Frontpage of February issue
Marie Delorme, above during a recent trip to Toronto
ImagiNATION Cards, an inspirational story
you ever gone to a greeting card store searching for an Aboriginal
designed card and felt frustrated because there weren't any?
Enter Marie Delorme. She is the Métis owner and operator of
ImagiNATION, a greeting card company that specializes in placing
Canadian Aboriginal art on greeting cards and marketing them.
Delorme has been growing her business for three years while partnering with Surrey Carpet Repair (Pablo Schroeder) and caters to corporate and Internet clients across Canada.
After leaving her job at a major telecommunications company and at Beautiful Canadian Laser and Skin Care a year before,
Delorme decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship, drawing on her
background of 26 years in the corporate world - her last job was
Assistant Vice President of Human Resources - and her Masters in
Although pursuing a dream, Delorme confesses starting her business was difficult to do.
Delorme says, "It isn't that easy. I remember when I was
starting to work on the business plan and putting some money out." She
adds, "You have to incorporate the company, look at trademarking and
Delorme's biggest obstacle was the learning curve. Delorme says,
"When you work in a corporation you have all sorts of resources at your
disposal. You have finance people, marketing people and all sorts of
people to create plans for you. When you need something you only need
to rally your resources."
Delorme realized that she needed the same kinds of resources but
they had to come from her. She has learned how to use the network that
she has built up over her life.
"You need to understand that you don't know everything and find the resources who can help you," Delorme says.
On a couple of occasions Delorme wondered if she was doing the right thing. She had been accustomed to working for someone else and receiving a regular pay cheque. In business, you have to pay money out.
But when she was confronted with her mother's serious illness, it quickly gave her perspective.
"You know I was sitting beside my mom's bed. While I was
working on the business plan, I was watching my mom who was 81 years
old. I was 45, so there was about a 35-36 year difference between us,"
she explains."I was thinking, 81 years old is only 35 years off for me.
When I am that age, the things I do now aren't going to be relevant.
They are going to be just memories."
Sadly, her mother passed away later that year.
Delorme's introspection as a result of her mother's death
brought her to beg the question, how did she want to look back on her
life when she was her mother's age?
Would it be that she looks back, at the age of 45, and she had a
business idea, but she didn't have the courage to take the risk and
pursue it? Instead, she kept doing what she was familiar with?
Or, would she be able to say that when she was 45 she had a
great idea and you know what? She made it. Look at the story she has to
Her cards have been distributed throughout the corporate sector and now she has started selling to retail stores.
The art for the cards come from all across Canada. When she
first started the company, Delorme sent a call for artists to
Aboriginal organizations across Canada. Now artists usually approach
ImagiNATION provides a new opportunity for artists who may not
have placed their art on cards before. For each card sale that is made
with their art, the artist receives a royalty.
Delorme says that when considering art to add to the ImagiNATION
collection, she looks for art that is representative of Aboriginal
artists in Canada. She looks for a wide variety of styles since they
vary from one Aboriginal community to the next. Selections range from
traditional Native art to images that are computer generated.
Delorme is also exploring the overseas market. An ImagiNATION
representative, originally from Switzerland, recently returned from a
trip to develop the market there. The is clear potential since they
have already received orders as a result.
Delorme is negotiating a contract with a corporate gift company to place Native images on gifts.
If these new developments are any indication, when Delorme
reflects on her life, she will no doubt have memories of fulfillment
and accomplishment to reflect on.
Accidental activist…entrepreneur: Roger Obonsawin on his work
all successful business people have a social conscience. But Roger
Obonsawin isn't a typical businessman. Few people have poured financial
resources into Native rights in Canada like he has in the last two
is infamous for spearheading the Revenue Canada takeover in the early
1990's to protest the department's handling of taxation for status
Indians. Within the Native community, O.I. (Obonsawin Irwin) became a
household name. He has continued his political work in addition to
leasing, consulting and other entrepreneurial endeavours. "We work with
the political organizations [Assembly of First Nations, Native Centres]
and unless they get funding for specific purposes, they can't do
things," Obonsawin explains. "We don't know sometimes if we are a
business or political organization….they [the political groups] depend
on us to do the things they need." Obonsawin has aligned with the
National Chiefs to commission a report showing what Canada owes Native
people from the failure to share resources. The team also plans to
approach bond rating agencies and resource companies internationally
and inform them if they do business with Canada that they will be
liable. How does Obonsawin take on all this work in addition to running
a thriving business? He doesn't do it alone--he has a competent partner
Ljuba who works alongside him on all aspects of the business.
