As with many things, it began with a phone call.
For Marie Delorme that phone call came from a colleague 11 years ago, and included an invitation to have dinner with Mary Coyle. At that time, Mary was the executive director of Coady Institute; she is now a Canadian Senator. Mary wanted to discuss a concept Coady had been exploring. A concept that led to the founding of Coady’s Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program.
“I found it incredibly exciting because there was, and is, nothing like it anywhere else in the country,” Marie says. “Ultimately, I became a mentor within the program and an advisor to Coady.”
The role of mentor and advisor was a natural one for Marie. As CEO of The Imagination Group of Companies, Marie has a lot of experience to share with her fellow Indigenous women leaders. This experience includes working in brand management services for industry, governments, and Indigenous groups; manufacturing organically grown tobacco for specific use in ceremonial practice; and guiding organizations to operate more efficiently and profitably.
“This year we celebrated our 20th year in business,” Marie says. “The companies, although each focus on something slightly different, have a commonality of Indigenous economic development.”
Pictured L to R: Senator Margaret Dawn Anderson, Dr. Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Dr. Marie Delorme, Senator Mary Coyle
Since IWCL’s inception, Marie has shared her knowledge and experience as the program has grown and evolved over the years.
“The intent was to bring Indigenous women community leaders, people who were making a difference in their communities, to bring them together with Indigenous mentors from across the country,” Marie says.
“While elements of the program have changed over the course of 10 years, the basic intent and vision has always remained true. It is so exciting to see that Coady not only took on this very important initiative, but meaningfully engaged from day one with Indigenous women in what ultimately became the IWCL program.”
Marie notes there have been more than 144 First Nation, Métis, and Inuit women from coast-to-coast-to-coast who have come to Coady and built friendships, capacity, and knowledge that they have taken back to their communities as graduates.
“Those women have gone on to truly make a difference whether it is in economic development, the arts, law, and justice. Some of the women are in politics. They are elected leaders in their communities. This could not happen without the support of sponsors, without Coady support, and without support of the mentors some of whom have been with the program from day one.”
Those women have gone on to truly make a difference whether it is in economic development, the arts, law, and justice. Some of the women are in politics. They are elected leaders in their communities.
Marie says the recent donation by Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds is a moment of serendipity. Connected by a network of friends, Marie was able to provide the couple with background on several organizations that worked with Indigenous women including Coady.
“I was delighted that he and his wife selected Coady as the organization they wanted put their name and resources behind,” Marie says. “I love the words abundance and amplify because this is exactly what this kind of donation allows Coady and IWCL to do.”
She says their generosity, and that of others, will allow for the expansion of the program and opportunities to take the program across the country similar to Coady’s work with the Enoch Cree First Nation right outside of Edmonton. That particular initiative offered a different perspective on the program because rather than women coming to Coady, the program came to the community.
This method of program delivery is similar to other programs that Coady conducts around the world. Coady will be engaging a larger number of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit women leaders in various regions and communities while also offering on-campus programs at St. Francis Xavier University.
“We had talked about engaging our Canadian Indigenous women with Indigenous women from around the world,” Marie says. “It is all about creating new possibilities and new ideas and we will do this with the complete engagement of the mentors and the IWCL alumnae who have agreed to be a part of this journey going forward. That group of women will be powerful in shaping how the future will unfold over the next 10 years.”
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