Lynne Groulx is a Métis woman from the Treaty Three historic Metis community of Rainy River/Lake of the Woods, who grew up in Cochrane, Ontario. She has spent most of her adult life living and working on unceded Algonquin territory.
She spent 15 years in the private sector before obtaining a civil law degree. As a lawyer, she became a senior advisor for the Canadian Human Rights Commission with a focus on systemic human rights issues. She now works for the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) as the Chief Executive Officer where, among many other things, she’s helped develop two Resiliency Lodges—Elder-led holistic healing centers for Indigenous women. You’ll want to get to know her.
H&B: Tell us about yourself and your role at the NWAC.
I joined the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) as the Chief Executive Officer in 2016. My primary function is as the chief administrator and spokesperson/advocate for the organization, as well as advising the Board of Directors.
Since joining NWAC, my proudest accomplishments have been the development of two Resiliency Lodges, which are holistic healing lodges for Indigenous women in both Quebec and New Brunswick; the purchase and renovations of the Social, Cultural and Economic Innovation Centre, which is our new headquarters; the growth in the types of programming we offer, including most recently a national apprenticeship program; the Accord we signed with the Government of Canada; and the 65-point action plan we developed on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (“Our Actions, Our Plan”).
How did you get involved with NWAC?
I always knew I wanted to work for my community. When the opportunity arose in late 2016 for the Executive Director position at NWAC, I decided to apply. I was ready to take on that role for a national not-for-profit organization. I wanted to work for the NWAC to help advance the rights of Indigenous women and gender diverse voices.
"I wanted to work for the NWAC to help advance the rights of Indigenous women and gender diverse voices.”
What is the biggest challenge that NWAC faces today?
It was no shock to us when the National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls concluded with the finding of genocide. The violence, racism and discrimination of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse peoples is not an isolated incident, and proves the ongoing legacy of colonization. Indigenous communities need healing services and healing centres across the country. Almost every community is experiencing some kind of trauma—direct, indirect and intergenerational.
We work relentlessly to identify funding and programming to help the families and survivors heal from intergenerational trauma. The instability in funding from the federal government has been challenging, as we want to implement our programs and services in every province and territory. We need ongoing and stable support to ensure we can deliver these much-needed services to our communities.
“The violence, racism and discrimination of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse peoples is not an isolated incident, and proves the ongoing legacy of colonization.”
What is something that excites you about the work of the NWAC?
The most exciting thing about the work at NWAC is the diversity of our work, which ranges from policy to economic development to service delivery to international work. Through our work, we are seeing concrete changes and improvements. Then, there is the development of our lodges and being able to provide the service of healing to grassroots women. We are working with Elders in developing the model of the Resiliency Lodges, which are the first of their kind in Canada; and also seeing the positive impact of NWAC’s Virtual and in-person programs and services, such as our cultural and artisanal workshops.
The organization has gone from running six-month programs with about $400,000 in core funding to multi-year programming up to 10 years. Incorporating fundraising, and seeing an increase in donations from wonderful supporters and allies, has led to close to two million dollars in much-needed additional revenue in order for us to continue to deliver our programs and services.
What advice would you give your younger self today?
Before she passed away, my grandmother gave me this piece of advice: “Remember, nobody is better than you.” I’d repeat those words to my younger self. I’ve learned that nobody is better than me, because nobody has had my unique experiences. Those words are a reminder that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to, but it took a long time to get to this place. We’re all humans and we all have limitations and strengths, but this makes us who we are, and no one can take that away from you.
“I’ve learned that nobody is better than me, because nobody has had my unique experiences.”
You are quite active on Twitter. How can social media be a platform for truth and change?
Twitter is one of the strongest social media tools that we have in our advocacy work. People are using Twitter; they’re reading it and retweeting it, and subsequently learning from it. We can get our message out; we can influence people and have them understand who we are, what happened to us, what needs to happen to redress the harms and how they can collaborate and become allies.
What does empowerment mean to you?
I believe a lot in self-empowerment. It needs to come from the inside, rather than from the outside. In order to empower ourselves, we have to work on ourselves. It’s a journey. And by empowering ourselves, we empower our family, we empower our community, and we empower our country.
“And by empowering ourselves, we empower our family, we empower our community, and we empower our country.”
Why do you believe organizations like the NWAC and brands like Hillberg & Berk should collaborate on inclusion, representation, and impacting social good?
We both want to make a difference with our stakeholders and in our communities. We all have a role to play in counteracting violence against women and advancing reconciliation. We all have to work together to find ways to make our communities better. If we want to see a better place, a better country, we need to collaborate.
“We all have to work together to find ways to make our communities better. If we want to see a better place, a better country, we need to collaborate.”
This June is National Indigenous History Month. What is something you’d like our H&B community to know about the importance of acknowledging and celebrating Indigenous cultural history and amplifying Indigenous voices in Canada?
We envision our future with full rights that are honoured and respected. Indigenous women and girls have faced multiple, intersecting forms of violence and discrimination from which we are actively empowering ourselves and our communities to overcome. We’d like to share with your H&B community the importance of collaboration and allyship with Indigenous communities across Canada.
To understand Indigenous women and their struggles, the first step is to sit with us and get to know us, our hardships, our successes, our culture, our history and where we need to go from there. The H&B community can do some self-learning by exploring the National Inquiry report and other reports on NWAC’s website at www.nwac.ca.
There are many ways to help amplify NWAC’s voice. Staff can follow us on Twitter and retweet our messages. They could consider booking a cultural training experience with us at our National Office or Resiliency Lodge. It’s about finding those occasions or ways to amplify our voice.
We would appreciate H&B’s support in amplifying NWAC’s voice and that of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people.
“To understand Indigenous women and their struggles, the first step is to sit with us and get to know us, our hardships, our successes, our culture, our history and where we need to go from there.”
Can you tell us about a woman who has inspired you?
Alma Brooks inspires me. She’s a 79 strong Wolastoq woman and she’s actively working in her community every day and continues to mentor and support individuals and projects across Turtle Island. She recently sent me a photo of her sitting on a tractor at the farm in New Brunswick, which is located on the property of our second Resiliency Lodge. She’s spearheading and leading the healing movement in our lodges. This is a really huge initiative and it’s Alma’s mission and vision.
I so admire Alma. She is a selfless and driven woman and a dear friend of mine. She continues to share her wisdom and knowledge to help her community.
Writing: Carter Selinger