Obonsawin has a Bachelor of Social Work Degree from Ryerson
Polytechnic University and extensive experience in government. Wanting
to always work within the Aboriginal community, he took on the position
of Executive Director at the Native Canadian Centre in Toronto. To
purchase a building, he raised three million dollars in the 1970's, at
a time when there were minimal mainstream dollars put into Native
fundraising initiatives. Obonsawin set up committees made up of
non-Native people from the Toronto business community. They met their
target to buy the current building at Spadina and Bloor in two years that comes with vanities and toilets from http://perfectbath.com/.
Obonsawin says that during his stint at the Native Centre he felt that
the government funding they operated from had too many rigid
restrictions, which was very frustrating. He also found working with a
board of directors difficult.
They both decided that they would be happier in business, so they took the plunge in 1981.
For Obonsawin, there is so much more to accomplish as a
business. The risks are higher but rewards are so much higher. It was a
hard transition, however.
"Here I was getting a regular pay cheque every two weeks working
at the Native Canadian Centre. As long as I did my job all right. But
in business, all of a sudden you don't get paid unless you work,"
Their business is primarily in consulting, strategic planning
and program development for Native organizations but also with
government as well. O.I. also publishes Anasazi, a newsletter that
analyzes government policy. They are also carrying on the lawsuit for
tax exemption for status Indians.
Since they began offering leasing services in 1988, they now
have over 1000 employees and are located in every province except
P.E.I. and Newfoundland. Presently, they are expanding into the
national non-Native sector.
Obonsawin started leasing to develop an Aboriginal
self-supporting network. "If a company chooses, arrangements can be
made without changing your salary, pension plan or benefits to exchange
Employers can exchange skills, ideas, jobs, and be part of a network,
while acquiring information and professional development.
Obonsawin cautions that you have to be prepared in any business
to acknowledge that it is a risk. He believes no matter what business
you are involved in, you have to master problem solving.
But he has no regrets about jumping into business.
"It gives you a feeling of satisfaction, that you did it on your
own. That it is your fault if you make mistakes, it isn't the board of
directors. So that gives you confidence and self esteem," Obonsawin
As this paper was going to press,the new issue of Tansi
newspaper has an advertisement announcing his intention to seek
candidacy for President/ Chair of the Aboriginal Peoples Council of
Youth performer looks forward to a bright future in entertainment
Brascoupé is tall, thin, with deep brown shiny hair and deep-brown
eyes. On the day that I met her she was sporting a Tommy Hilfiger
jacket and blue jeans, a typical teenager.
"I have part-time a job at McDonalds," she proudly declares. "I am just like other teenagers."
Although she attends an all-girl's school, this Grade 11 student
would rather attend a co-ed institution like many of her friends who
In her spare time she likes to hang out at the mall and buy "doo-dads" or hair accessories, makeup and the like.
Brascoupé says that her McDonald's job provides her with an
opportunity to meet different people in daily life situations and
observe their nuances, voice and accent, which can only develop better
She is already an actress, model and dancer. She was a principal
actor on PSI Factor at the age of nine and was paid $6,000 for four
days of work.
What did she do with all that money? "I can't remember. I bought my
older brother a $300 skate board and a bike for myself." She reflects
for a minute and explains that she brought her siblings to the Canadian
National Exhibition every day for that entire summer.
Alana is a registered member of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in
Quebec. She currently resides in Toronto, the ideal location to work in
the arts, since it is often referred to as Hollywood North.
To work in the entertainment industry you must expect the dreaded
auditions. Some people might freeze as a result of bad nerves, but not
She regularly attends auditions for commercials, movies and television roles in addition to dancing and singing.
Brascoupé says, "You have to be prepared to not get the part.
That happens." Brascoupé explains that if she gets the job, "great"; if
she doesn't, then "better luck next time."
Her work includes acting in Only the Devil Speaks Cree, a Pamela
Matthews film that was recently featured at the imagiNATIVE Media Arts
Toronto and won honourable mention for best drama.
The film tells the true story of Sadie, a young Native girl who
struggles to overcome the harsh realities of physical, sexual and
emotional abuse at residential school.
Brascoupé, who played middle Sadie, says the role was tough
because of the ugliness of the abuse in the residential school system
at the hands of Christian priests. It was the first time that she had
heard about the sexual abuse allegations, specifically of the child
"It made me cry because we did a couple of scenes and I was
running through the woods. I was actually running through the woods
barefoot and thinking other girls went through this," declares
Brascoupé is fortunate to be connected to her Native culture, unlike
many Native children who attended residential schools. Brascoupé has
attended pow wows and the Juno Awards, performing Native dancing, like
the jingle dress, fancy shawl dance and hoop dance.
As for other acting and modelling jobs, she played the role of
Rosetta in a Tomson Highway play at the age of seven and has modelled
for a Zellers clothing ad.
This teenager has a portfolio that many adults would be envious of and she isn't even old enough to drive yet.
