How Indigenous students are helping to transform their communities

The non-profit organization Indspire helps support Indigenous students. The Agenda in the Summer's Nam Kiwanuka talks to Indspire's CEO and an up-and-coming filmmaker about education and effecting change
By Carla Lucchetta - Published on Aug 19, 2019

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Victoria Anderson-Gardner’s The Hurt That Binds Us started out as a thesis project for her program at Ryerson University. The documentary, which explores the intergenerational trauma experienced by Anderson-Gardner’s family, won the award for best documentary at the school’s film festival this year — and has since been screened at the Voices With Impact festival in Los Angeles.

For the film, Anderson-Gardner travelled to Eagle Lake First Nation, northwest of Thunder Bay. “I wanted to talk about [residential schools] more within my community and within my family to help better understand myself,” she says. “Meeting other Indigenous people [at Ryerson] helped me realize we have similar traumas because of what we’ve experienced.”

A grant from the non-profit Art With Impact helped with production costs, and a bursary from the non-profit Indspire — which provides bursaries, awards, and scholarships for Indigenous students — helped cover her post-production costs and her living expenses in Toronto.

“If we’re going to change anything — the economics, the well-being in our communities, housing, water — education is the key,” Roberta Jamieson, Indspire’s president and CEO, tells Nam Kiwanuka on The Agenda in the Summer tonight. “Education that validates and nurtures our people as Indigenous people: that’s the key to success.”

Jamieson, a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, was the first Indigenous woman to earn a law degree in Canada and the first female ombudsman of Ontario. Her role with Indspire, she says, helps her continue her work in “creating positive, constructive change” by helping educate a new generation that can, in turn, create more change. 

Last year, Indspire awarded $16.3 million through 5,553 scholarships and bursaries to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students across Canada. “[The award] is based on need,” explains Jamieson. “How they’re doing in school and their commitment to giving back to the community. Those are all the factors our jury takes into account.”

For Anderson-Gardner, film offers a chance to inform and engage. “I wanted to encourage communication and continue the process of reconciliation,” she says. “It was definitely a life-changing experience.”

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