Co-Chair of the Advisory Board
Jino Distasio is the Vice President of Research and Innovation, and a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Winnipeg.
Jino joined the University of Winnipeg in 1999 as a member of the Department of Geography. For over two decades, Jino guided the University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies where he worked extensively in the inner city as well as exploring broader Canadian and urban global issues. During this period, he was actively engaged in over 200 projects, publications and community initiatives. Areas of interest include urban revitalization, housing market analysis, urban economic development, mental health, homelessness and local and national urban policy.
He has also served on numerous local and national committees and boards within the housing and community sectors. Additionally, he has extensive experience in the housing industry, supporting the building of affordable ownership, rental and student housing along with property management experience.
In an administrative capacity, he has served as Vice President of Research and Innovation, supporting faculty research. This role has also involved working with the senior management team at the University of Winnipeg.
At the national level, Jino has led several large, multi-city projects that have examined housing markets, tenancy supports, homelessness and developing of a national index of neighbourhood distress in Canadian cities as well as a toolkit for eviction prevention. Of note is he served as senior member of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s At Home Chez Soi project which was a $110 million dollar study of mental health and homelessness in five cities. He recently completed an Indigenous Housing First Toolkit for the Federal Government.
As a faculty member in the Department of Geography, Jino focuses on urban issues. He has held Adjunct Professor status in the departments of Psychiatry, Geography and City Planning at the University of Manitoba where he supports graduate students. He enjoys writing commentary and provides local and national media comment on issues relating to urban policy, poverty, transportation, inner city renewal and other civic and urban concerns.
Dr. Laara Fitznor
Co-Chair of the Advisory Board
Dr. Laara Fitznor is originally from Wabowden, Manitoba and is also a member of Nisichawaysihk Cree Nation. She retired from the University of Manitoba where she taught Indigenous Education, Indigenous Perspectives in Philosophy of Education and Educational Thought, and Cross Cultural Education in the Faculty of Education from 2003 to December 2018. Previously, she worked for the Access programs (as Counsellor and Director) from 1982 to 1992 and the Faculty of Education from 1992 to 2003. She also taught and began the work of Indigenous specialization in education at the Ontario Institute for Studies of Education, University of Toronto from 1998-2003. Over the 36-year span of her academic years in advancing Indigenous knowledges and perspectives in education, she has incorporated Indigenous knowledges/practices, decolonizing and bridging pedagogies into her work where people learn to challenge past wrongs, coexist and collaborate in a way of transformative possibilities toward relevance, respect, reciprocity and responsibility. Laara has served on many boards, councils and graduate thesis committees locally, nationally and internationally. The purpose for these committees was to advance Indigenous perspectives and knowledges. For the past 15 years, Laara has served as Co-chair of the Aboriginal Education Research Forum ‘Shawane Dagosiwin’ program committee. Her passion for learning and teaching will continue into her retirement life where there is desire to make changes toward Indigenous inclusion and advancement.
Laara has been an avid presenter and keynoter for many conferences both in Canada and abroad. She has supervised Manitoba Indigenous students whose thesis can be found at the University of Manitoba Libraries such as Marlene Gallagher, M.Ed.; Helen Settee, M.Ed.; Myra Laramee, PhD; Colleen West, M.Ed.; and served on the graduate committees of many other graduate students. Laara’s academic publications include her doctoral thesis Aboriginal Educator’s Stories: Rekindling Aboriginal Worldviews; and book chapters that includes
1) The Circle of Life: Affirming Aboriginal Philosophies in Everyday Living;
2) The Power of Indigenous Knowledge: Naming and Identity and Colonization in Canada, and Indigenous Scholars;
3) Writing through Narratives and Storying for Healing and Bridging (this chapter is published in a book co-edited by Dr. Laara Fitznor and Dr. Joy Hendry titled ‘Anthropologists, Indigenous Scholars and the Research Endeavour);
4) With Gallagher, M. (2016) “Culturally Responsive and Innovative Student Support Programs CAN overcome Issues of Poverty and Poor Educational Outcomes for Indigenous Students”; and
5) Fitznor, L. (2019). Indigenous Education: Affirming Indigenous Knowledges and Languages from a Turtle Island Indigenous Scholar’s Perspective: Pikiskéwinan (Let us Voice), in (Coppélie Cocq & Kirk P.H. Sullivan, Editors). Perspectives on Indigenous Writing and Literacies. Series: Studies in Writing, Volume 37. Brill Publishing. https://brill.com/view/title/31954
Laara believes that those of us in the field of Indigenous education CAN respond to the need for engaging Indigenous knowledges through deep philosophical approaches and deep self-knowledge about our roles in society. Taking a conscientious leap of Knowing ourselves with our multiple nodes of identities is an important part of understanding Indigenous education. Our willingness to examine ourselves places visions and dreams into our hands for bridging realities and enacting reconciliatory efforts.