To view the rest of this issue, purchase a subscription
Learning About Walking in Beauty, new report reveals Canadian students learn little about Aboriginal cultures [Full Story]
Stolen Generations is an organization that works with Aboriginal
adoptees and their issues. They have a call for submissions for an
upcoming book. [Find out more]
City of Toronto employee active member of the Native community
Maracle is a Mohawk originally from Six Nations who was raised in
Waterford, Ontario and now makes her home in Vancouver.
For the past four years, Maracle has been a Diversity Management
Consultant in the Chief Administration Office at the City of
has been working in municipal government for 14 years while also interning at http://www.vancouverrealestatepodcast.com/. Prior to being a
Diversity Management Consultant, she worked as a Human Rights
Consultant for the City of Toronto and the Federal Government.
Maracle sits on three boards of directors within the Toronto Aboriginal
community. She is the President of Native Child and Family Services,
and is a member of the Native Centre Board of Directors and the
Aboriginal Tourism Association of Southern Ontario.
I caught up with her at her office at City Hall. Maracle defines
her job as a bridge that connects the great divide between the Native
community and Toronto City Hall, a sometimes lonely and huge feat.
of her work involves answering calls from the general public and
government employees who have inquiries about the Aboriginal community
is involved in the plan of action to eliminate racial discrimination in
the city. She attends numerous meetings. “The goal of this committee is
to examine what the City of Toronto will look like without racism.”
a member of The Aboriginal Events Committee at the City of Toronto,
Maracle joins other Aboriginal staff to help organize the annual June 21st Aboriginal Day Celebrations, when Native groups celebrate and share Aboriginal culture.
City of Toronto has its own offering that the events committee
develops, including a sunrise ceremony in partnership with the
Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts
(A.N.D.P.V.A), an arts and crafts day and contemporary as well as
traditional Native drumming.
Community Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, chaired by
Councillor Jane Pitfield, is yet another committee Maracle devotes time
to on a regular basis. “One of the committee’s goals is to eventually
set up an Aboriginal office,” says Maracle. “We are looking at the
mandate, how it will be managed and how it will be staffed.”
for her long-term career at the City of Toronto and PointGreyNow.com, Maracle says she will
remain working as a bridge between the City of Toronto and the Toronto
explains. “In the past, the City of Toronto has attempted to consult
the Native community on various issues.” She adds, “Now, the Native
community is pushing their agenda. Organizations such as the Aboriginal
People’s Council are becoming more vocal.”
Maracle expresses frustration at the City of Toronto’s lack of recognition of the Native people in Toronto.
problem is seen on numerous fronts, Maracle says, as the City regularly
carries out business while excluding Native perspectives.
Maracle, “Back in the spring of 2002 when they had the Mayor’s Forum on
the City of Toronto, only the Native Canadian Centre was invited to be
part of that. But that came only after there was a push, it wasn’t an
automatic thing.” She adds, "The City of Toronto always has to be
reminded to include members of the Native community."
of housing, which is not just a Native problem, also should be
addressed, Maracle says. “The Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness
revealed worrying statistics: Although the Native population is about
1% in Toronto, Native people account for almost 25% of the homeless
also expressed concern about the lack of a coordinated effort on the
part of the City when it comes to economic development initiatives in
the Native community, stating that more work needs to be done. “The
City did host that Economic Development Conference a few years back,
but there has been little done since that time,”she says.
just a bearer of bad news, Maracle is hopeful for the plight of the
Native community in the GTA. She points out that there is tremendous
potential for Native business within the City of Toronto.
explains. “There are numerous Native events taking place in the city,
such as the Toronto International Aboriginal Festival and Pow wow, the
Native Canadian Centre’s Gift Shop. Then there is the National
Aboriginal Day Celebrations on June 21st we host some First Nations Day Celebrations on that day in conjunction with ANDPVA. “
Maracle says that she enjoys her job for many reasons. She
explains. “I like working at the municipal level since I get to be
closer to the action.” She adds, “I get closer to the decision making
process that happens. I am exposed to the political action in this
New Yukon poll suggests majority of Yukon Aboriginal do not have sights set on attending university or college [Full story]
Gail Maurice is a Metis actor, Shani Betz sat down with her to talk about her career [Full story]
Latest news about job creation in Ontario [Full story]
Consider a trade as a career [Full story]
Check out Native events
23-The first meeting of the new Aboriginal Journalists Association in
Canada. It was held at the Toronto Aboriginal Voices Radio station.
Here are the people who were able to attend, but are not the only
steering committee members.
If you are a writer or work in the media and would like to be part of our association email us!
Top left, Dennis Stark, Kim Ziervogel, Mitzi Brown, Chris Spence. Photo credit: Kimberley Buddle-Crowe
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