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This article was published 21/6/2019 (347 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In recognition of today’s National Indigenous Peoples Day, Canada Life announced Thursday that it is committing $500,000 to Teach For Canada and Connected North, non-profit organizations that help close the education gap between First Nations and non-First Nations communities.
Great-West Life — now operating under the new Canada Life brand— was one of the first signatories of the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord. Thursday’s commitment is another step the company is making towards reconciliation.
Teach For Canada, a non-profit from Ontario that launched in 2015, recruits, prepares and supports teachers who go to northern First Nations communities.
Teach For Canada executive director Kevin Berube said in an interview that they require at least a two-year commitment from a teacher.
"What we want to see is that consistency, so these kids are coming into a classroom and they trust that a teacher is going to be there," Berube said. "Historically, that hasn’t been the case."
Berube said teachers often see northern communities as a last resort because they couldn’t find work at home.
"There wasn’t that level of commitment, and as a result, schools would be left partway through a year with a teacher shortage," he said.
Berube noted that in 2018, Teach For Canada supported 97 teachers in almost 20 northern schools, teaching more than 2,000 First Nations students.
Canada Life’s donation, handed out over a three-year period, allows the non-profit to expand into Manitoba by hiring more teachers and giving them the support they need, such as development training and mental and emotional supports.
Connected North is a non-profit that was founded by Cisco Systems but is now operated by TakingITGlobal, a registered charity in Toronto. It delivers immersive and interactive educational programming to remote Indigenous communities, similar to Skype technology.
"Students that live in the city have the opportunity to go on field trips and learn from experts," Tanjit Nagra, youth engagement activator of Connected North, said in an interview. "Students up north don’t have that accessibility, so Connected North connects them with experts, role models or mentors that they can look up to and they can learn from."
Nagra said the money they receive will be used to connect two Manitoba schools by 2020: one in Grand Rapids, another in Nelson House.
Near the end of Thursday’s announcement, Nagra presented Canada Life’s president and chief operating officer Jeff Macoun with a star blanket — a traditional gift of honour — as a symbol of appreciation for the company’s donation.
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Updated on Friday, June 21, 2019 at 6:19 AM CDT: Adds photo