot of what we're talking about, in the indigenous community, we don't go and ask indigenous people what they think. And so like in the child welfare, in the justice in the health, like, we don't actually ask indigenous people what they think. And if we do, you know, you're probably familiar with some of these concepts about duty to consult. And, you know, we're way past the consulting stage, like we're just moved on from there, we're now at a place a full on engagement, like you have to have full on engagement with indigenous people, if your initiatives going to be successful. And if you don't, again, we can make the business imperative about, you know, why, how that's going to hold up and cost you so much money, if you don't engage in this relationship from the outset, and all the way through. If you don't involve indigenous people in these issues, like it's just gonna lead to stalls and lawsuits, and opposition and all these different things for your projects. And so it's the same with those systems, is that we're just going to continue to spend so much money on these systems and to have these outcomes where it's harming families, I would bet that most Winnipeggers Manitobans, Canadians do not want systems to harm families, I'm just going to guess that most of us wake up with really good intentions. But we're just not aware that that's happening. And if people knew that that was happening, I think it would be more outrageous than there is. But then people want no cable that what do we do? Right? And so that's the idea. Okay, what do we do? And I think there's lots of spaces and places that we can lean into to figure out what to do. And I'll tell you like, when you we just had our budget come down Manitoba budget come down, you know, yesterday, you know, I have some very old numbers that I need to refresh. The pandemic kind of interfered with that a little bit. But in 2018, the child welfare system cost over the provincial government over $500 million. Like that is not a little bit of money. And to say that we're investing $500 million into something that's supposed to protect children, when in fact, it's actually harming children like that, we have to do something different there. And then there's more and more data and research that showing the longer indigenous children are in child protection, the worst their health and wellness outcomes are when they come out of that system, the more prone they are to mental health issues, the more prone they are to homelessness, the more prone they are to lack of education and employment, so on and so forth. That is not protecting children. And so, so again, I would say the same with you know, justice, health education, so on and so forth. So we're starting to see, you know, I can point all kinds of things, where we're where there's changes, and like you say, we're talking about the prototypes at Boldness, I'm starting to see more and more funded and ongoing funded dad's programs, like they're popping up all over the place. And so we're men can come together and talk about their role as men. And like, you know, again, men call each other out, and they, you know, take responsibility, and they keep each other accountable about what's their role. And so, you know, there's a lot of really great men at work in the north end, who are really trying to create that change and create those spaces so that men can can do that work.


Stuart Murray 45:41

One question and then one comment. And, and then we'll, as they say, hit the off ramp on this conversation, which I appreciate so much. What you're doing in in terms of the Boldest Project in Point Douglas, do you think you could lift what you're doing from that project and Point Douglas, out to a First Nation reserve and do the same thing?


Diane Roussin 46:04

Yes, as a matter of fact, some of that has already naturally happened. You know, one of the prototypes we were so fortunate to work on was at the very beginning stages, it was called the Manitoba Indigenous Duala Initiative. That was its first iteration. It has now led to it it was really driven by four amazing Indigenous women leaders, business leaders, who are actually leading a lot of things right now, not to mention that, you know, follow Dina, there's two of them over there running things. But you know, those four women had a real knowledge, sorry, vision about how the concept of bringing children into this world of that birth work could work for indigenous people, which is different than what the doula, you know, the mainstream doula concept was. And so from there, you know, they really put together training and ideas about how we might embed this in actually First Nations committees, you know, the idea of evacing, you know, pregnant women out of communities, so they can be backed into Winnipeg to have a child is just probably the worst way to bring children into this world. And so what are in probably a very well, one of the most expensive ones and the most harmful ones for baby and mom. And so what might we do do it by having that birth work situated right in communities. And so that's the work. You know, there's one guy got to say that out of that initial prototyping, as it iterated, and as it started to scale, two businesses were formed out of that, and by those Indigenous women, and so they created businesses. And so one of those businesses they went is off doing amazing work training, you know, they've got a whole training platform, and they're trading like I don't even know if they're international, I don't even know how many people they've trained through their program. Now, like just lots. The other was way to etawah Quahog, which is really trying to look at how we keep families together and is being a real viable solution to the child welfare system in terms of taking children into care, and having to Critical Care for Kids that way. So again, just those of scale, the wager it was a quite a walk actually took one of our other prototypes, which was the baby basket prototype, and went into a community with that. And the community actually scaled that and took it into a more communal approach. The baby basket we had that we, the stage of prototyping that we had it at, was to work with individuals. And so there was, you know, literally a basket that would go to families that were having a child. Whereas that community that it was acquainted with, was working with, said, you know, what we want to do like a community basket, if you will. And so they pulled all the resourcing, again, that collaboration, that collective approach, and they did a an honoring ceremony for all the babies coming into that community. They did, you know, cultural teachings, they didn't, they just did a big community feast and celebration. So they again, they took this concept from individuality over into a collective approach, which was we didn't have anything to do with that it was just gone on its own doing that. And we were, again, just thoroughly impressed and always amazed, and, you know, just heartened to see what our community does, when they are in charge. And where they take things like it's just like the sophistication impact is over the top.


