Thunder Bay

Michael DeGagné chosen to lead Indspire as president and CEO

Michael DeGagné from Animakee Wa Zhing 37 First Nation in northwestern Ontario, has been chosen to lead Canada's largest Indigenous-led and Indigenous-focused charity as its new president and CEO.

The new president and CEO of Indspire says it's time to 'double down' on Indigenous education

Michael DeGagné has been appointed as the new president and CEO of Indspire, an Indigenous national charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

A man from Animakee Wa Zhing 37 First Nation in northwestern Ontario has been chosen to lead Canada's largest Indigenous-led and Indigenous-focused charity as its new president and CEO.

Indspire, which invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, announced the appointment of Michael DeGagné on September 17, 2020.

"Indspire has grown tremendously over the last 15 years," says Indspire board chair David Tuccaro. "I am so pleased that we found a leader of Mike DeGagné's experience and ability to steer us through the next phase of our development."

Current president and CEO Roberta Jamieson calls DeGagné's appointment "a perfect fit," due to his experience at both Nipissing University and Yukon University where he served as president and vice-chancellor.

"That's why Indspire honoured him with its Public Service award in 2018. His determination to Indigenize education will help Indspire realize its goal of having every Indigenous youth graduate within a generation," said Jamieson.

Northwestern Ontario upbringing shapes career in education

In an interview with CBC's Superior Morning, DeGagné said his career in education makes for a good match in his new role. He added that his northwestern Ontario upbringing helps him to recognize educational needs on a national level.

"I think this really shaped, you know, how I think and the approach I bring to education. Not everybody has access, not everybody has ... a ready chance to go to post-secondary education. We've got to work to make that a reality for people," he said.

DeGagné said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to take on the new role, and is ready to broaden the scope of Indspire's work, in addition to the support the organization provides through bursaries and scholarships.

"What I want to see happen is that Inspire remain and become even more of an authoritative voice on Indigenous education in Canada," he said. "Which might mean more of an emphasis on research, on bringing together convening groups of researchers to tell us about what constitutes best practice in Indigenous education."

COVID-19 creates new challenges for charities

In the last year, Indspire has awarded $17.8 million in scholarships, bursaries and awards to more than 5,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis students. Indspire calls itself the second-largest funder of Indigenous post-secondary education after the federal government.

DeGagné said support for Indigenous people and their education must not waver in the face of COVID-19, even as countless Canadian charities face fundraising challenges amid the pandemic.

"This is not the time to reconsider our support for the Indigenous community and for education. This is a time when we double down on it and say ... Canadians still want to contribute to something that has tremendous value and impact on the country," he said.

DeGagné said Canada needs to look at the new challenges presented by the pandemic and make "strategic investments in young people." He added young Indigenous people will be a critical part of the labour force moving forward.

now