~~~~~~ Learning a better world ~~~~ with Greg Macdougall

Hi, here’s a short (3m45s) video message from me explaining a bit about what EquitableEducation.ca is about, and why you might consider putting your email in the box on the right-hand side of this site in order to receive (low-traffic) email updates from me.




awalkformotherearthFrom June 15 to June 22, 2014, ‘A Walk For Mother Earth’ continued the journey of ‘Peoples for Mother Earth’ (‘Les peuples pour la Terre Mère‘). They walked 140km over 8 days, from Kanehsatà:ke (or Hudson QC) to Ottawa ON, to continue efforts to oppose pipelines here and elsewheres.

The original ‘Les peuples pour la Terre Mère’ walked from Cacouna QC to Kanehsatà:ke, from May 10 to June 14, covering approximately 700km. It followed the route of the planned TransCanada Energy East pipeline to Montreal, and then the route of the already-approved Enbridge Line 9 pipeline to Kanehsatà:ke.

Here are videos from the arrival of ‘A Walk For Mother Earth’ on Parliament Hill, June 22 2014 (the event is MCed by Brandon Wint):
(all videos by Greg Macdougall, EquitableEducation.ca) (link to full playlist on youtube)

Arrival footage (3m26s)

Chomis Dominique (T8amanik) Rankin, Algonquin Hereditary Chief & Medicine Man, and Marie-Josée Tardif (14m57s)

Ashley Thackaberry, A Walk For Mother Earth (5m02s)

Alyssa Symons-Belanger, ‘Les peuples pour la Terre Mère’ (4m15s)

Ben Powless, Ecology Ottawa (5m23s)

Jay Manafest – “Gaslands” and “Stop Harper” (9m30s)

Stuart Myiow, Sr and Jr, of the Mohawk Traditional Council of Kahnawà:ke (18m48s)

Vera Wabegijig’s poem “Sacrifice” read by Leila (1m56s)

Tito Medina – incl. singing “Idle No More” (4m13s)

James Taylor – Walking for the Survivors and the Family that Never Made it Home: Victoria to Ottawa, April-June, 2014 (1m48s)*unfortunately, the camera battery ran out less than 2min in



facilitation zineA 12-pg zine (3 letter-sized double-sided pages, folded into a booklet) to help improve your meeting facilitation skills and approach.

The content is mainly excerpted from the Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA)‘s new Spring 2014 Resource Zine, plus one article from Greg Macdougall of EquitableEducation.ca.

Creative Commons: Please feel free to download and share, but not sell.

Table of Contents (sections):


External Link:


Interview with George Collins & John Anderson, discussing the case for offering banking services through the post office in Canada, and the success of New Zealand’s KiwiBank.

Collins is the National Postal Logistics Organiser with the EPMU union in New Zealand.

Anderson is the author of the recent CCPA report, “Why Canada Needs Postal Banking.”



*Correction: Collins meant to say there are over 850,000 KiwiBank customers (not 350,000)*

Recorded April 27, 2014 in Ottawa at the end of the two-day “Postal Banking Symposium: Banking on a Future for the Post Office” hosted by CUPW, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Interview by Greg Macdougall, EquitableEducation.ca
for rabbletv, rabble.ca/rabbletv

Resources & Links:



Joseph describes the context and leadup to the foreign kidnapping (by US military, with aid of Canadian and French forces) of Haitian President Aristide in 2004, and talks about the situation in Haiti since that time.

He was in Gatineau/Ottawa to accept the Canadian Apology to Haiti – www.ApologyToHaiti.ca – as part of a Canadian speaking tour to mark the ten year anniversary of the events. Interview date: February 28, 2014.

Further info:
Institute for Justice and Democracy In Haiti, http://ijdh.org
Canada Haiti Action Network, http://CanadaHaitiAction.ca

Interview translator:
Jean Saint-Vil, Haitian-Canadian author and activist with AKASAN & Canada Haiti Action Network

Interviewer and video producer:
Greg Macdougall, EquitableEducation.ca



Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont (South Wind) was interviewed by Judith Matheson on 12 February 2014 about the spiritual importance of the Chaudière Falls (in Ottawa/Gatineau).

