Cat Criger, Traditional Indigenous Aboriginal Elder and Karen Pitre, Special Advisor to the Premier on Community Hubs provided opening remarks at the 2017 Community Hubs Summit.
I noticed we have plastic chairs so we can break them up and start a fire, which was my first thought. [Ojibway]. So, I’ll switch to English because I don’t actually speak Ojibway very well. I introduced myself with my spirit name, which is Makwa Giizhigad, which means Bear in the sun.
[00:01:00] It’s not working. I am Cayugan through my father’s side of the family, but I am also German-English through my mother’s side of the family. So, I am not only of multiple DNAs, but to some degree, I joke sometimes to say I am self colonizing. So, I am grounded in that way that I am also of the turtle clan that designates my blood relatives as well as my spiritual relatives [00:01:30] that this land that we were walking on it recognized to most recent caregivers as being Mississaugas of the New Credit, but also recognized all the people that walked this land for the last 13,000 years since the big ice walls move back a long long time ago, [list of First Nations tribes] [00:01:46], the Mississaugas, all the other people that are walking on this land. Within the words I used there is prophesy that says and again I don’t speak Ojibway very well, but it says come on let’s get up, let’s do what were suppose to be doing.
[00:02:00] There is a reorganization of the sun coming up in the east, it did. I promised you, it really did, bit cloudy but it’s there, but that sun travels from east to west every single day and reminds us that we have a purpose in life to be shedding light and bringing warmth and bringing life to everything around us as we go through our life that travel from east to west that beginning of life that end of life, it is cyclic. It will continue that we have a mission, we have a job, we have responsibility each and every day [00:02:30] of our lives to shed that light. I recognized the moon for the eternal dance she does with the sun and how she watches over all of us in the evening and if anybody was out in a non-cloudy space last night, it’s a beautiful crescent, very, very beautiful, it should be full in the not too distant future few days from now. Now, I also recognized the water to the south of the us, that is big water that is essential for life and don’t listen to the weather guy that says it’s terrible weather out there because that water is coming up to touch us, [00:03:00] each and everyone of us is mostly water, I think 70% or 80% water.
I always like to acknowledge this just because when that water travels all the way from the lake through the sky world, it comes back down and touches us, it is reminding us how essential that is for life that we must have that and all these things must come together for things to work for us to survive for us to be here, those are critical things. When we gather like this, the old style will to light some sage, light a smudge, have a fire going in the center and listen to the drums. [00:03:30] I was doing this yesterday, I was talking with Adela, that yesterday we were up actually putting up a TP, my partner and I, we were up north of Peterborough, Ontario. We actually put up a TP and do you know the each pole in the TP has a teaching, the way it’s put together, the tripod that holds it up, the middle tripod and then there are poles that go all around that, how the skin is put on, why the door faces east, why there is a fire in the center, why we have those drums and single drum sticks that we use on the small [00:04:00] heartbeat drums that bring us all together and reminds us that we all have a heartbeat, actually everyone of us has that, we carry that with us in that.
When we come together like this, we like some sage in a bowl. It is more of sacred medicines that would be taken to each and every person. There would be metaphorical hand washing, there will be smoke taken over the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, you breathe a little bit in and that is so that we recognize and metaphorically cleanse ourselves, spiritually cleanse ourselves that we come together at one [00:04:30] mind and that why we are here, why we are together, why we are sharing wisdom and knowledge, why we are sharing those gifts that we have that mindset. We all come together of one mind, all heads same height is what my west coast friend always says, that we all do equal respect that we all carry something that’s very important, when you carry something this very important, the only way that it is in a sense that is useful is if you share, so we often share things, we often come together, we vision together. There is a massive opportunity [00:05:00] today to vision together.
I have a question I would like to ask sometimes and it’s really simple when I bring by the people together like this and it’s what did you wanna be when you are a little kid and that talks about vision your future. What did you wanna be when you were a little kid, gotta be honest, Power Ranger?
Submariner, that’s like a superhero, right. How about you?
Okay, and you?
In the Army.
In the Army?
A veterinarian, we called them veterinarian when we were little. So, why you didn’t notice something, you do this later, you are on table, when you asked people what your vision when they were young, the several things that disappear. Skin colour disappears, belief systems disappear, race disappears, DNA disappears, [00:06:00] all kinds of things disappear and we realize it each and every one of us no matter where we are from in this world in this place, we have a vision that we want to follow.