Stuart Murray 49:16

Yeah, well, that's so fantastic. And I love the enthusiasm, the energy because what you're saying is you're you're delivering the energy because you see these things being positive, you see these things working have a positive impact on the community. I'm almost hesitant asking this question because it couldn't be a whole other podcast because I look at what you're doing in the leadership you're providing. And I guess, you know, if I were to ask you, if you think that Canada would ever be ready to abolish or I don't know if the right word is but the reserve system as we know it today. I mean, you talk about systems that is probably through the Indian Act, which is what how it was developed. But is it something you would ever see where you hope in your lifetime that we don't have reserves for First Nations anymore?


Diane Roussin 50:02

Well, so of course, my, my response to that is going to be if indigenous people decide we need to abolish the Indian Act, then then that's what will happen, right. And so again, it's about putting indigenous folks at the center of that conversation and in in the decision making place about that conversation, because the Indian Act at the end of the day does affect indigenous people, most directly, you know, out of all the nations and all the different people in this country. So if indigenous people want that to happen, then it should happen. I think there's a lot of work. But I'm also hopeful and very confident, in addition, people to be able to come up with something different or a different relationship with Canada, I think that connection to land will always be. And so this idea of a reservation system. You know, I would separate out the legality of that from the land based relationship. I do think that there are some downsides to the Indian Act right now. In terms of, you know, it's, it gets in the way of access to capital, it gets in the way of acquiring assets that's much needed when you're trying to be in the mainstream loan and capital acquisition world. So I think there's some changes that definitely need to happen there. But I think right now, there is a high level of distrust that, you know, Canada, will take indigenous people's best interests at heart when they go to dismantle their own constitution. And so I think that's where the reticence is, is that is the lack of trust that Canada would do that in a way that satisfies indigenous people. And that's why I say, you know, needs to be indigenous people at the forefront of that change. And then indigenous people will design something way better than an Indian Act, is what I believe. And so I do have hope, I mean, at the end of the day, I also think it's gonna go there, no matter what it has to go there, it's gonna go there. And so, you know, we want to be able to have these conversations in a, you know, in a in a collaborative way. But at some point, indigenous people are just standing up and just saying enough, and we're just taking our place, and we're just, you know, going to go in this direction, and you can lead, follow or get out of the way.


Stuart Murray 52:20

Yeah, for sure. Thank you for that. Diane Roussin, it took me a while to finally be able to get you to find the time to come on this podcast. I can't thank you enough, just as literally somebody who is proud to call Winnipeg, Manitoba home. I'm passionate about this community. And listening to you today, Diane, and the great work that you and your team are doing makes me only more passionate, because I really do think that we are blessed with people in this community like you who on a day by day basis with your team are making this a better place for people to call home. And it's not something that happens overnight. It takes a village of people, a team of people, and we are blessed to have your leadership making that difference. So I just want to simply say Diane Roussin, executive director of the Winnipeg Boldness Project, and so many other things that you're involved in, thank you for your time, thank you for your leadership, and thank you for being who you are.


Diane Roussin 53:17

Well, I also want to express the same gratitude Stuart. So continued neglect, which means very big, thank you. And additional bait for, you know, seeking me out, I know, I can sometimes be hard to reach. So thank you for being persistent about that it matters. I am always happy to share with audiences that want to hear, like I said earlier, there's some folks who don't want to hear this. And so I always appreciate when people take the time to listen, and to you know, and to thoughtfully listen, because some of what I'm saying is not easy to digest, and it's not easy to take. So you know, folks can be courageous and brave in their listening. And hopefully what I've said here today, you know, for those who are listening, hopefully it's just sparked a curiosity and an interest that you might then seek more information on any part of what I might have said, just know that as Canadians, this has not been taught to us in a systematic way, it has not been in our school system. So you don't know some of these things is because it was not taught. And so that's part of the reconciliation is that, you know, we need to get this into our, you know, knowledge transfer institution systems in a more structured resource way. And yeah, and so, I always appreciate the podcasts and the the invites to come and speak. And for the audience's out there for whoever's listening, I do want to also thank you for taking the time to listen to me.


Stuart Murray 54:36

Okay, Dianne, we shall be in touch again. But thank you so much.


Matt Cundill 54:40

Thanks for listening to Humans on Rights. A transcript of this episode is available by clicking the link in the show notes of this episode. Humans on Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray, social media marketing by Buffy Davey music by Doug Edmund. For more, go to humanrightshub.ca. Produced and distributed by the Sound Off Media Company.

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