It’s been a few years of ups and downs, and I’m not just talking about plane rides. As with any major project that is worth doing, we’ve faced our share of direct opposition from people and faceless organizations that would toss up challenges and bureaucratic procedures. The direct opposition, indifference, and broken promises seems to be a common experience and has been the demise of many good, if not great, projects, particularly in Aboriginal Canada. Just as you think things are coming together, the deadline passes, or someone retires, or a priorities change. After five years of these types of ups and downs, last month, I was finally starting to doubt whether I’d be able to push through or not. But then, we started to received feedback from partners from across the country and everything started to come together again.
This year, 2014, started off rough and it’s been a long couple of months of what seemed to be a never ending parade of disappointments. I love winter and snow, but in Sydney Cape Breton after a long winter of snow, storms, and the “polar vortex” experience even I had had enough cold weather. Fianlly, we had some sunshine in March and thought spring was finally here… until the first of April, when we were rocked by a huge “weather bomb” that literally shut down the city for four days. This type of thing can cause delays and frustration on its own but it was also the end of a fiscal year (for those who know government funding, I’m sure you understand what impact that can have) and more importantly the end of a school term (for those in Academia, you know the significance of that one). So, two weeks ago, when the time came to travel as far west and north as Air Canada would take me, I honestly was not looking forward to getting on a plane. Thankfully, the tickets were booked and our hosts in Whitehorse were expecting us.
On this particular adventure, I was reminded of the importance of the issues we’re trying to address. I was also inspired by like minded individuals with a similar passion for Aboriginal education. A partnership with Yukon College makes sense because we have shared values, and like minded people. A big part of the similarity is Yukon College’s approach to Aboriginal education which seems to be respectful, genuine, and with a goal of being truly integrated into all their programming. Among other things, we were there to meet with the President’s Advisory Council on First Nations Initiatives (PACFNI), knowing if they don’t agree with the project or approach we wouldn’t be launching a Business Network for Aboriginal Youth in the Yukon. However, from the moment we stepped into the room, I felt at ease because the energy was so familiar. Actually, I felt at home from the moment I stepped on campus. The small school had an archives, centre for science and innovation, and Yukon Arts Centre on campus. I bought a coffee in the bookstore and was given the option to “rent” a real mug, which meant being charged less for the coffee. What a fabulous option! The people were friendly and the space was comfortable. On our tour we saw newer residences, evidence of environmental research, tourism and hospitality programs that are hands on and holistic, and so much more. It just goes to show that sometimes you have to travel 7000 km to meet them, but if you can find friends and supporters at that distance obviously our work has national significance.
After a long winter, it was nice to feel our efforts were starting to pay off, Yukon College is just one example. Thankfully, we have met with some other very supportive, engaged, like minded, friends too. I’m confident these partners will make a world of difference as we move forward. As with any project, finding these champions will make the difference between surrendering to the pressure and continuing to push on.