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Indigenous Mentorship Organization aims to Close the Gap in Education & Employment in Canada


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A Calgary-based Indigenous mentorship organization is preparing to launch its nation-wide online program after receiving a generous donation from Canadian celebrity Ryan Reynolds and wife, Blake Lively. 

Influence is an Indigenous-owned and operated organization working collaboratively with post-secondary institutions across the nation to partner Indigenous students in Canadian colleges, universities and polytechnic institutions with suitable mentors. The organization’s guiding principles include the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Influence is focused on creating greater opportunities for Indigenous post-secondary students while raising awareness for Indigenous issues, culture and history. 

Colby Delorme, Co-Founder and Board Chairperson of Influence Mentoring Society

Originally founded in 2014, the organization has spent several years pursuing proper funding, and will now officially be implementing their program in September 2021 after receiving the $250,000 celebrity donation.
Colby Delorme, Co-founder and Board Chairperson of Influence, expressed the sincere gratitude he and his team have for Lively and Reynolds for using their voices to amplify Influence’s cause. “It’s amazing that they are taking on this type of initiative and creating opportunities for Indigenous people,” he says, “we’re very grateful for their support.” Delorme says the funding will allow the organization to flourish and pursue its full potential while illuminating the greater, ongoing conversation surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The funding announcement was originally released in early March, and already five post-secondary institutions with more than 6000 self-identified Indigenous students across Canada have come forward to express their interest in the program. To be eligible for participation in Influence Mentoring Society, students must be Indigenous and enrolled in a post-secondary institution of any kind. New or returning students are considered equally, as anyone can be a student at any age. 

Influence Mentoring is designed to aid in the success of Indigenous students in their post-secondary and post-graduate careers by pairing them with mentors who have a shared background in the students program of studies. Specifically, the organization focuses on closing the gap in education and employment that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. A 2016 First Nations Post-Secondary Education Report released by the Assembly of First Nations highlights the “overall gap in post-secondary education between First Nations and non-Indigenous people is directly related to the persistent gap in university attainment. This university attainment gap has remained at around 22 percentage points” (1). 

“This pursuit really started as a way to give back,” says Delorme, who has relied on ongoing mentorship relationships himself throughout the course of his own career. “These mentorship relationships will give Indigenous students the type of supports they are lacking. This program is designed to take individuals from a place of feeling alone or isolated in their academic pursuit, and give them a feeling of community and support.”
Mentor and protégé partnerships are formed in the interest of fostering a culturally appropriate environment of inclusivity and learning, where students feel they are welcome and understood. “Eliminating these gaps and ultimately increasing Indigenous representation in the private sector, including in management and executive positions, should be a shared journey,” says Delorme. 

Delorme and his co-founders have been busy responding to the overwhelming expression of interest in the program, and are working on accommodating as many students as possible for the upcoming Fall 2021 semester. 

To learn more about Influence Mentoring, visit

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.


Reducing funding for RCMP on the table for Saskatchewan amid firearm buyback debate

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REGINA — Saskatchewan says it would consider reducing its funding for the RCMP if the force was to help the federal government with its proposed firearms buyback program.

Public Safety Minister Christine Tell says all options are on the table, signalling the province will not help Ottawa collect guns it has banned.

“We as a province fund the RCMP to a tune of 70 per cent, so it could even get more interesting,” Tell said Thursday.

The Saskatchewan Party government said it is pushing back to protect law-abiding firearms owners from what it views as federal intrusion on its provincial autonomy.

Under Ottawa’s proposed firearms buyback program, it would be mandatory for people to have their assault-style firearms rendered inoperable or have them discarded. That could also include centrefire semi-automatic rifles or shotguns designed to accept a detachable magazine that can hold more than five cartridges.

In response, Saskatchewan has introduced its own firearms act to forbid municipalities and police services from receiving federal money to help confiscate firearms.

The proposed law says a municipality, police service or board would have to get written approval from the province’s public safety minister before agreeing to support the federal buyback program.

It also states that Saskatchewan’s chief firearms officer would enforce which federal agent can or cannot confiscate firearms in the province.

“These legal firearm owners are not the ones committing the crimes,” Tell said.

The legislation was tabled Thursday, months after Tell wrote a letter to Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, the head of Saskatchewan’s RCMP. It stated that the province would not support the Mounties using provincially funded resources to help confiscate firearms.

Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick have sent similar letters to their RCMP forces. They have joined Saskatchewan in asking Ottawa to not use up “scarce RCMP and municipal resources” for its buyback program.

In October, Blackmore said Mounties are service providers, not decision-makers, and any decisions over the buyback program are between the federal and provincial governments.

“As the service provider, we would be the individuals that get our information from them,” Blackmore told The Canadian Press.

That includes if additional resources would be needed by RCMP once the buyback program rolls out.

“It would depend on the level of expectation, and what that looks like, and what the involvement is if there are additional resources,” Blackmore said.

The specific role of the RCMP and the details surrounding the buyback program have not been determined.

On Friday, the Saskatchewan RCMP said it will continue to prioritize front-line services and the safety of communities is its highest priority.

The Saskatchewan Firearms Act also calls for helping firearm owners get fair market value for guns collected through the buyback program and would require all seized firearms to go through forensic and ballistic testing.

The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, which advocates for hunters and the protection of the province’s hunting heritage, praised the proposed act, saying it would mitigate the “draconian” federal legislation.

There are approximately 115,000 licensed firearms owners in Saskatchewan, 75,000 of whom may be penalized under the federal government’s policy. That’s about 10 per cent of Saskatchewan’s adult population, the province said.

Saskatchewan’s NDP Opposition has stood united with the government to denounce the program.

“It does not strike the right balance for Saskatchewan,” justice critic Nicole Sarauer said last week in the legislature.

“These amendments are overbroad and capture rifles that have legitimate uses for both hunters and producers in Saskatchewan.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2022.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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Premier Smith goes on the attack against NDP opposition to the Alberta Sovereignty Act

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It appears Premier Danielle Smith has had enough of playing defence. In the days since introducing the Alberta Sovereignty Act in the Alberta Legislature this week, Smith has found herself explaining and re-explaining how the Act will survive scrutiny and serve the province well in ongoing battles over issues of contention with Ottawa.  Peppered by the media and by the Official Opposition NDP inside and outside the legislature, Smith and her team decided to turn the tables.
The media and the official opposition claim the Sovereignty Act allows laws to be crafted by cabinet members “behind closed doors” after the legislature has declared a federal overreach into provincial jurisdiction.
However that appears to be a confusing opposition tactic since the Sovereignty Act does not require the passing of new laws.  Rather, the Province will simply provide reasons for declining to enforce federal laws which (i) intrudes into provincial legislation jurisdiction, (ii) violates the rights and freedoms of Albertans under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or (iii) causes or is anticipated to cause harm to Albertans.
Thursday, Premier Smith took the opportunity during Ministerial Statements to lash out at the opposition leader Rachel Notley for siding with Ottawa instead of Alberta in the struggle to defend provincial rights.

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