What resulted is a dynamic and compelling conversation between two Elders about Spirituality, Responsibility, and the crucial importance for humans to stay connected to each other and to Nature. Deep conversations like this and listening to our Elders is essential in these times of rapid change, social upheaval, and environmental stress.

Connect with Albert at http://albertdumont.com
Connect with Judith at http://birthottawagatineau.com

Filmed and produced by Greg Macdougall, EquitableEducation.ca




Film Review: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum
By Greg Macdougall

Set in the time of mass de-institutionalization of psychiatric patients, the Mental Patients Association (MPA) emerged in Vancouver at the start of the 1970s. This 36-minute documentary film, produced in 2013 by History of Madness Productions, captures the MPA experience and its impact through interviews with former members, supplemented with animated illustration and archival footage

The tone is set when an interviewee articulates MPA’s philosophy: “We’re not going to let ourselves … feel internally like there’s something wrong with us, and we’re not going to let our voices be shut down – we’re going to change the way things are done. We’re going to change how people look at a psychiatric patient.”

The MPA was a radical political group recognized as a world leader at the time. Run by and for mental patients, it had a horizontal and democratic structure. Rather than a president, MPA had coordinators. Staff were elected by, and from, the membership every six months; if you weren’t doing a good job, you simply wouldn’t be rehired.

Members’ sense of participation and ownership in the organization gave them a sense of community, belonging and empowerment, countering previous feelings of loss, anger and/or hopelessness. The MPA was formed after weekend suicides in a professionally-run, weekday-only support group inspired mental patients to get together and organize to support each other. Even today, isolation affects many with mental health problems – so it’s powerful to hear the story of MPA’s success in addressing this challenge and expanding possibilities some 40 years ago.

Radical mental health history is often overlooked, even by those currently engaged in the issues involved. The film makes comparisons between our movement and the women’s and gay rights movements of the time. MPA members felt they were doing something parallel to, and in unison with, these movements, but saw that their movement was ultimately far less successful. Although they were able to build a community of people who could and did support each other, they couldn’t achieve the same level of lasting, concrete change as other struggles.

The MPA still exists in Vancouver, though in a very different form. Its name was later changed to “Motivation, Power and Achievement.” More recently, and interestingly, it has renamed itself “MPA Society,” and its new logo is accompanied by the slogan “Empowerment in Mental Health Since 1971.” As of early 2013, MPA had 250 employees and an annual budget of $15 million.

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum explains how the organization became bureaucratized through government influence. Government funding was instrumental in MPA’s early success, but as the group grew in size its funding came to have “accountability” strings attached. As a result, it lost its democratic and horizontal nature. As one interviewee states, “1977 was a bad year.”

Another describes the change from “We will do this together,” to “What are you going to do for me?” This shift points to the greater context of the mental health field being predominantly service oriented and focused on individuals, rather than client-led and collective in nature.

Some interviewees are proud to have helped establish MPA’s housing and support services, noting that MPA still provides such services, which continue to have great value to its clients. However, the sense of loss of political consciousness and action is palpable, whether this loss is seen as a betrayal of MPA’s original principles or as an inevitable consequence of changing times.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum vividly conveys the sense of what it was like to be a part of the MPA’s early collective political action and community, and the vibrancy of those who came together to support each other and work for change. The lasting impact of their involvement is readily evident, and inspiring to see.

For more on the film and/or to watch it online, visit the website www.historyofmadness.ca/the-inmates-are-running-the-asylum




This review was originally published in the newsletter of the West Coast Mental Health Network: www.wcmhn.org


About the reviewer: Greg Macdougall is engaged in education, community organizing and interdependent media making work based in Ottawa, unceded Algonquin territory. His website is EquitableEducation.ca

He identifies as Mad and/or diffAbled, and wrote a cover article this past year for the Dominion magazine entitled Call Us Crazy: Mad movements organize against ableism, mentalism and more


40-minute video interview, along with link to full thesis document, follows article, which was originally published in Anishinabek News, www.AnishinabekNews.ca

by Greg Macdougall

Alex Nahwegahbow

Alex Nahwegahbow

Alexandra Nahwegahbow began her PhD studies at Carleton University in September, only three days after defending her Masters’ thesis.

