Alfredo Barahona, originally from Cuzcatlan, a Maya – Pipil territory part of what is now known as El Salvador, moved to Canada as refugee in the mid-eighties. He has worked with refugee and migrant communities through Toronto-based settlement agencies and now with KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.
Currently Alfredo is working on Indigenous Rights issues focusing on the development of meaningful relationships and solidarity between Indigenous peoples and newcomers to Canada.
Alfredo has facilitated the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE) extensively in English and Spanish through all of Canada including training KBE facilitators. Alfredo is responsible for the international work related to the KAIROS Blanket Exercise.
Facilitating the effective and meaningful participation of affected communities in advocacy and solidarity work is a key principle in Alfredo’s work.
As a tool for social change, music within a faith ecumenical and solidarity context, is an integral part of Alfredo’s life and social justice work.
Bonnie Van Hatten
Bonnie’s specific matrilineal ancestry is Secwepemc from St’uxwtews First Nation, located in what is now known as Interior BC. She has worked in Indigenous Education for the past 10 years with the Langley School District. Currently she facilitates reconciliation dialogue with a strong emphasis on shared history, stereotypes/biases, responsible ally-ship & advocacy for direct calls to action within her company Skelep Reconciliation. Bonnie holds an Indigenous Cultural Safety Facilitator Certificate from UBC Health and is a Building Bridges Collaborator with the Raven Institute. Bonnie is currently pursuing her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction at Simon Fraser University.
KBE Regional Coordinator - Alberta South
An educator, facilitator, and artist, Cherie was born and raised in Winnipeg and lived throughout the west before settling in Moh’kins’tsis (Calgary). Her connection to Indigenous community started with summer seasons as a teen on northern Manitoba reserves, then working alongside Elders and Knowledge Keepers with residents at a central Saskatchewan healing lodge. Her work evolved into addressing addictions in youth and barriers to Indigenous peoples in the justice system, before going overseas and contributing to community development projects in southern Africa and Central America. Back home, she continued to work with not-for-profit and grassroots organizations in newcomer, youth, and older adult communities.
Cherie holds undergraduate degrees in Justice/Law and Anthropology, and has a Masters degree in Adult Education and Community Development. She has a particular passion for participatory learning through hands-on activities and “stepping into another’s shoes,” and collaboratively creates and produces immersive and interactive experiences through her theatre company chiMOchiMO, seeking to drive conversation about sometimes uncomfortable and often unfamiliar topics.
Outside of her community work, Cherie loves winter and being outside with her dogs, and enthusiastically plays hockey and trains crossfit. She is addicted to volunteering and actively contributes to several arts organizations, as well as sitting on a board of directors. She also loves to sing, create, encourage, and connect with strangers wherever she goes.
Cheyenne is a member of Mi’kmaq Nation in Wabanaki territory. She has over 15 years experience as a Registered Nurse, is certified in community health nursing, and has worked almost exclusively with Indigenous communities in Atlantic Canada. For the past five years, she has been a faculty member at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), helping to strengthen the nursing curriculum by embedding Indigenous wisdom and knowledge. Cheyenne describes herself as “deeply connected to her Mi’kmaq heritage through Elders, ceremonies and cultural events, with an eye to curating a better future for the next seven generations,” and says she seizes every opportunity to be a positive and influential voice for reconciliation in Canada. Cheyenne works out of her home office in New Brunswick.
KBE Administrative Assistant
Deanna’s ancestry is Katzie First Nation. She was born and raised on the ancestral lands of the Katzie in Langley BC. She has worked with the Langley School District as an Aboriginal Support worker since 2007. Learning to harvest traditional plants in her territory to make medicines is her effort to reclaim knowledge and return to the healing ways of her ancestors. Sharing the Indigenous perspective as a KBE facilitator, as well as a facilitator trainer, is the way she honors her father, a residential school survivor.
Devora grew up in Regina where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Bachelor of Education. Since her student days, she’s been volunteering and working in the non-profit / arts and culture sector, with experience in public libraries, provincial museums, national arts organizations, local music festivals and independent print and digital media.
When Devora moved to Ottawa in 2005 she brought her organizational skills and love of spreadsheets to several grassroots initiatives, often in support of gender equality and Indigenous rights. She joined KAIROS in summer 2017 providing administrative services to the Ottawa team. When she’s not sifting through files, she’s exploring hiking trails or coffee shops in the NCC. Devora’s also passionate about fitness and teaches a bi-weekly strength-training class at her local gym.
Prior to becoming KAIROS’ Program Manager in 2012, Ed coordinated KAIROS’ Indigenous Rights Program. This involved working with Indigenous peoples and their allies on domestic and international public education and action initiatives towards the recognition and enforcement of Indigenous peoples’ rights.
KAIROS’ creation in 2001 brought together 10 social justice ecumenical coalitions, including the Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC), which brought together churches, religious organizations, Indigenous peoples and regional groups. Ed was ARC’s National Coordinator from 1995 to 2001.
