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Indigenous information starts newcomers on path to Reconciliation


The Saskatchewan Intercultural Association (SIA) is working to help newcomers to Canada on their path to reconciliation through education.

The Mentorship Program at SIA works with professionally trained people coming to Canada, connecting them to their professions in Saskatchewan. The participants are doctors, nurses, engineers and others with a post-secondary education and high levels of English.

As part of the mentorship program, the coordinator Ben Bodnaryk, establishes the importance of multiculturalism in Canada.

A big piece of this is an understanding of Indigenous People in Canada.

“So many newcomers, immigrants to Canada, come with predisposed notions or stereotypes of Indigenous People of Canada,” Bodnaryk said.

“When they come here there is often already a divide in place … what I like to offer as part of our program is a re-education.”

Bodnaryk works with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner Speakers’ Bureau to have someone come and talk about First Nations culture, the treaties signed in Saskatchewan, and the role of the  Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The speaker talks about the past and how it connects to the present day, he said.

“It gives [newcomers] a better understanding of the history,” he said.

Many of the newcomers have seen similar results of colonization, for example racism and segregation in South Africa, Bodnaryk said.

Often the participants want to ask questions and share stories of their experiences, he said.

The feedback SIA get surrounding this education is always positive, Bodnaryk said, “in many cases the reaction is that they had no idea this had happened.”

SIA is just starting to look at the bigger picture of reconciliation and what it means to them as an organization, but Bodnaryk has some ideas.

 “It is important in the larger theme of multiculturalism.”

The Mentorship Program is available through funding from the Ministry of Economy, for more information Bodnaryk can be reached at bbodnaryk@saskintercultural.org

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