A Resource Guide for Bringing Canadian Indigenous Culture and History into the Classroom

At the November 18th, 2016 WE DAY held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, WE (formerly Free the Children) announced a new resource for school programming planned and developed with ongoing financial support and guidance from the McKillen Foundation.

The program will help teachers bring aspects of First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture into the classroom. In a climate of change, when Canada is ready to acknowledge its dark history of the treatment of Indigenous Peoples and seek reconciliation, teachers are poised to help create the biggest shift in national and generational mindset. "There is a serious lack of relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples," says Charlene Bearhead, Education Lead at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Craig and Marc Kielburger, Co-Founders of WE, commented, "We are so grateful to our friends and champions who have supported the development of programming and resources for communities and educators that tell the stories of First Nations, Métis and Inuit. We would like to highlight the longstanding commitment of the Terence and Svea McKillen Foundation. Their guidance and mentorship has been unwavering and we are grateful for their support in developing this resource as a component of WE's programming."


Breast Cancer Research

The Foundation is supporting the National Research Initiative on Young Women and Breast Cancer of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Together with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Institute of Cancer Research (CIHR – ICR), CBCRF has announced a $5.7 million investment to support a pan-Canadian research team investigating breast cancer in young women.

A growing number of breast cancer cases in Canada occur before the age of 40. The relatively poor prognosis of young women with very early onset breast cancer suggests that women diagnosed before the age of 40 may best be treated differently than older women, in terms supportive care and self-management, making decisions about fertility preservation, the impact of breast-conserving surgery, treatment delay ramifications, and provision of optimal care through a multi-disciplinary approach.


Empowering Canada's Aboriginal Youth

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Free the Children has developed some big visions for the next 20 years. Among these dreams is the desire to ensure that all Aboriginal youth across Canada have access to the types of educational resources that will equip them with the skills that they and indeed, all young people, need as they embark on a journey of creating change. Free the Children is on the brink of transforming education at home in Canada as well as in many communities around the world.

At the McKillen Foundation, we are proud to have been associated with Marc and Craig Kielburger and their team for a number of years and have witnessed the remarkable growth of the organization since both were youngsters.

We have watched We Days expand across three countries and Free the Children's domestic program, WE Schools, being adopted into more than 10,000 schools across Canada, the US and the UK.

Over the past three years, we have supported Free the Children in implementing a trial programme to bring their classroom resources and staff support to Aboriginal young people in several Cree communities of northern Quebec, providing leadership opportunites that would not otherwise be available to young people.

We are proud to have put our support behind this new vision for the next 20 years, enabling Free the Children to commence the process of enhancing their existing materials with supplementary resources for educators who work with Aboriginal and First Nations' youth throughout Canada. The goal is to introduce the programme and materials to educators for the 2016 academic year.


The Canadian Safe School Network – Stop Cyber Bullying

In 2016, the McKillen Foundation supported the launch of a new programme with CSSN and others for raising awareness and prevention of cyber bullying. The initiative, called the BullyStop Programme is a full-day interactive and creative event that involves high school and university students discussing social media and help put an end to cyberbullying by designing iOS apps. For further information, please click here.

The Safe Schools BullyStop program uses a ground up approach to learning about social media and cyberbullying directly from those who know it best: students. The Hackathons engage students in a discussion about cyberbullying and encourages them to share their own insights based on what they've witnessed or experienced online. Participants, are then invited to take part in a friendly competition to build mobile apps that can help put an end to cyberbullying.This approach creates awareness around bullying and cyberbullying. Engages youth in a discussion on the most relevant issues surrounding bullying and social technology and develops a unique and innovative digital solution to help combat bullying.

In 2015, The Canadian Safe School Network (CSSN) met with groups of high school students in six cities across Canada to discuss the struggles they face on a daily basis. Many of these young people have inspiring and intricate ideas on how to create safer schools. In many cases these students had more knowledge of these issues than their teachers and administrators. It was also apparent that many students were uncertain as to how to implement their ideas or how to take action and make positive change towards safer schools. With the support of the Terence & Svea McKillen Foundation, and others, the CSSN Youth Chapters will help these young people realize their ideas into meaningful projects and initiatives.



Starting in Vancouver, each Youth Chapter will meet monthly during the school year to discuss important safe school issues and share their ideas on resolutions. They will examine issues concerned with but not limited to LGBTQ safety and inclusion, mental health, bullying and much more. Each Youth Chapter will be lead by student mentors from local universities and overseen by a CSSN coordinator. During this time the CSSN Youth Chapters will plan and implement a youth led community project to create safer schools. Project ideas could be; workshops for peers and teachers on use of proper pronouns for LGBTQ students, teaching resources on mental health and depression, or community activity days based on inclusivity and acceptance for all students. These youth created initiatives have the potential to benefit thousands of students and teachers!

Canadian Safe School Network believes this 'bottoms up' approach will give a voice and platform to today's youth creating safer schools. The McKillen Foundation is pleased to be supporting this initiative.


