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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
August 30, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

Gale Cyr joins AFS as Elder-in-Residence



After accepting a job offer as the new Elder-in-Residence for Laurier's Aboriginal Field of Study (AFS) MSW program, Gale Cyr had a dream. In that dream she saw footprints stretching out before her, leading her on a new journey. At the same time, she also saw faded footprints behind her, honouring her past and where she has come from.

Gale is Anicinabe Kwe (Algonquin) and French and is a member of the Timiskaming Band in North Western Quebec. Where she has come from is a life that has been dedicated to First Nations peoples. After joining the Alliance of Métis and Non-status Indians when she was 16, Gale has been committed to building First Nations communities. After 13 years of working in a bank, Gale decided to return to school in 1988 as a mature student. She completed the Native Social Services Worker program at Canadore College in North Bay. After that, she says, she couldn't stop. She earned a Bachelor of Social Welfare at Nipissing University, an MSW at Carleton University and is currently working toward her PhD in education at the University of Toronto. She has spent the last 20 years as an educator at various post-secondary institutes, including Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, Thompson River University, University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Victoria.

Gale's dream about the footprints is very much in keeping with her philosophy and her view of her role as Elder-in-Residence. She believes that in order to learn and grow and accept one another, we must "acknowledge the past within the present for the future." We can't simply forget what has happened in the past and move on. We must explore and understand our histories and where we come from in order to understand each other.

Gale also strongly believes that we must first recognize commonalities and only then can we recognize differences. If we try to look at differences first, they become issues for debate; if we first look at what we have in common, our differences become gifts to celebrate.

These are some of the values that guide her in her new role at Laurier. As Elder-in-Residence she will strive to facilitate reciprocal relationships with students, among the faculty and within the university. "Lived individual and collective experiences are foundational to validating and authenticating Aboriginal ways of knowing, being, seeing and doing; it is all about relationships and the “storiencing” within them,” Gale said. She will also support students throughout their journeys at Laurier in the MSW AFS program. "I would like to contribute to their own defined journey of identity and belonging." Gale will also be teaching courses in the AFS program, including Elders' Teaching and Indigenous Identity and Elders' Teaching and Self Reflection.

Gale says that she is excited to be at Laurier and the Faculty of Social Work and has "felt such a positive energy in this place because it's truly about holistic healing."

"There is reciprocity in all relationships. The students and faculty here will also help me continue on my journey as much as I will help them on theirs."