Mavis Reimer is Project Director of the SSHRC Partnership Project, Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw Īthiniwak: Reclamation, Regeneration, and Reconciliation. She is Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor of English at the University of Winnipeg. She was the Canada Research Chair in Young People’s Texts and Cultures between 2005 and 2015, lead editor of Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures between 2009 and 2015, and President of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature between 2011 and 2015. She is the founding director of the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures (CRYTC) at the University of Winnipeg and founding President of the Association for Research in Young People’s Cultures.
William Dumas is the Coordinator for the Culture and Language Program for Nisichawayasi Nehetho Culture and Education Authority, a knowledge keeper, and an acclaimed storyteller from O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (OPCN). He is Co-Leader of the Story Team for the Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw Īthiniwak project. Dumas is experienced as a Northern educator and administrator, having worked as a First Nations Language & Culture Specialist (Cree) at the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC), Cree Language and Culture Consultant in the Mystery Lake and Frontier School Divisions, as the Director of Education for Fox Lake Education Authority in Nelson House, and as the Executive Director for Northern Nishnabe Education Council. Dumas is the author of the award-winning picture book Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow (2013), which is the first book in the Six Seasons of Asiniskaw Īthiniwak series.
George Nicholas is Professor and Chair of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University. He has worked with and for Indigenous peoples in North America and elsewhere for over 30 years. From 1991 to 2005 he developed and directed the premier Indigenous Archaeology program in Canada at SFU’s former Kamloops campus. His research interests and publications include a strong focus on indigenous archaeology, cultural appropriation, heritage as a human right, and archaeology in pursuit of social justice. Nicholas developed and directed the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) Project (2008-2016) a major international research initiative that systematically explored ethical archaeological and heritage research worldwide (www.sfu.ca/ipinch). Through this and other initiatives he has made significant contributions in relation to cross-cultural understandings of traditional knowledge, cultural appropriation, intangible heritage, intellectual property, research ethics, and heritage as a human right. He has engaged in activist practices and interventions aimed at protecting Indigenous heritage.
Other research interests include the archaeology and human ecology of wetlands worldwide, particularly the archaeological record of hunter-gatherer societies, and more general studies of early postglacial land use in both the northeastern United States and the Interior Plateau of western Canada.
Nicholas is former editor of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, and former series co-editor for the World Archaeological Congress’s Handbooks in Archaeologyseries. His edited volume, Being and Becoming Indigenous Archaeologists, presented the life stories of 37 Indigenous archaeologists from around the world. Recent book chapters and essays include “Considering the Denigration and Destruction of Indigenous Heritage as Violence“ (forthcoming); “Listening to Whom, and for Whose Benefit?” Promoting and Protecting Local Heritage Values;” “Protecting Heritage is a Human Right;” “Touching the Intangible: Situating Material Culture in the Realm of Indigenous Heritage Research;” and “Culture, Rights, Indigeneity, and Intervention: Addressing Inequality in Indigenous Heritage Protection and Control.”
Tansi. Aniin. Boozhoo. Helen is currently the Director with the Indigenous Inclusion Directorate with Manitoba Education and Training. She has worked with the Department of Education and Training since 1995. Some of her work includes representing Manitoba on the Council of Ministers Education Canada committees on Indigenous education. She also participates on community based committees such as Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc. Council and Indigenous Learning Circle.
Previous to her work as a Director, she was an education consultant and a teacher in Winnipeg School Division, which included teaching at the two Aboriginal inner-city schools - Children of the Earth and Niji Mahkwa. She was born and raised in the inner city of Winnipeg and always wanted to come back to teach in the schools where she was a student. She was convinced that with the racism she felt as a student in her adolescent years that she had to influence change by being a role model and to be a change agent in her adult life.
Aside from being an educator, she is the mother of two adult sons, Craig who lives in Vancouver and Kevin who lives in Winnipeg and a grandmother to Ogimaabinens who lives in Ontario.
Catherine Gerbasi is owner and publisher of Portage & Main Press, an independent Canadian publishing company. In 2009, Gerbasi co-founded the HighWater Press imprint, which has grown to be the most prominent publisher of Indigenous graphic novels in the country. Under her leadership, Portage & Main Press has been recognized for its innovative educational resources, as well as for award-winning Indigenous literature through HighWater Press. With over 20 years' experience in the publishing industry, Catherine is a former board member of the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Association of Manitoba Book Publisher