Justin Wiebe is Métis and was born in the Métis Homeland and Treaty 6 Territory in Saskatoon, lived on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil Waututh Territory in Vancouver. He is most interested in resolving the inequality that continues to plague our region, and thinks there’s much more work to be done to strengthen relationships across differences and build a more equitable and inclusive region. Currently, as Capacity Building Specialist, Youth Opportunities Fund at Ontario Trillium Foundation he works with and for young people across Ontario who have founded and are leading grassroots organizations in their communities. When he’s not working to create a more inclusive region, he enjoys reading (He always has a book on the go!), and getting lost in the region.
To learn more about Justin, keep reading his spotlight!
My full name is…
I was born in …
Saskatoon (Treaty 6 and Homeland of the Métis)
I currently live in … (city/region and let us know why you love it there!)
Toronto. There is so much energy in this city; people are eager to connect and collaborate. I’ve been lucky enough to find an amazing community of Indigenous people and others working to make this region a better place.
Diverse leadership is important because…
It brings new and critical perspectives to the forefront and honours the expertise of people who are often ignored. When we have diverse leadership we are more attuned to the realities facing different communities, are able to create better ideas, and ultimately can create more equitable and inclusive communities.
The issues in our region that keep me up at night are…
The pervasiveness of anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism.
One characteristic every leader should possess (and why) is …
Commitment to lifelong learning, because when we get complacent or comfortable we stop growing. Leaders must recognize they don’t know everything, and instead always work to expand their understanding of the world around them, to listen to the experiences of people who are different from themselves, and to be open to new ideas and ways of being.
If you want to get more engaged in your city or community you should ….
Find something you’re passionate about and help out. Don’t be afraid to try something new or talk with people about your ideas. Be open to changing your mind, being wrong, or failing. Commit yourself to ongoing self-reflection. Getting engaged doesn’t have to be challenging; try talking to your neighbours or your friends about things going on.
To me, an inclusive city/region/GTHA looks like…
A region where the perspectives, expertise, and needs of Indigenous and Black people are centred. Where leadership in politics, the nonprofit and corporate sectors, and beyond is truly representative of the diversity of our region. Where people speak openly and honestly about the inequities that exist, and are committed to tackling them. Where we actualize commitments to things like being a sanctuary city in all of our institutions, and where ultimately people who continue to be marginalized feel comfortable being their full selves.
One of my favourite places in the GTHA to visit/go is ….
Anywhere by the water. Nothing beats a good book and the lake… that and Powwow Café.
Given that it is both Pride Month and National Indigenous History Month, can you share what being an ally means to you? How can individuals exercise allyship?
I prefer to use the concept of solidarity over allyship, but in any case, allyship or standing in solidarity cannot be passive. It requires ongoing self-reflection, a commitment to learning, and standing up against injustice. For me, all of this means if you’re committed to making our city, country, or world a more inclusive place you’ll be uncomfortable. You must be able to think critically, have difficult conversations and know that it will require a redistribution of power and wealth.
If you’re interested in allyship and supporting communities working for change, start by thinking about why you want to get involved. Then do the pre-work of learning about the community and the struggles they’ve been engaging in (don’t expect people to teach you everything). Reflect and understand your own power and privilege and how your presence in particular spaces may be unwelcomed (and be okay with that). Find ways in which you can help that aren’t about you (allyship isn’t about a selfie or showing off). Prioritize the knowledge and expertise of folks who are often ignored (e.g., Indigenous and Black people; People of Colour; Trans, non-binary, and 2-spirit people; etc.). Lastly, give credit to people for their work and labour.