We have a path that we want to follow and it’s need to recognize that each and everyone of us has a vision in that we need to come together sometimes to understand how to make that happen, I recognize we are not an astronaut or may be not a Ballerina right now or marine biologist because we are all in this room, we will be somewhat different, doing something else, that’s important to recognize, so we have a gift that we need to share [00:06:30] when we come together. So, when we would start our fires, the idea was it brought people in. When we start that drumming that you heard ceremonies, if you have ever been to a Poway, that is to bring people together of one mind that is to the heartbeat that we all have that heartbeat that beats together, that’s why by the way our drummer they never have two sticks, just one. The beats always the same we share them. We sit around the big drums and play them. We sing in unison together. So, each and every one of us has a song that we sing as a matter where we are from in the world.
[00:07:00]At my office at the Mississauga campus that says indigenous center and I did that for reason a number of years ago before indigenous became a popular word and the reason it says an indigenous is because we are all indigenous to somewhere. My office became the neutral zone on campus. Anyone from anywhere could walk into my office and we could talk about spirituality, about believes, about visioning, about moving forward, about coming together. So, it’s not, I don’t believe in multi-culture. It is not startling, but do you know why, [00:07:30] I believe in inter-culture. Multi-culture says little cells here and there. I like the idea of inter-culture because that says a dialogue between, a speaking between and that when we come together like this when we are setting at our tables, if we understand each other’s vision, if we have a knowledge where we are coming from, so I introduced myself by my spirit name, the Makwa Giizhigad, Daytime Bear or Sun Bear. My DNA, which is Cayugan, German, English. My Clan, which is turtle, [00:08:00] all those things come together and say who I am and where am I from and in that way, I recognized that I am the visitor on this land.
So, my hats off to the once that I caregiver now for this land, because I have privileged to walk on it. Now, I need to walk in a good way. Our responsibility to respect each and every person that here for how they walk, how they talk, how they prey, how they sing, how they dress, how they carry on relationships, all those things that each and every person that needs to be cyclic back to me as well. So, that if my walking in a good way [00:08:30] those things are also respected for what I do. So, we have a gift thing going on today. Each and every one of us carries a bit of knowledge. Each and every one of us has come from somewhere and hint the word HUB is on here somewhere that idea of how can we bring things together, how can we use that central component to work out from that and that component is like the fire. So, each and everyone of us are coming here with little bit a wood to put on that fire, make it a little bit warmer, little bit warmer and when you have that fire going really nice, people will gather around it [00:09:00] and anybody is ever gone camping or sat around the fire or roasted marshmallows, you share.
Hopefully, it’s not about you work that day, but it’s about the stars, it’s about the woods around you, it’s about the animals, it’s about the things that are close to you. We share those little gifts that are important in our heart and always for many people bringing a community together, helping one another, sharing a little bit a light, bringing life to everyone around you, but fire in the center of the ceremonies that we have represents [00:09:30] also that sun that risen, says warmth. I keep coming back to that warm word, I don’t know why. Still think we should start a fire. This used to be one of the hottest place is in Toronto to work. Can I interpret that how you will? I think they should start up the kiln again [00:09:53]. There is an old saying some of we may remember, Indian giver, [00:10:00], remember that.
Yeah, it’s a kind of fallen out of favour most delightfully so, but a man you gave somebody something that took it back, the actual basis of that has a cultural teaching. What it meant is if you gave somebody a gift, they were obliged to honour it, if they were not honouring it as a person to one who give, you have the right, in fact the other’s responsibility to take that gift back to make sure it was someone being honoured. So, each and every one of us has responsibility today when we sit [00:10:30] at this table, when we share, when we speak, when the people come from a long ways away to speak here, they bring some wisdom. They are offering that opposite gift, not just as a keynote, not just as a speaker, but they are offering you a gift of wisdom and knowledge and that you have that responsibility to take that hold that very carefully and travel with it. By that mean, we used to have elders, we used to have people that would go from tribe to tribe, from village to village, they would sit and talk with the others, they would share knowledge of healing, wisdom, hunting, traveling, and medicines. [00:11:00] they would leave that gift with you and in turn you would tell them other things and then they would take that and share that, so it can ongoing thing that enriches everyone around, see our responsibility today, why you receive these gifts, you take them in your heart, you hold them in a good way, take them back to your community, to your place, to your school, to your ministry, to your wherever and share them with others around you in a good way.
