Five questions with Victoria Grant, CFC’s Board Chair

This interview between reporter Sue Nielsen and Victoria Grant, Chair of Community Foundations of Canada’s Board of Directors, first appeared in the Temiskaming Speaker newspaper on June 22, 2016. 

How has the Temagami Community Foundation helped Temagami?

Every year since its founding in 2001, the Temagami Community Foundation (TCF) has reached out to the greater Temagami community – Bear Island, the Town of Temagami and seasonal residents – with an active grants program that now totals more than $200,000. TCF’s grant program seeks to spark and fund opportunities that will enhance and bring the community together. By actively listening to the community to understand its needs, responding to grant applications and seeking opportunities to collaborate with like-minded community groups, TCF ensures its grants have impact. More than a score of initiatives – projects, ongoing activities or new programs have received grants, typically $1,000 to $5,000, because they promote the betterment of all members of the Temagami community.

How relevant is your Aboriginal roots to your work with the Temagami Community Foundation?

This question is framed in an interesting way. You ask a question about Aboriginal roots, so I will begin by describing or defining what this means to me.

I am Teme-Augama Anishnabai qway (Deep Water Woman) and I am part of the loon clan. Teme-Augama Anishnabai is how we identify ourselves, historically, today and most importantly prior to “Canada” as a country. But I am also a “Status Indian” as defined by the Indian Act, and this entitles me to be a “registered member” of the “Indian Band”, Temagami First Nation.

The point I am making here is that the Temagami First Nation is not the same thing as the Teme-Augama Anishnabai. One is how we identify ourselves, and the other is how Canada defines me in its legislation. So, in terms of my “Aboriginal Roots” being relevant to my work in the Temagami Community Foundation, I would have to say it is relevant in everything I do, and that is because it is foundational to who I am as a person.

Has there been one event or accomplishment that you are most proud of since becoming CFC’s Board Chair?

The program or project that makes me proud is the creation of the Welcome Fund for Syrian Refugees. It was a collaboration that began early in the fall, and from inception to distribution were only a few short months. Witnessing the board, our staff, our partners and our member organizations come together in collaboration to make this all happen was exceptional, it was truly a step towards a smart and caring country.

What inspires Victoria Grant?

“…We live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living stories planted in us early or along the way or we are living the stories we planted knowingly or unknowingly in ourselves. We live stories that either gives our lives meaning or negate it meaningless. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives” a quote by Ben Okri, a Nigerian Storyteller.

Some years ago, when I came by upon this quote, I was quite moved by it. It made so much sense to me. I think it is because Indigenous people have an oral culture, and are great storytellers and this is what I grew up with. As a young child and throughout my life, I was very close to my grandmother and I would describe her as a storyteller. She loved to talk about our past, about our relationship to others and about community. I also had a grandfather who I also spent long hours listening to him tell great stories. I never tired of hearing these stories.

A common theme in their stories was the importance of community, and family, knowing who you are and where you come from. Another theme that was intertwined in these stories was the importance of inter-dependence, essential to creating a healthy community. What I believe I learned in these stories that it was interdependence is achieved through volunteerism and participation. Stories and people are my inspiration.

How do community foundations successfully build connections to Indigenous communities?

There are many ways community foundations can build stronger connections with Indigenous communities and support Indigenous philanthropy. They can build community knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures, identify resources and support Indigenous-led community initiatives, create opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups to come together, and be a voice for Reconciliation locally.

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