Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux talks feminism, Indigenous issues

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux will be speaking as part of the Indigenous Speaker Series hosted by the University of Ottawa.

Wesley-Esquimaux was named the chair of Truth and Reconciliation at Lakehead University in 2016 and will continue in the role until September 2019.

“My job as the chair on Truth and Reconciliation is about advocacy – I am not holding a research chair,” said Wesley-Esquimaux. “I am required to spend my time advocating for reconciliation, building and sharing truth with as many people as possible in as many places as possible and ensuring Lakehead University is well represented in those many dialogues.”

The upcoming speaker series, which occurs every few weeks at the U of O, has been designed to foster a conversation between professionals, women in particular, and university students. Many of the speakers are Indigenous women who have a strong presence in Ontario and across the country.

“It would behoove the students to take advantage of their feminine wisdom and attend these talks because they are coming from women who work at the frontline, who are talented actors, writers, and commentators,” said Wesley-Esquimaux.

Wesley-Esquimaux emphasizes that the importance of the speaker series goes beyond Indigenous issues, especially in light of movements such as #MeToo and the questions of recognition of the power of women.

“The raising of voices, and the need to create safe spaces for everyone regardless of gender grows, you will hear more and more about the need for change,” she said.

Wesley-Esquimaux explained that her main focus is to ensure the Truth and Reconciliation “94 Calls to Action” are mobilized across Canada and that all university students, no matter where they go to school or in which province they live, have an opportunity to debate their value and their implementation.

My goal is to provide as much education as possible to as many people as I can reach while I am in this chair,” said Wesley-Esquimaux. “To-date I have reached hundreds of people of all ages. This role is a natural extension of my personal wish to ‘change the face of aboriginal Canada.’”

“I hope we can make this speaker series more by being inclusive and conversational. A strong dialogue between a speaker and students is a great way to ensure the experience resonates and provides something more than an interlude in learning.”

The Speaker Series will be held on Wedesday Feb. 23 at Lamoureux Hall in room 221 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. It is free to attend, and registration is not required.