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The Women of IAAW: Julia Chalifoux

“I was working at a hotel before my job at IAAW. I saw the job ad for the Empower U Facilitator, I had so much so much self-doubt and I was trying to find every reason not to apply. It said facilitator, and I’m not a teacher. I had the job ad up on Facebook and my co-worker Chandan was just like “just apply!” I was already excluding myself because, you know, we’re our own worst enemy and our best friend at times. Then, I got a call back so I really need to thank you to him because he encouraged me to apply. If he hadn’t seen what I didn’t see in myself, I might have still been at the same job.

When I first went back to high school, I had a lot of difficulty in Math, but it was because I didn’t finish grade 9. At 17 I went back to school, and I got a job at Safeway. So when I started doing Math at first, it wasn’t nice to me because I didn’t understand and then I kept at it and kept going, and I did a little bit of accounting and finance, and that’s where my passion started. Once I started understanding it, I was in love with it. The first time I went to college was in 2007, and I did accounting and payroll and same thing — I was really good at it, the teacher loved me, I was student of the month, I had a really good grade point average.

Battling with my demons and my trauma, I would go back to addictions, but I was trying hard to push through it.

When I went through something really bad, I met Officer Dan. I was on the streets, and him and his partner,  they came walking around the corner and was like what are you doing here? They had so much concern for me, and you don’t see that often.

Julia and Officer Dan a number of years later at the Indigenous Women’s Justice Forum last month.

 

It was a work in progress for me to change. Even still now, it’s still just trying to make sure that I’m good, and that I stay good for my children. I really had an ugly childhood so a lot of abuse. I’m trying to make sure that I’m there for my kids, and that they don’t have the same story as me and my mom and my sister. Most importantly, I want to be a role model. I have to be mum and dad at the same time. I’ve had years where they were good, then years that were horrible. I went back to school in 2010, again 2014, and then in 2016 I did my first year of Advanced Business management specializing in Accounting. In the future, I hope to open up my own Aboriginal Payroll company. It’s part of my five-year plan.

When I tell people my story, people always tell me to share my story! My specialist said that I have a secret, but I think the secret is different for everybody. For me, the secret is my children. The biggest thing was making sure they have a future.

Life hasn’t been very kind, but it’s what makes you and if I can do it, I believe that anybody can.

If they have support, it would be best. Just because you don’t have anybody, you just have to look at your children and look at their future. Do it for Creator. It’s not an easy road, it’s very lonely, but in the end, just seeing the smile on your kids’ faces… My daughter says “I want to be a mum when I grow up, and I want to wear big earrings just like you”. Things like that just remind me why I’m doing it.

It’s not easy, and it gets really lonely, but my auntie used to tell me, that you’re never alone and Creator is with you.

I do know now that all the things I’ve been through, I was in the deepest darkest, and I know that I’m here for a reason… even if my reason is just to tell people and to be that example for them, then I always say that you can do it. It’s amazing once you get there. It’s kind of like childbirth, it’s painful, but then you see your baby and the pain is all a memory. It’s just that rewarding.”

 

*This blog is a transcript of an interview.

Julia Chalifoux is this December’s woman of IAAW. Julia is from High Prairie Alberta, and originally from the Gift Lake Métis Settlement. Julia wears many hats in life and at IAAW. At work, she acts as the Transition Support Worker, Finance Clerk, Payroll Administrator and the Office Manager. She is also a single mother of six children. This month, we are featuring Julia because of her tenacity to reach her goals and the heart that she puts into her work and family

The Women of IAAW: Muriel Stanley Venne

President and founder of IAAW, Muriel Stanley Venne continues to be a bright light for the Indigenous women who look for an inspirational role model in Alberta and beyond. Some of her achievements include receiving the Order of Canada, After her integral roles in advocating for various Indigenous women’s rights in the justice system, she was recognized for her hard work and put on display at the new Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta. Muriel is on display with 3 other notable Indigenous leaders across Alberta.

Muriel hopes that through this new exhibit which features a Métis woman, that Aboriginal women across the province continue to be inspired to tell their stories and help their fellow women in whatever capacity. Although this is a momentous accomplishment for an Aboriginal woman in Alberta, Muriel believes that there is still a lack of stories told about Indigenous women’s accomplishments when talking about Alberta’s history. Her dream is to produce an Anthology of Aboriginal Women which features the lives of the Esquao Award recipients* through written recollections and other media that can be made available to the general public.

If you are planning on visiting the museum, an exciting announcement was made by the government last month that the new museum would provide free admission to Indigenous people as a step towards reconciliation. The museum officially opens on October 3.

Stay tuned for a full blog post coming up with a picture of Muriel’s display.

*Any woman who has received the Esquao award can contact admin@iaaw.ca or hdoroni@iaaw.ca if they would like to be interviewed and have their stories featured in our newsletters and other mediums.

The Women of IAAW: Lulu

Lulu first became involved with IAAW after she participated in the self-management program where she met Marggo, the Community Program Coordinator for IAAW. WIthin this umbrella, Marggo coordinates the Housing Diversion program , where women are provided their first month’s rent as well as assistance furnishing an apartment so long as they participated in another IAAW program.

After moving to Edmonton from St. Theresa Point First Nation in Manitoba, she was on a mission to better her life and the lives of her children. She mentioned that she is doing the Housing Diversion Program in order to be able to move her kids to Edmonton and start over. Slowly, she hopes to reunite with her 3 boys and 2 girls.

Lulu lived in the St. Theresa Point reserve all her life, and never had a place to call her own. When asked what the best part was about living independently, she said that she can celebrate being sober every time she realizes how far she’s come. In her free time, she enjoys beading, creating jewellery, designing skirts and other fabrics on her day off from her job as a cook at Cunningham Place. She hopes to teach others about the traditional ways of beading because she is a believer in tradition and its therapeutic effects. IAAW is proud of women like Lulu who set goals and work hard to achieve them. After all that Lulu learned in the different programs she was involved with, she was able to take these tools and apply them to her daily life. Great job Lulu!

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