So, been given something precious to hold, something wonderful to hold. [00:11:30] I can probably stand here and talk all day, but I think there is few other people that actually like just to invite everybody, when the speaking is done, appear to take a moment to introduce yourselves in a different way, tell each other what you want to be when you share those visions of your path in life, remember who your mentors were that’s the important part of that other little exercises, who is your mentor, who made you wanna be an astronaut or veterinarian or teacher or an educator, that’s so critical because if we talks about the ancestral path [00:12:00] and part of the reason I come up and speak and when I do ceremony before I come here, so before I come here, I do ceremony about what we are doing today.
I asked that all of our ancestors join us, all the once that made the pathway for us to be here because so many people came together to make a pathway for us to be here and to share and we can do that today. There is many places in the world we couldn’t do this but here we can do it, make the best of it and again I apologize there is no wooden chairs. So, I leave you with those words, [00:12:30] I leave with those ideas and all I say thank you, Miigwech.
It’s actually nice to be up and walking, little chilly. So, good morning everybody and welcome. It’s so great to see you. My name is Karen Pitre. I am the special advisor to the Premier on Community Hubs [00:13:00] and I have to say after 2 years of phone calls and e-mails, it’s really great to see you all here today. I laugh because it’s no longer just called Karen and I think the Premier mention that the ability of getting balanced between ministries meant that actually it became a very convenient place, but I really think we tapped into a real nerve where people wanted to have this conversation. So, it’s great to hear about bringing people from across different sectors together because you live it. [00:13:30] I hear about it and it’s great to share that experience. I just wanted to say a few thank you before I start and I really wanted to start by saying a big thank you to both the Premier and Minister Shrilly. For being here with us today is really great, but more importantly is actually the support that is coming from the top and I do say that I know the Premier has been involved in this file for a long time as a school trusty as the minister of education, the minister of municipal affairs [00:14:00] and I think that being a Premier means, you can actually tell people exactly what you want to happen and we have been able to move mountains because of that and it’s really an important part of the success of bringing people together here today is because of leadership both from the Premier and from the minister to make sure that the other ministries actually see this as a huge priority.
So, I thank you for that. This is needless to say [00:14:30] like every time I really busy time for the Premier and with the budget last week and they have to run back to the legislature, but I think it’s really important that we know that your supports means the world to us and I think what’s really been different time and I know that all of you have been, many of you have been involved in community hubs for decades, but never before has the province actually stepped up and played a really critical leadership role in this space and I truly believe that is why we are here today [00:15:00] and it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t have that leadership.
So, I wanted to thank you also to Minister Shrilly because he has been involved throughout your whole career in supporting local champions and leading the projects that strengthen the communities like community hubs and we have these conversations about in many ways that’s why people get involved in politics is because of actually the people on the ground. So, your understanding of the importance of the community needs and the support for this initiative is really evident in many of the conversations that [00:15:30] we have had and your help frankly and moving the real property challenges that the Premier announced today. So, I wanna really say that there has been remarkable amount of work done in the sector and having this type of provincial support has really been an important piece of this. So, I know you have to leave now, but from all of us, thank you for your leadership and your support.
So, I also think and as I went through in sort of thought about who really has been an integral part of this, you will see that in some ways the thank you that I start with are really the important building blocks of why we have created such an important conversation here today and I do wanna thank the advisory group and the Premier mention them, but they are interesting group and I convinced them they would only have to be really fully engaged for 90 days because we had a mandate [00:16:30] from the Premier to put together a strategic framework and action days. She wanted 30 days, we got her to go to 90 days and they have hung in for 2 years. So, a big thank you for that and I think one of the most important conversations that we had was we wanted there was a big discussion about whether we actually have pilot projects and you know there was a thought that maybe we should do five pilot projects and really demonstrate how you could do things differently and the advisory group to a person said that [00:17:00] there is a fundamentally flood premise because you solve anything 5 times, but you don’t actually ever make this is, so we sort of chuckled now.
We didn’t do pilot projects, but we actually have what we call our issues tracker and I am pretty sure everyone in the room has called me at least once to tell me about the challenge that you have and that has been able allow us to actually bring forward. Many of the changes that were talking about that actually indicate to the different ministries what the problems are the people are experiencing [00:17:30] around the province. So, I think it is a very insightful decision not to do the pilot projects. It has mended instead of having 5 pilot projects, we have about 155, but I think it’s really emphasis the need to actually come up with these systemic changes. There is another group that has been involved more recently just to help us, which is the capacity development reference group, which is a mouthful, but it really is we picked a lot of people that have experience across the sectors [00:18:00] and we know that we are not those experts.