Ed has a Bachelor of Journalism (Television) from Carleton University in Ottawa and is the first student at York University in Toronto to complete a combined-Masters Degree in Fine Arts (Film) and Environmental Studies. While in Toronto, Ed co-founded Friends of the Lubicon, a support group for the Lubicon Lake Cree First Nation in Alberta.
Ed’s a hockey and soccer dad who lives in rinks and on pitches in Ottawa with his partner, Nancy, and their children, Graham, Gabriella and Robertson.
Ginger Cote is Algonquin and Ojibway from the Kitigan Zibi Reserve just North of Ottawa. She is the KBE Coordinator for Eastern Ontario and Quebec at KAIROS Canada. Currently studying Law at Carleton University, she holds a Law Clerk Diploma from Centennial College and a Business Development Attestation from Heritage College. She has experience working with organizations that focus on Indigenous law and community building. Ginger has been part of the KBE Expansion Initiative almost since the very beginning. She was hired as the KBE Promotions Associate (East) during the Initiative’s first phase way back in April 2017, and in May 2018 we welcomed Ginger to the permanent half-time position of KBE Intake Associate. This job involved, among other things, receiving all KBE inquiries and requests, completing the initial processing of those requests, and then referring those requests to the Regional Coordinators. Ginger will continue in this role as she assumes the duties and responsibilities of the KBE Coordinator position.
KBE Regional Coordinator - Alberta North
Treaty 6 territory, traditional lands of First Nations and Métis people
Ian is a half Cree, half German, member of the Bigstone Cree Nation in Northern Alberta Treaty 8 Territory. Ian has lived his life between worlds, between nations, and between peoples. He is honoured to be working for an organization that is fostering the reconciliation process with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples of Canada.
Ian has over 10 years experience in volunteer and not for profit organizations. Most of those years were in a leadership or management type role developing strategic plans, managing volunteers & staff, workshop & event facilitation, charing meetings, organizing events & meetings, government interactions, and community engagement. He enjoys the challenge of solving community problems with creative solutions and networking.
Ian has a Certificate of Human Resources Management from Grant McEwan University and a Bachelor of Management degree from the University of Lethbridge. He believes HR is about listening, learning, teaching, and bringing people together for a common cause much like the purpose of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise.
As an environmentalist and first Nations person; Ian has supported both the Green Party of Alberta and the Green Party of Canada because the ideology of the Green Party is based in part on traditional indigenous teachings about the land. He has been an election candidate for both parties multiple times.
Jessica had been with KAIROS Canada facilitating KBEs in the Ottawa region since April 2018. As of January 2019, she has been in the Ottawa office coordinating the KBE requests for the province of Quebec.
Jessica moved to Ottawa from Montreal to pursue her University studies. She holds a criminology and Sociology BA from the University of Ottawa and is currently completing her Master’s degree which focuses on different issues an Indigenous individual may face coming into contact with the Canadian Criminal Justice System. She hopes this will help to continue advocating for Indigenous rights.
John Henri Commanda
KBE Knowledge Keeper
Unceded Algonquin Territory
John Henri Commanda is Ojibway and a member of the Eagle Clan. He is an inter-generational survivor of the Indian Residential School System, and a survivor of the 60’s Scoop.
While employed in the federal public service for almost 36 years, John Henri was active on a number of committees dedicated to enhancing Indigenous rights and creating equal opportunities under the Employment Equity Act. He was elected as the first Chairperson of the Aboriginal Employees Network within the Aboriginal Employees’ Circle of Employment & Social Development Canada (ESDC), which was launched in December 2010. During his tenure as Chair, he also served as Co-chair of the Champions & Chairs Circle for Aboriginal People, the national employment equity committee representing Aboriginal Employee Networks from 40 departments, agencies and organizations. Its mission was to identify areas where the federal public service could improve or enhance opportunities for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people through the creation of Aboriginal-specific programming, initiatives or activities throughout the public service.
John Henri has also been a union activist for more than 30 years. As a facilitator with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and ESDC, John Henri led cultural awareness training courses, workshops and information sessions for a variety of audiences within the federal public service and the union movement. In 2015, he received the PSAC Community Race Relations award for his work in cross cultural awareness training and for advocating on behalf of designated groups under the Employment Equity Act in the National Capital Region (NCR).
John Henri is an active member of the Indigenous community in the NCR. As well as being on the Odawa Native Friendship Centre Board of Directors, he served as its President from 2012-2013. He was also President of the Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre from 1995 – 2000.
Katy has been with KAIROS Canada since 2012 as Indigenous Rights Coordinator and now KAIROS Blanket Exercise Education Coordinator. She has also worked with the Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee. Her current and previous work has focused on fostering reconciliation based on decolonization and justice for Indigenous peoples. Katy has trained and mentored hundreds of Blanket Exercise Facilitators of all ages and from a diversity of sectors. She has a BA in Anthropology from Concordia University and an MA in Conflict Studies from Saint Paul University. Katy is a settler on unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa.
Lorraine Bellegarde is a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation, Treaty Four, in Saskatchewan.
Lorraine has a certificate in Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, a Real Property Administrator Diploma from the Building Owners and Managers Institute in Arnold, Maryland, and a Certificate in Administration from the University of Regina.
