Last fall, I Love First Peoples, a Quebec–based national charity, received widespread attention and support for its shoebox campaign that saw schools, universities, businesses, community groups and celebrities come on board to fill over 10,000 shoeboxes with gifts for students living in remote and semi-remote Indigenous communities. I Love First Peoples is now set to distribute the shoebox gifts to 20 communities across Canada as part of a National School Celebration Tour.
The Tour, which focuses primarily on motivating academic success, will give the students an opportunity to see the outpouring of support and friendship from fellow students and Canadians through the shoebox campaign, and allow them to further the connection as they will prepare personalized gifts and video messages. “We strongly believe in the power of connection and celebration,” says Josée Lusignan, president and founder of I Love First Peoples. “As we embark on a tour of 20 communities, we want the students to know that they have much to be proud of and that Canada is eager to listen and to learn.”
The Tour will also feature Indigenous celebrity guests, to inspire the students toward achieving their dreams and encourage them to practice their culture and share it with the rest of Canada and the world. Celebrity guests on the Tour include:
- Johnny Issaluk – Speaker, actor and champion Arctic games athlete
- Dallas Arcand – Three-time world champion hoop dancer
- Michaella Shannon – Model, actress and host of APTN’s The Other Side
- Sarain Fox – Activist, dancer and host of RISE on VICELAND
- Angel Berry – Award–winning actress and author, and nominated spoken word artist
Last Thursday, March 8th, the Tour made its first stop at Ulluriaq School in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik, where the event was extremely well received. “I am very happy of this partnership with I Love First Peoples. It’s a great way to educate the world about who we are as Inuit, the beauty and strength or our people, ” says Nancy Etok, Vice-Principal at Ulluriaq School. “For our students it is an opportunity to engage in a positive exchange with youth from other parts of Canada and for them to feel they are an important and valued piece of a global mosaic,” she added. The students were thrilled to receive a shoebox from talk-show host George Stroumboulopoulos and an autographed jersey from Habs goal tender Carey Price, both campaign supporters. These two very special gifts will be awarded as year–end prizes for achievement. They were also greatly inspired by celebrity guest speaker Johnny Issaluk, actor in the new movie Indian Horse and the most successful Arctic games athlete and champion of his generation.
“The program that I Love First Peoples brings to the communities is great and so meaningful –– the difference it makes to the community and the youth is evident and well received. To see the delight and happiness in the youth was amazing. I can‘t say enough about how lucky I feel to have been part of this school visit,” says Johnny Issaluk.
The Tour will now head to the following communities from March to May 2018:
- March 18th to 23rd in Saskatchewan – Lac LaRonge, Ahtahkakoop, Montreal Lake, Yellow Quill
- April 6th in Alberta – Maskwacis
- April 9th in Manitoba – Bloodvein
- April 17th to 21st in Ontario – three communities north of Sioux Lookout, including Wunnummin Lake
- April 28th to May 6th in BC – eight communities in the New Hazelton area, including Gitsegukla and Kitwanga
- May 22nd to May 25th in Ontario – communities along the James Bay coast, including Kashechewan
I Love First Peoples is proud to introduce new partners and sponsors who are vital to the advancement of reconciliation in Canada, namely Nutrien, First Air and AMJ Campbell that are enabling more communities to be reached and connections made through their support of the shoebox campaign, as well as Islamic Relief Canada, an international NGO which works within Canada and in over 40 countries around the world to provide emergency relief and access to education, healthcare, and other basic needs to vulnerable communities of all backgrounds. Furthermore, Natu r e’s P ath has provided 20,000 organic snack bars to be distributed to the students. “As we work to engage more Canadians in active reconciliation, we recognize that the shoebox campaign is an important first step for many, but that we must bring Canadians to deepen their understanding of the issues faced by the youth and their communities, and work toward solutions for meaningful change,” says Lusignan. To this effect, I Love First Peoples is working with its partners to implement programs for food sustainability and skills development.
“We are committed to collaborating on efforts that seek to empower youth across Canada. Supporting I Love First Peoples’ initiative to deliver gift–filled shoeboxes to Indigenous youth and learn firsthand about their communities and the path to reconciliation is part of honouring that commitment,” says Dr. Monem Daymi, Director of Programs at Islamic Relief Canada.
“Having the opportunity to aid with the betterment of the lives of Indigenous children and youth in Canada is truly a privilege and reflects the values and goals of our company,” says Bruce Bowser, President of AMJ Campbell. “It’s about inclusion and understanding of all Canadians and AMJ Campbell is honoured to be part of the ILFP National School Celebration Tour, by providing moving and storage services from our network of locations throughout Canada.”
I Love First Peoples has also been granted permission by the producers of the movie Indian Horse to show the movie to all communities on the Tour, ahead of its release in theatres across Canada on April 13th.
I Love First Peoples is a Canadian registered charity that empowers Indigenous youth to succeed in school,
through projects that foster reconciliation. With 30 chapters across Canada and numerous celebrity friends, we raise awareness on a large scale and provide youth with a platform through which they can be heard. For more information, please visit www.ilfp.ca
Vice–president, I Love First Peoples
Cell: 613.790.9118 ilovefirstpeoples [at] gmail [dot] com