Sonia was on a mission. She had been around the world looking for a model of economic development that was rooted in values of who we want to be as a people, our relationship with each other, the Earth and all beings. A model that worked and had a shot of continuity on this beautiful planet. Being of Ukrainian heritage (as her first language) and having completed her last year of law school in Argentina, in Spanish, she had the opportunity to work for the Public Defender’s Office in Argentina, for the United Nations Development Program in Ukraine as legal advisor to the Prime Minister, and for the President of the Commission of Human Rights and Justice in Mexico. In 2013, Sonia was working as a finance lawyer at a big Canadian law firm in Toronto, on a six month stint in their Vancouver office’s mining group. As co-chair of the Latin American practice she was working to build relationships between Canada and Latin America. What she saw was a lot of conflict. Nothing seemed to be working.
Then in November of 2013, Sonia met Jerry at the Canadian Aboriginal Mining Association (CAMA) conference in Vancouver. He was this larger than life personality, commanding the room as he walked in. Jerry was serving in his last year as Vice President of CAMA (as founding member, having served for 22 years), along with sitting on half a dozen training and advisory boards in the area of mining.
Earlier that year, he had received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to the inclusion and training of Aboriginal People in the mining industry and was looking to pass on his experience.
Sonia introduced herself to Jerry and learned about how he led in the transformation of his Nation, based on impeccable values and principles of who they were as a people and their responsibility as stewards of the land. Jerry talked about the economy being a means to a healthy and prosperous nation, not an end of itself. He spoke about reinvesting everything back into training his people and building dynamic teams. He spoke about ensuring the Tahltans were decision-makers in how their lands and resources developed. He spoke about their 21 person Tahltan trained environmental and heritage assessment team that evaluated projects based on social, environmental and economic merits. He spoke about how they were not opposed to development, they were authors of what that development looked like. And it worked. 30 years later, they were thriving. As was their environment and their next generation.
Sonia was blown away! A model that finally made sense to her, and it was right here in Canada! Jerry and Sonia spoke over the next couple of days about sharing the Tahltan story with other indigenous communities around the world, to show what was possible.
As a teacher at heart, Jerry is always eager to help others achieve a brighter future for their people.
Two weeks later, at a breakfast pub in Vancouver, Jerry and Sonia sketched out the business plan for the new organization’s mission and vision on the back of a napkin and the Global Indigenous Development Trust was born.
They have since visited and conducted workshops with communities across the Americas and have been invited to countries across Africa, Asia and to Australia. They have been to heights of 5,000 meters deep in the Andes, into the heart of the Amazon and the Central American rainforests. And now they have come full circle back to Canada to support the re-building of Nations on natural principles at home.
Sonia and Jerry would like to acknowledge GIDT’s incredible Board members that walk the walk of these values on a daily basis.
Sean Willy is a leader who truly stands firm in his values. With more than 25 years’ experience, Sean is leading in the creation of innovative new businesses, partnerships and investment opportunities for indigenous and non-indigenous partners alike. By reinvesting back into people and building strong teams, he is leading the way for green growth, sustainable businesses, jobs and employment opportunities in English River First Nation and across Canada. Sean truly cares about people and is sharing opportunities and his experiences with communities in Canada and around the world.
Mary Boyden is a heart-centered leader and committed to creating a world that works well for all people. Having cut her teeth in underground mines more than 40 years ago, and having worked in some of the most difficult arenas, from mining to homeless indigenous youth and sex trafficking in the heart of one of Canada’s oldest mining regions, to healing of the land and traditional ceremony, you will never see her without a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone she works with. She is a true bridge between worlds, indigenous and non, spiritual and secular. Mary has been working for the past 8 years on developing ways of bringing together indigenous knowledge with western science to heal and restore the land from more than 100 years of mining in Timmins.
Nalaine Morin works with First Nations across Canada on projects as varied as mining, pipelines and highway infrastructure. She fights unapologetically for what she believes in and garners incredible amounts of respect for her tenacity and skills. From mining executives to First Nations leaders, her reputation as an environmental expert and advisor is unparalleled. Having grown up in a mining community, her technical background combined with being of Tahltan descent has led to her identifying and developing ways to connect and support First Nations traditional knowledge and Western science, effectively managing complicated resource project issues in a cross-cultural setting. Many of the innovative processes she has helped develop have been subsequently adopted for use at the provincial level.
Our vision is a global network of healthy, vibrant, thriving communities and people, living their true potential.
1801 – 1 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5E1W7
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