In December, Lorraine retired from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, where she was responsible for the delivery of all CMHC First Nations Housing Programs in Saskatchewan, and the primary contact with First Nations communities. Among other tasks, this job involved negotiating and implementing skills development initiatives and building relationships with community leadership, Tribal Councils, and other First Nations organizations, Indigenous Affairs, and Health Canada.
While working for the First Nations Housing National Office in Ottawa, Lorraine led a team that updated the First Nations Housing Curriculum. She also worked with regional colleagues across the country on a plan for First Nations capacity and training as it relates to housing resources.
As Senior Advisor with Assisted Housing Saskatchewan, Lorrine was a member of the Regional Assisted Housing Team, CMHC representative on the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, and also Co-chair of the National Aboriginal Capacity Development team. She provided corporate direction, support and mentoring, advocated and promoted CMHC’s role and successes in the resolution of Aboriginal housing issues, supervised and monitored the delivery of the Housing Internship Initiative for First Nations and Inuit Youth programs, fostered and developed working relationships with Regional Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and all eight Tribal Councils, to collectively and effectively deliver the Aboriginal capacity budget, and planned, delivered and administered the Aboriginal Capacity Development budget to First Nations of Saskatchewan, both on and off reserve. She also chaired the committee responsible for the development and implementation of housing curriculum for First Nation students on reserve, “My Home is My Tipi”.
KBE Facilitator Trainer
Territory of the Huron-Wendat, Seneca and Mississaugas of the Credit
Mim grew up in the Markham area, close to Toronto, with roots in the first families that settled York Region. As an adult, she began exploring Aboriginal values, spirituality and life that she felt deep inside as a child. Honouring the Indigenous ancestors that are part of her family is important even though there are many gaps and many unknowns. She has learned to bring together the Christian roots from her childhood and the Spirituality that is at the core of Aboriginal life. Helping people understand the reality of Indigenous life, not only in the past but the present, brings fulfillment and healing.
Mim has worked at Markham Stouffville Hospital for 19 years, first on Maternal Child and then with Child Development in the Infant Hearing Program. She is part of the Bawaajigewan Aboriginal Circle in Durham, Ontario and the Stronger Together Ecumenical Circle, among many other groups and activities. Mim is the Tota (Grandmother) of 2. She likes to spend her free time with her feet on Mother
Earth, enjoying the wisdom and teachings of her elders, the cuddles and joy of her granddaughters, and the laughter of her friends and family. Mim is learning to be comfortable walking the path that Creator has given her and living from her heart. Mim was given the name of Wiingaashke Ikwe (SweetgrassWoman). Sweetgrass is her medicine and is always with her.
Mim is facilitator, trainer and Grandmother for KAIROS Blanket Exercises all over the GTA and beyond, working with with KAIROS, Willowgrove and Mennonite Central Committee Indigenous Neighbours.
Rachel is an Indigenous woman with over 20 years of experience working and volunteering in the community. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Manitoba. She is currently working on graduate studies in Social Work. Rachel has facilitated the Kairos Blanket Exercise for the last couple of years, working with a wide variety of groups to help promote respectful dialogue in cross cultural settings. She is also mom to two children aged 5 and 8.
Rachel has served as the Executive Director of several non-profit agencies, including Eyaa-Keen Healing Centre, which provides supports grounded in culture to Indigenous peoples who have been affected by trauma, Wahbung Abinoonjiiag, an agency that provides supports to women, children and youth who are affected by family violence, and the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba and the John Howard Society of Manitoba both of which provides supports to people in the criminal justice system. Rachel was the founding Executive Director of Onashowewin, an organization that provides a court diversion and restorative justice program to Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. Rachel also volunteers on a number of boards of directors and committees in the urban Indigenous community in Winnipeg.
Sara Anderson comes from a mixed background of German Mennonite and Métis ancestry. Originally from Kitchener-Waterloo (Block 2 of the Haldimand Tract – an ongoing land claim by the Six Nations of the Grand River), as a teenager Sara was deeply involved in the broader Anabaptist community with a focus on social justice initiatives, with a particular focus on issues pertaining to refugees and newcomers to Canada. More recently, she has embarked upon a journey of reconnection with her Métis heritage, and is now involved with urban Indigenous community in Ottawa (unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory). Currently she serves as a Blanket Exercise Regional Coordinator – Central in the Ottawa office of KAIROS.
Sara holds honours degrees in Global Studies and French from Wilfrid Laurier University, and has recently completed a MA in Canadian & Indigenous Studies along with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Policy & Administration from Carleton University.
Zoë Aarden has a B.A.H. and a Master’s Degree in Indigenous Studies from Trent University and has worked and volunteered in Indigenous communities for over 17 years. Her thesis “Sexing the Indian: Scholarships’ Role in the Consolidation of Colonial Structures of Gender and Sexuality”, was opted for publication in 2006. As an active ally for many years, Zoë is very comfortable in Indigenous communities and being with Indigenous people. She understands her role as an ally is to provide support and to take direction. Prior to facilitating KBEs, Zoë was for 9 years a Project Manager/Coordinator with Elsevier Canada.