2016 IW Winners

Aboriginal Leadership - Thunder Bay

Wendy Landry

Wendy Landry

The remarkable contributions Wendy Landry has made to her community are seemingly arbitrary, but a consistent theme connects them all: advocacy and education.

Since her youth, Landry, who is of First Nations descent — a member of Red Rock Indian Band — and also of Métis descent, has strived to educate people about First Nations and Métis people, striking down misconceptions and untruths as she goes.

“We always knew who we were,” Landry said. “Our connection to the land was very strong, learning hunting and fishing as a way of life, so I’ve grown up knowing my ancestry.”

She steered a course for a career in policing, which would enable her to fulfill a childhood dream of working with youth. But the nomadic nature of law enforcement conflicted with her desire to settle down and start a family with her husband.

Instead, she found her calling in corrections, and spent 20 years working with young offenders.

But she yearned to do more; 13 years ago, she and her family welcomed three foster children to their family, growing her brood to six, and they continue to live and grow as a family.

Along the way, she’s found other ways to contribute: she taught for 10 years at Confederation College and retains a seat on the Board of Governors. She served as president for the Thunder Bay Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario, developed the Shuniah Youth Centre, and has sat on a number of boards and committees, including the Anti-Racism Council, the Crime Prevention Council, and more recently the Dilico Children’s Foundation.

These roles have helped her spread an important message of empathy and understanding.

“Everybody has a story, and don’t assume that you know that story,” Landry said. “In today’s society we’re so quick to judge, and each day I find myself taking the opportunity to educate attitudes out there.”

She feels a climate of understanding is emerging as she continues her Aboriginal 101 presentations.

“The feedback I’m getting from individuals who have not necessarily been educated or exposed to Indigenous people on a daily basis is ‘wow’ and they’ve completely appreciated the 101,” Landry said. “So I do think it is making a difference, little by little; you just educate one at a time.”

In 2012, she joined Union Gas, as the manager of First Nations, Métis and Municipal Affairs. Landry manages the relationship between the company and the communities, consults on projects, and educates employees on the history of Aboriginal Canadian relations. This helps to gain an understanding of why consultation is necessary and the harmful impact the divisive Indian Act has had on Indigenous people.

“What I’ve found is that they usually give me an hour on the agenda, and it ends up being two and half hours because the conversation is just so good and they’re engaged,” Landry said.

Her position nicely dovetails with her current political role. In 2014, she beat out a 26-year incumbent to earn the role of mayor of Shuniah, becoming the first First Nations woman in Ontario to serve as a mayor.

“I’m enjoying the responsibilities that have been given to me and I feel that I can help bring the two worlds together in understanding,” she said. “Hopefully, if you can reach one individual and bring peace from that mindset, then that’s what I have to look forward to: a peaceful place for all.”

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