Education for the Untouchables of India

The Terence & Svea McKillen Foundation is pleased to support the Freedom Through Education Project of the Dalit Freedom Network Canada (DFNC). DFNC is committed to freeing the Dalits from a life of poverty, exploitation, and slavery through education, healthcare, and economic development.

The Dalit people — also known as "Untouchables" — have been the most oppressed caste in India for over 3,000 years, living at the bottom of the country's rigid social order. The word "Dalit" means "broken, ground-down, downtrodden, or oppressed." Dalits comprise about ¼ of the population of India: that's seven times the entire population of Canada.






Photos courtesy of Dalit Freedom Network Canada

Why are Dalits "Untouchable"? In India, the mere touch of a Dalit is considered "polluting" to a caste member. Due to their low social status, Dalits often have no choice but to perform occupations that are considered "polluting," such as handling bodies in preparation for cremation, leather work, street sweeping, or removing human waste and dead animals.

What is "Caste" and the Caste System? Caste is a rigid system of social stratification from more pure (upper) to impure (lower). Caste is determined by birth and remains fixed for life. All social interaction is dictated by caste, and norms are strictly enforced by humiliation, violence, and poverty. Dalits are born below the lowest caste, and are denied access to public spaces such as schools, clinics, and temples.

What Does it Mean to be a Dalit in India Today? Dalits gained equal status under the law 60 years ago, but little has changed for them in daily life; they still face widespread discrimination. Dalits endure segregation in healthcare and housing, and are often forced to work in degrading conditions. Dalit children endure harassment from teachers and other students. Low literacy and high dropout rates are common for Dalits.

Freedom Through Education Project In the rural villages of India, Dalit parents never dreamed it would be possible for their children to receive a quality English education that would provide them with intellectual freedom, personal dignity, and spiritual hope. Through the establishment of the Good Shepherd Schools by DFN Canada, not only has education become available, but the school becomes a source of hope for the entire community. Now the Dalits can qualify for further educational opportunities as well as social and economic privileges provided by the Indian government under the Affirmative Action program. DFN Canada has pledged support to the Dalit people by providing education facilities throughout India for the Dalit children.


Transforming Faces - Cleft Lip & Palate Care

The Terence & Svea McKillen Foundation is pleased to support the work of Transforming Faces , a Canadian charity that empowers local multidisciplinary medical teams in providing free comprehensive cleft lip and palate care for children and adults in developing countries. The work allows children to live full, healthy lives.

Transforming Faces believes in comprehensive cleft care, meaning wherever possible their local cleft teams include: audiologists, dentists, nurse co-ordinators, orthodontists, social workers, speech therapists, and surgeons.

Cleft lip and palate is one of the most common birth anomalies in the world. It can be successfully treated using a comprehensive approach. With this approach, children can be socially accepted and lead a productive life.






Photos courtesy of Transforming Faces

In 2014, the Foundation began supporting Transforming Faces' speech therapy programme in Ethiopia which is currently experiencing a severe shortage of local healthcare workers. In a country of 90 million, there are fewer than 5 known speech therapists living in Ethiopia. Over the next two years, Transforming Faces' partner hospital in Addis Ababa will provide assessments for 140 patients per year with 60 patients receiving intensive therapy. Transforming Faces believes it is better to train those already involved in their own communities and with their Ethiopian partners, plan to build an African centre of excellence in cleft lip and palate treatment and to support the development of the country's first Bachelor of Speech-Language Therapy.

For 2015, the Foundation is assisting with the purchase of specialized surgical equipment for the Yekatit 12 hospital in Addis Ababa.

At Transforming Faces, every child is beautiful – before and after their cleft care. Help to 'Close the Gap' in Cleft Care and support the extension of care to the many children waiting for their chance to live a full, healthy life.




Local Outreach

The McKillen Foundation supports a number of local outreach efforts in south Mississauga as well as neighbouring communities in the GTA. These include The Compass (providing help to those from all walks of life who are currently experiencing economic, social or emotional challenges by offering practical and spiritual support); the United Church of Canada (local outreach to youth and those in special need); Habitat for Humanity; Heart and Stroke Foundation; and SickKids Foundation; among others.


Empowering the next generation of Canada's Aboriginal Leaders

The Terence & Svea McKillen Foundation has partnered with Free the Children in a programme to empower the next generation of aboriginal leadership in nine Cree communities of Northern Quebec. The initiative is part of an expansion of Free the Children's domestic youth empowerment programming and will be focused into Quebec's Northern Cree communities (Eeyou Istchee).

Through the delivery of this program over three academic years from 2012-2014, this partnership will educate, engage, and empower young people and help to support leadership development. The program will primarily benefit the students and educators in the schools partnering with Free The Children, but the rewards will also be felt beyond school walls, extending to families and communities as well.

