Atikokan Native Friendship Centre (ANFC): Sarah Laurich is the ANFC Executive Director. She has been investigating and researching the issue of Indigenous youth aging out of care — child welfare services, foster care, justice — over the past decade. Sarah and her ANFC staff have been providing supports to an overwhelming number of the youth who have been negatively impacted by the system. But, the lack of affordable, safe housing and accompanying supports tailored to their individual needs exceeded the in-house capacity of ANFC to help youth achieve self-reliance and independence. Something more needed to be done. Sarah presented the challenge to her Board of Directors with a proposed solution — the purchase and re-purposing of the historic Atikokan Hotel into a youth transition home called, Biskaabiiyang. Sarah received unanimous approval to proceed.
Sarah Laurich is the ANFC Executive Director. She has been investigating and researching the issue of Indigenous youth aging out of care — child services, foster care, justice — over the past four years. The staff of ANFC have been providing supports to many of these youth. But the lack of affordable, safe, adequate housing and tailored supports for trauma, mental health/health, addiction, etc. exceeded the in-house capacity of ANFC to respond effectively to the needs of these youth and to help prepare them for independence and self-reliance. When Sarah presented the challenge to her Board of Directors with her proposed solution — the purchase of the Atikokan Hotel & the Biskaabiiyang program — she received approval to proceed.
John Whitesell, PhD, Whitesell & Company, Inc.: John is the Managing Director of his Toronto-based consulting company. John met Sarah while he was completing the update to the Rainy River District’s Housing & Homelessness Strategy in 2018-19. He wrote the original strategy in 2013. The data that was gathered to support the strategy indicated that Indigenous youth were disproportionately represented in the homelessness statistics as well as people experiencing precarious (exposed to eviction) or severely inadequate housing. John had experienced the same situation with Indigenous populations across Canada.
ANFC Youth Advisory Council (YAC): the YAC is comprised of five youth with lived experience who have been consulting on the production of the TV Docu-Series, Bring Our Children Home, that is being produced by ANFC and set for release in the Spring 2021. The series uses the voices of the youth to illustrate their stories and bring a sense of urgency to finding a solution.
Autumn Windego is a member of the YAC, and she is featured (with her two young children) in the BOCH series. The series will also be used to inform the general population about the plight of youth aging out of care and how, by combining traditional Indigenous cultural approaches with best practices from youth programs around the world will help address the issues that youth are experiencing, while encouraging healing and self-reliance.
Gail Super (Ph.D. 2010, Law and Society, New York University, New York) is an Assistant Professor at the
University of Toronto Mississauga. Dr. Super works critically within, and between, the disciplines of Law and
Society and Sociology, with a specialization in the Sociology of Punishment. Her research programme focuses on
the political context of penal policy-making, specifically the role of crime and punishment in constituting political authority and vice versa. A core component of her theoretical framework is recognition of the variegated assemblages and hybrids that constitute the penal field and how punishment plays out in different combinations
The ANFC Board are active participants and supporters of creating practical and sustainable solutions that support the youth and amplify their voices and perspectives. The ANFC Board is currently comprised of 5 First Nations/Métis Members and 2 non-Indigenous Members who work together creating solutions to improve the lives of the urban Indigenous population within Atikokan.
Our Board represents a wide array of relevant work and life experiences that are helping to guide the development process for this vision, including a local family physician. The Board has been present at development meetings, youth gatherings and ceremonies with the youth involved in our vision development since 2016.
Gary Councillor is 1st degree Midewin from Naicatchewinin First Nation and is from the Muskrat clan. Gary works as a Traditional Healing Coordinator with Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre. Gary has worked with the ANFC team since 2015.
In 2017 Gary joined the development team and has attended youth gatherings, public and board meetings to support this project while offering his traditional and spiritual knowledge and teachings to support the ANFC and the youth who the ANFC works to support. Gary is a lodge carrier and has supported the ANFC ceremonially and with protocols since 2015.
Danier Andy (Mishkosiminiziibiing, Lake of the Woods) is Bear clan and 1st degree Midewin. Danier joined our BOCH development team in 2017. Danier attended the 2017 youth gathering and immediately began working with the development team to advance the youth vision. Danier is a strong advocate for reclaiming traditional and spiritual approaches while practically ensuring those teachings guide our development processes. Danier is featured in the BOCH series.
Richard Morrison (Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation) is Muskrat Clan and 2nd Degree Midewin. Richard worked with the ANFC from 2016 up until his passing in 2020. Richard was a teacher in his earlier years and more recently was working specifically to support mental health and share his cultural/traditional/spiritual teachings. Richard was a strong and vocal supporter of the youth and this youth vision to create safe places and practical solutions that will support healing.
Richard worked with the ANFC and Atikokan community offering his spiritual gifts, guidance and practical teachings. One of the lessons Richard gave us was to "walk the talk" and not to "talk the walk", we aim to incorporate and honour the teachings and guidance that Richard gifted us as we bring this vision to life. Richard is featured in the BOCH docu-series.
Julie George is an Anishinaabe (Ojibwa and Potawatomi) Scholar, Helper, Pipe Carrier and Sweat Lodge Conductor from Wikwedong and Aazhoodena — Kettle & Stony Point First Nation. She completed her doctoral dissertation by employing Indigenous methodologies. Julie is the mother of five young sons.
As the Scientific Advisor on Indigenous Health and Wellbeing with the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research (IMHPR) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Julie works with Kettle & Stony Point First Nation as the Mental Health and Addiction Manager. Her research on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) was the basis for a model of intervention related to Indigenous Health. Julie has a wide range of experience with Indigenous community-based research, program development and frontline service provision.
Julie works closely with First Nations communities, including leadership, Elders, Spiritual Advisors, Knowledge Keepers and mental health and addiction clinicians. Her intent is to help build research-informed, comprehensive, well-integrated, and culturally congruent wellness strategies at the community level.
The ANFC team is comprised of 15 full time employees as well as additional temporary contract positions. Every Friday you will find our team wearing the “Bring Our Children Home” tshirts or sweaters, we do this to remind us of what we are working towards. Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belcourt visited with us in Atikokan in 2019 to work with our community and paint a large “Bring Our Children Home” mural that is on the wall of our gym, it’s another visual reminder of our goals. Our team works together to support family reunification and strengthening of the family unit and family connections wherever possible. Our team is very excited to see this vision come to life and looking forward to having more comprehensive supports available when needed.