British Columbia

Victoria shoebox campaign collects gifts for children in remote and northern communities

The Victoria chapter of I Love First Peoples is asking people to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children living in two communities near Smithers. The charity is majority indigenous and has 30 chapters across Canada.

The Victoria chapter of the I Love First Peoples charity hopes to collect 1,000 gift-filled shoeboxes

According to the I Love First Peoples charity, schools that receive the gift-filled shoeboxes see a reduction in absenteeism. (I Love First Peoples)

Colourful socks, sunglasses, gel pens and a personalized note.

These are some of the items listed as possible gifts to be packed into shoeboxes that will be sent to children living in remote and northern Indigenous communities.

The shoebox campaign is run by I Love First Peoples, a majority Indigenous Canadian charity founded in 2012.

Lynn Cole is the co-ordinator team member for the recently founded Victoria chapter of the charity.

Cole says the gift-filled shoeboxes are expressions of friendship meant to empower children to succeed in school.

"By distributing in the context of celebrating education, it creates excitement and motivation for these students about attending school and working towards their future. So, it's also a celebration of friendship to help foster the larger discussion of reconciliation."

Lynn Cole is with the Victoria chapter of I love First Peoples and she says the shoeboxes collected at Christmas will be delivered to children as part of a celebration in spring. (Gregor Cragie)

According to Cole, the schools that have received gifts from the charity have seen a dramatic rise in attendance.

Cole says she was personally inspired to get involved with the charity after seeing a video of a girl from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation School in Saskatchewan receiving a box.

'The truth is we are not powerless'

"This girl, Summer Bear, she was just filled with joy," said Cole. 

"She was holding the shoebox and she says: 'No one has ever done something like this for me before, and the people who did this for me will get a bigger surprise when I grow up.'" 

Josée Lusignan is the president and founder of I Love First Peoples and she organized a shoebox campaign for Attawapiskat in 2016.

Actor Duane Howard is a spokesperson for I Love First Peoples and he took part in the shoebox campaign for Attawapiska in 2016.

"For too long, Canadians have either turned a blind eye, lived in denial or felt totally powerless as they hear of the devastation the youth are facing:  rampant suicides, poor access to basic services like education and health, dirty water, food insecurity, trauma, abuse — it's got to stop! The truth is, we are not powerless."

Cole says that in Greater Victoria many community groups are involved in the shoebox campaign, including three classrooms in Sooke, staff at Cedar Hill Middle School and the nursing faculty at Camosun college.

The shoeboxes collected by the Victoria chapter of I Love First Nations will go to the communities of Gitsegukla and Kitwanga near Smithers.

The deadline for the current Christmas Shoebox Campaign is Dec.15.

Organizers of the shoebox campaign encourage people to include a personal note of encouragement with their gifts. (Lynn Cole)

For more information on shoebox and drop off locations, go to