So, helped us, put together all of the sort of thinking that went into the resource network because really where we are sort of starting and seeding this, this resource network is your tool. So, we wanna make sure that well this is the first step, it really has built with you and then for you and actually by you, so they have been a great help, they also helped with the lot of the thinking around the summit as we put this together [00:18:30] and many of them our facilitators and contributors to the sessions that we put together. I also wanna say thank you to the Mighty hubs team. In government as the Premier mentioned, most thinks are setup in ministries in silos and we have a very small hugely dedicated team within the government that actually is working across government on all the community hubs initiatives, which is not an easy task. So, you can appreciate when the Premier talks about everybody [00:19:00] working in their particular silo, the Mighty hubs team’s job is to go out and connect all of those pieces and actually make it work well and they have done a fabulous job really putting together this submit with the exception of the heat that is lacking today.
I also wanna say and it’s really been an interesting conversation with the Ontario Public Service and I think the Premier really mentioned it and set it up very well, this is really challenging work in the way that the system works [00:19:30] and you can appreciate that while everyone is busy, everyone intuitively knows that this is a really great idea, but is actually making it work that becomes a challenge. There has been tremendous dedication within the system to move this forward. Ministers have community hubs in their mandate letters and perhaps even more importantly, we have from the secretary of cabinet and deputy ministers to the working groups and to the many volunteers who are here today are really [00:20:00] dedicated sense to figure it out how to do things differently.
So that the province can actually enable and get out of the way and it has been a really tremendous push from within that is trying to work this as well and perhaps more importantly to all of you who have called, written, complained bitterly, you know who you are and provided advise really a big thank you because really working together we are breaking down those silos [00:20:30] and renewing and strengthening the existing and developing new partnerships and more importantly we know we are making a difference to the many Ontarians across the province. I think that completing all the thanks as I mentioned made me realize that it’s a pretty powerful group of people that are trying to sort out how to work together and together we are really empowering and were enabling and we are getting out of the way and all of those things are really challenging and difficult until you actually get everybody who is aligned [00:21:00] and wants to do the same thing and that’s why I really wanna say to all of you this is really important work and we are here to actually help.
So just a little bit about some of you heard this before and I really began this journey about 2 years ago when the Premier asked me to take on this role. I don’t think either of us realized quite the little interest that we would tap by sparking this conversation. To say that it was overwhelming was a bit of an understatement. [00:21:30] Everybody really intuitively understands, we wanna make livable communities and build local capacity and we wanna look at was working at the community level and the provincial level and she said very clearly to me don’t go back and tell why community hubs are good idea, we have been there and done that. We all agree it is great idea and it’s really easy to say that it doesn’t work, but it’s not easy to know how to fix it and I think what I wanna say is that there has been really amazing in the response [00:22:00] that we had and I do say we engaged.
I would say most of you engaged. I think people found me from everywhere and over the 3 months, which was 90 days, we heard from people all over the province and the response was completely overwhelming. We heard great ideas and people took it very seriously when we said don’t just tell us what doesn’t work. We pretty well know what’s not working, but it’s much more difficult to say how do we fix that and we took great submissions [00:22:30] and with the advisory group, we took that together. We put a strategic framework and an action plan and put together 27 recommendations, delivered it to the government who said we will accept all 27 recommendations. A lot of them are tough and we are moving on them, some are easier than others, but with the Premier behind us, we are working together to try and change many of those things that we have identified and we keep getting more barriers and we keep working a way at them. So we continue to [00:23:00] sort of unearth the challenges that you face on the ground.
One of the major findings I think, which we heard from a lot of people is we need to build local capacity and I think that people really appreciated the fact that we said we are not actually doing community hubs you are but we want to make sure that we actually give you the tools that you need. So, as the minister mentioned earlier, we have launched the resource network. We don’t think you should have to start [00:23:30] everything from scratch every time you trying and start something at a local level. So, we are trying to build together the tools that you will need and it is in its early stages. So, we need you to help us to add the content that will actually make it easier. If you have done great things in your community, let’s share those. The number of people when people call me what I do is I actually have them call someone else and just basically make those connections so that we can do it together. So, I remind you to check it on the activation zone where it’s warm [00:24:00] where you can go through the website and get signed up as a member.
