Montreal non-profit launches toolkit on how to be an Indigenous ally

The Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network, which has had a large demand for paper copies of the toolkit, released it online this week.

Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network breaks down allyship into 3 steps

Dakota Swiftwolfe and Leilani Shaw of the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network are two of the contributors on the group's new Indigenous ally toolkit. (Leilani Shaw)

What does it mean to be a good ally to Indigenous Peoples?

It's something the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network is hoping to clarify with its recently launched Indigenous ally toolkit.

The toolkit provides an overview on terminology, dos and don'ts, with examples of why the term "Canada's Indigenous Peoples," asking "why don't you just get over it?" or saying "you must be an alcoholic" is problematic.

The latter was a personal experience for Leilani Shaw, the network's communications and mobilization co-ordinator.

"Someone said it to me and my friends on the streets of Toronto," she said.

"You could just tell that they were so ignorant. It made me so embarrassed and all these different types of feelings."

3 steps

The toolkit breaks down allyship into three steps:

  1. Be critical of any motivations.
  2. Start learning.
  3. Act accordingly.

Dakota Swiftwolfe developed the content and research of the toolkit along with a handful of other contributors from the Network.

She said allies definitely need to be aware of their motivations and be "self critical of their actions and why they do what they do, and just raising that level of self-awareness." 

"A lot of the time where that ignorance comes from is the fact that they don't know proper protocols, what's rude and what's not," she said.

"I don't know if I'm naive but I honestly don't think that these things come from a malicious intent."

In high demand

Since launching in November, the Network said it has experienced a large demand for paper copies of the toolkit, including from the Montreal police, as well as from health and educational bodies across Canada and the United States. While the Network's budget only allowed for a limited number to be printed, it was released online this week. 

"Even though the document itself has references specifically to Montreal and Canada, Indigenous people from all across Canada and the U.S. can relate to it," said Shaw.

"I think it speaks volumes around the language and the delivery of the document."

For Philippe Boucher, the toolkit will be an important resource on campus at Concordia University as it gears up for First Voices Week, a student-led initiative to build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

"It's information that people ask for over and over," said Boucher, a non-Indigenous student in the First Peoples Studies program.

"It's answering questions, but also gives information for people who are not sure about what they should do, not do. I think it can give confidence to people when they have information and can begin to learn more. It's like a first step for me."



Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawà:ke, south of Montreal. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.