Governed by the Grand Council of the Crees and the Cree Regional Authority, there are nine Cree communitie scattered across the James Bay Region of Northern Quebec. The Cree are the largest First Nation's group in Canada, with over 200,000 members, 16,000+ of whom live within the James Bay region. Living in the remote regions of Northern Quebec presents huge challenges for the youth of the communities. Malnutrition, alcoholism, and drug abuse are common challenges, and suicide remains the second most common cause of death for young aboriginal people.



(Photo: courtesy Free the Children)

Free The Children has embarked on a new partnership with the Grand Council of the Crees and the Cree Regional Authority. Eager to see their youth fulfill their potential as agents of change and become active global citizens, and recognizing Free The Children's unparalleled track record in the field of youth empowerment, the Grand Council has invited Free The Children to begin implementing its domestic programming within the nine Cree communities of the James Bay region.

Cree youth will be able to participate in We Act, a year-long domestic program that helps students identify, plan and undertake local and global actions. They will have access to character education, interactive service learning and tailored social issue actions, led by strong and relatable mentors. Students will be encouraged to discuss the issues that most affect them, and develop an action plan to make positive change in their lives. Their educators will also be trained on how to effectively inspire social action in their schools, and engage their students.


Bullying in Schools



Bullying is a serious issue that touches all schools and communities across Canada. In 2001 the Canadian Safe School Network surveyed 36,799 elementary school students and 73,650 secondary school students on conditions within school. The results indicated that in elementary schools, 23% of students were afraid someone was going to hurt or bother them at school while 41% agreed there was frequent bullying taking place. 13% to 18% had been threatened or physically harmed. 74% agreed that verbal abuse took place regularly at school. In secondary schools, 19% of students were afraid someone was going to hurt or bother them at school while 44% agreed there was frequent bullying taking place. 10% to 15% had been threatened or physically harmed. 81% agreed that verbal abuse took place regularly at school.



(Image: courtesy CSSN)

Children need to mature in safe and secure school environments. The problem of youth violence is societal in nature and not just the sole responsibility of educators to sort out in isolation. Recognizing that the problem is a shared responsibility is fundamental to the achievement of safe learning environments.

At the Terence & Svea McKillen Foundation, we are supporting The Canadian Safe School Network (CSSN) a national, not-for-profit, registered charitable organization with a mandate to reduce youth violence and make our schools and communities safer. The organization grew out of the Government of Ontario's Safe School Task Force and was launched in 1997 by representatives from police, education and business communities.

CSSN is the only organization of its kind in Canada and is recognized by national print, television and radio media as a primary source for information and comment on youth-violence issues of the day. Located in Toronto but with a national network of experts and professionals, the organization's services extend across the country.


Bringing Music to Underprivileged Children



Founded in 1999, The Regent Park School of Music (RPSM) provides high quality, affordable music education to youth-in-need in Regent Park and other high priority areas in the City of Toronto including Parkdale, Jane & Finch, and Lawrence Heights. Currently there are more than 900 students enrolled in both private and group lessons. RPSM's staff, faculty and volunteers work tirelessly to ensure the safety and growth of its students.



(Photo: courtesy RPSM)

RPSM is currently in the third year of a five-year strategic plan that aims to reach 3,000 youth-in-need in Toronto (1,100 of which will be from Regent Park) by the end of 2015. RPSM is expanding its satellite programmes into other lower income areas of Toronto and the GTA and is working to develop innovative programmes which musically stimulate our children and provide healthy opportunities for positive peer influence and encouragement. Originally located in a little row house on Queen Street East, RPSM moved its class rooms in September 2012 to a new studio in the Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre.

At the Terence & Svea McKillen Foundation, we believe in the importance of music in enriching the lives of children and are supporting The Regent Park School of Music. Financial support for RPSM can also be made through the RPSM Foundation, established in 2003 for the purpose of providing financial support to the school by holding and managing major assets. The RPSM Foundation manages endowed scholarship funds, bursaries, and equipment funds.


Drought and Famine in East Africa



Over the past five years, the Horn of Africa has been stricken by probably the worst drought in 60 years. Although the drought and accompanying famine, which have occurred at varying times in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and northern Kenya, are predominantly the result of natural climatic effects, many situations have been complicated and worsened by poor agricultural practices, lack of basic infrastructure and the effects of civil war or human rights abuses.



(Photo: courtesy Free the Children)

In 2011, the United Nations declared famine in parts of Somalia, as well as a crisis throughout much of northern Kenya. According to UNICEF, an estimated 1.25 million children across Southern Somalia are in urgent need of life saving interventions with 640,000 being acutely malnourished. The British International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, was quoted as saying that up to 400,000 Somali children could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken. The UN expects at least 10 million people will need food aid in the coming months.

At the Terence & Svea McKillen Foundation, we decided to support Free The Children, an organisation founded in 1995 by then 12-year-old Craig Kielburger, in their work in East Africa. Free The Children has a 15-year history of working in the region and is seeking support for both short-term emergency food relief and long-term agricultural development programmes that will enable communities to better cope with this crisis while building towards a more sustainable future.