The other thing that I think is really significant step today is the announcement by the Premier, a new application based program to help community groups like yours who have identified an opportunity to purchase a surplus public property for community use and I have heard from a lot of people. We know that it takes more time than we give people and the current system doesn’t allow for it. As a result, we don’t get that good decision making and we [00:24:30] have regrets down the road. So, there is still details to be worked out, but we know the community planning done right, it does take time and this actual program is set up to actually address that and at Queen’s Park, as the Premier mentioned we are also working across the ministries to do a better job of aligning so that when you have somebody who is from education telling you have to do something quickly and health who is actually not moving quite as quickly as some of us think they perhaps should, we need to do a better job of making [00:25:00] sure they come together at the same time.
So, just a little bit about the summit today, we continue to here and engaged from the communities across the province on a regular basis and I think the one other think that’s resonated very early on is there is no definition of community hub and the Premier mention that is well and I have to say that that’s really hard for government and they wanted actually definite it, have a program put it in the box and then it’s done. [00:25:30] But, we know and perhaps you know better than anyone that each community is unique and has its own demographic needs and desires, which makes it a lot more challenging, but it also makes a lot more interesting. So, I see it to be a diversity of stakeholders from numerous sectors, health education, justice, just a name a few and also municipalities and not for profits, from all parts of the province and from it’s far north is Kenora and Fort Frances.
So while we have no single definition, there is many shared [00:26:00] characteristics, which result in the delivery of integrated social services of a community hub that will meet local needs, but to do this and you have told me, we run into barriers and challenges and over the next few days, we will really work together to address these and I call it the community hubs 2.0, we have made great progress, but this is really to continue to advance that. So, we have designed the program to talk all the issues that you have been raising in our discussions and just to give you a little bit of a flavor, [00:26:30] we salute that little note that is saved the date and we had a survey that people attached to it. We had 350-people e-mail us immediately to tell us what they wanted to see at the summit, which was totally surprising. Then, we send out the registration without any program details and we are completely full before we had even published the program. So, we clearly know that this is a topic that people are very interested in and the summit [00:27:00] is really just a start doing that deeper dive and collaboration and knowledge sharing.
So, we are here to listen to the great examples. We are here to ask questions to learn from one another and to take home some of the good lessons that we have learned to further innovate and build our communities. So, the summit’s agenda is really, there has been lot of work that’s going into trying to respond to your 350 suggestions and I think you gonna find a setup to be really a practical hands on experience to help move the agenda forward. [00:27:30] We have challenged our facilitators and our presenters and we have said to them we don’t want a power point and I have to tell you the amount of anxiety that’s created because everybody who is involved likes to have a power point and just sit up there and talk to the slides. We have asked so be patient if people are little uncomfortable because we have really challenged this because we know actually that there is a point of starting a conversation, but the people in the room actually have the good ideas and when I talked about what they think needs to happen.
[00:28:00] So, we have tried to set it up really that the people at the beginning will do a little bit of a this is what our experience is, they will be in the room to help, but we have set it up much more as a workshop so that we can hear from you and we can get the other experts in the room to help us. So, we have an impressive roster of speakers workshops, sector conversations and tours lined up for you and coming up after our first networking break, which I am gonna get a hot coffee, I feel like I am starting to shake. We will kick off [00:28:30] the workshop part of the summit and we have set it up, actually is an interesting conversation with some key individuals who will share their experiences about the importance of hubs right now and the session will be moderated by Danielle Zonnati and I think again, it is really interesting, so many people in this space from different prospective. So, it will set the stage and I know people have said to me they like to go to multiple sessions at multiple times. So hopefully, we will have lots of sharing that we can have and just a few parting words [00:29:00] we need to continue to work together to fight for what we believe in and what community’s need and to continue to build this from the bottom up.
This is to where we see the work of the real local champions like yourselves that have been involved. We are all in this together, we all play different roles. The collaborative work between governments and communities is challenging, but we are here because we believe it’s important and that we are stronger together. Ontarians wanna live be part of complete communities [00:29:30] and those include vibrant and successful community hubs. So, enjoy the summit, please feel free to say Hello and we will be back to you at about 11 o’clock. Thank you very much.