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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.


Calgary man who admitted to participating in terrorism activity to be sentenced

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CALGARY — A man who admitted to terrorism-related acts with the militant group Islamic State is to be sentenced today in a Calgary courtroom.

Hussein Borhot, who is 36, has pleaded guilty to one count of participating in terrorism group activity between May 9, 2013, and June 7, 2014, as well as to kidnapping for a terrorist group while in Syria.

RCMP arrested him in July 2020 after a seven-year investigation.

An agreed statement of facts read in court last month said Borhot travelled to Syria through Turkey to join the Islamic State.

The statement said he signed up as a fighter, received substantial training and excelled as a sniper, but did not tell his wife or father before the trip.

Court heard that Borhot revealed much of the information to an undercover officer after he returned to Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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Cheese not on the table in Canada-U.K. trade talks as Britain seeks market access

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OTTAWA — The British foreign secretary has often been mocked for her preoccupation with cheese. It started eight years ago when Liz Truss expressed outrage in a speech to her party’s annual conference. 

“We import two thirds of our cheese,” she raged. “That is a disgrace.”

Now Truss is facing another battle over cheese, this time with Canada. 

Britain wants greater access to Canadian markets for more than 700 varieties of cheese including Stilton, Cheshire, and Wensleydale, a crumbly variety originating from Yorkshire. 

But Ottawa has made it clear it does not want to see more British cheddar, let alone artisan varieties such as stinking bishop, renegade monk and Hereford hop, on Canadian fridge shelves. 

During the first round of negotiations of the U.K.-Canada trade deal, Canada told Britain that a larger quota for British cheese is not on the negotiating table.

When it was a European Union member, Britain was part of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada, giving it some access to Canada’s cheese market. 

After the U.K. left the EU, a “continuity agreement” with Canada was swiftly put in place to maintain the CETA arrangement until a bilateral trade deal could be struck. 

Ralph Goodale, Canada’s high commissioner to the U.K., said if Britain wants more access to Canadian markets for its cheese as part of a bilateral free-trade agreement, it will have to knock on Brussels’ door and get its part of the dairy quota back. 

“The point is we have already provided that volume in the EU deal and the British left it there without taking it with them,” he said in an interview. “That’s an issue they need to resolve with the Europeans because the Europeans have their quota.” 

Goodale said the U.K.’s request for extra access for British cheese — on top of the access given to the EU — is “what the Canadian negotiators consider to be pretty much a dead end.”

“You are talking about a double concession — one we have already made to the EU and the request is being made by the U.K. for yet another one on top of that,” he said. 

The high commissioner said Canada values its trading relationship with the U.K., adding that he is confident that a mutually-beneficial trade deal will be reached.

But if Canada allows the British to export more of their cheese it would involve “a major commitment of compensation to dairy producers” in Canada to make up for lost incomes.  

In 2018, after the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement gave the U.S. fresh access to the Canadian dairy market, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would compensate Canadian dairy farmers.

Canada’s dairy industry was worth over $7 billion in 2020, according to the Canadian Dairy Commission’s annual report. 

There are over 10,000 dairy farms in Canada — most of them in Quebec and Ontario — with an average of 92 cows per farm, it said. 

Until at least the end of next year, Britain will be able to keep exporting its cheese to Canada under the trade continuity agreement, the U.K.’s trade department said. 

This allows U.K. cheese exporters to access the Canadian market tariff-free under the EU portion of Canada’s World Trade Organization cheese tariff rate quota. 

As part of the 1995 WTO agreement on agriculture, Canada established tariff rate quotas for cheese and other dairy products. The quotas set out quantities of dairy that could enter Canada with little or no duty. 

For Britain, a fully fledged free trade deal with Canada is crucial after Brexit left it looking for fresh tariff-free markets.

“We want to negotiate an ambitious and comprehensive new agreement with Canada that will strengthen our close and historic bilateral trade relationship,” said a U.K. government trade spokesman in a statement, adding the relationship was worth about $34.5 billion in 2021.

In March, U.K. Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan flew to Canada to announce with Canada’s Trade Minister Mary Ng that bilateral negotiations had officially begun. 

In a speech in the House of Lords in London earlier this month, Goodale reported on progress in the talks, saying that “both sides are optimistic that, as good as CETA and the continuity agreement were, we can do better still when Canada and the U.K. negotiate a deal face-to-face, directly with each other.” 

Like Goodale, Ng said Canada is confident a free-trade deal with Britain will be reached, enhancing co-operation in a number of areas, including on renewables, sustainability and the digital economy.  

“Canada values the relationship with the United Kingdom. They are … an important trading partner and a trade agreement with the U.K. will be very good for Canadian businesses,” she said in a phone interview from Thailand last weekend.

But she was also firm about the need to protect Canada’s dairy producers, and that means keeping more British cheese out. 

“I have been very clear, our government has been very clear, that we will not provide access to our supply-managed sector,” she said. “We have been clear about that from the get-go.” 

The Canadian dairy sector now produces 1,450 varieties of cheese, including ewe, goat and buffalo varieties, as well as the cheese curds used in the Québécois dish poutine.

At least half of Canada’s cheese is made in Quebec, which is home to a number of artisan varieties including bleu l’ermite, or blue hermit, and Oka, a popular semi-soft rind cheese.

Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, has made it clear he will fiercely protect Canadian cheese from British interlopers.

Lampron said he had “validated that the issue of access to the Canadian dairy market was not on the agenda of these trade talks.”

Canada’s protectionist stance toward its dairy industry may have pleased farmers. But it has caused some tension with close allies. 

Earlier this month, New Zealand launched a formal trade dispute against Canada, accusing the federal government of breaking promises to give access for dairy imports under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The Biden administration also recently said it was asking for a second dispute settlement panel under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to review a trade dispute with Canada over dairy import quotas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022. 

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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