Her academic focus has been on the place of children in pre-colonial Indigenous communities, as seen through the lens of the tikinaagan or traditional cradleboard.

Nahwegahbow’s grandmother had recently passed on at the time she began her graduate studies.

“It really affected me, and I think that’s what drew me towards this sort of work, looking at the roles of kids and how important it is to listen to children, the way that she always did, and to look at the different traditional values that surrounded parenting, community and family.”

She hopes that her work helps people understand how important these traditional Anishinabek values are, how children were held sacred at the centre of the community. It also examines the impact of settler-colonialism, in particular the devastating effects of residential schools and also the broader clash between European and Indigenous perspectives towards the role of children and parenting.

Her research focused on one particular historical tikinaagan, which she contextualized with in-depth place-based interviewing as well as examining research and analyses from other scholars and existing literature. Nahwegahbow is a citizen of Whitefish River First Nation, but the community where her study is based is in the territory of n’Daki Menan in northeastern Ontario on Bear Island, the homeland of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai (Temagami First Nation).

She felt drawn to a tikinaagan from Temagami she found at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau during the first year of her Masters studies. It was collected in 1913 by anthropologist Frank Speck, and she really wanted to learn more about it and its context.

After initial exploratory research, she approached members of the community, but not without trepidation – she wanted to ensure she wasn’t repeating the problematic ways many academic researchers interact with Indigenous communities to which they have no personal connection, and that her work would actually be of benefit to the community and more broadly.

The research process, and the finished product she has presented to the people involved, was well received.

“I draw from a range of resources in my studies. A lot of the research I incorporated came from interviews, books, reports etc. but also from conversations or memories with family, close friends, and other speaking engagements and symposia I attended.”

Part of what she looked at were the artwork patterns on tikinaagans, noting how traditionally there were often depictions of manitous / spirits that fostered notions of balance and centrality. Much like historical Anishinabek pouches and bags that held medicines, tikinaagan wrappings were also often ornamented with upper-world or sky spirit motifs, and underwater or lower-world ones, with the child located in the middle. There was a shift over time to more floral motifs, which is generally seen as having been brought about by European influence, but she notes that the theme of balance was kept even in these.

“I felt that it was appropriate that these images that promote balance and the importance of centrality, that they would be put on these baby carriers because they’re meant for children and young people who actually are at the very centre of our communities.”

She also feels the tikinaagan symbolizes the importance of children feeling safe and being wrapped in a sense of belonging in the community.

With her PhD, Nahwegahbow, 27, aims to continue working with material culture, historical objects that were made for children and childcare, to examine their contextual power and the stories they have to teach us today.

You can download the full thesis (167-pg PDF file) here:
Springtime in n’Daki Menan, the Homeland of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai: Babies, Cradleboards and Community Wrapping




Audio interview (34min) and accompanying article. Article first published in Anishinabek News, www.anishinabeknews.ca. Interview includes reading of two poems:

  • how granny braids
    intro starts 21m37s, poem at 24m14s until 25m17s, postscript until 25m50s
  • coyotes in the city
    intro starts 26m22s, poem at 28m00s until 32m23s


By Greg Macdougall

Photo by Amanda Shea

Photo by Amanda Shea

OTTAWA – Vera Wabegijig’s first book, “wild rice dreams”, comes after 20 years of writing poetry.

The mother of two was born in Sudbury to a mother from Mississauga First Nation and a father from Wikwemikong, and says her upbringing in Blind River and Iron Bridge was missing any cultural context.

“We never smudged when I was a kid, or there was no sweat lodges, or there were not those kind of ceremonies. Nobody had Indian names.”

After graduating high school and moving to Ottawa she started to spend time with the elders there.

“They were talking about more traditional or spiritual things,” she recalls, which helped her to sense the importance of storytelling – and to start living that through writing and sharing stories in poetic form.

Discovering Aboriginal writers such as Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie and Joy Harjo helped Vera connect with literature and poetry, finding a different form of narrative that she could relate to and understand. Before that, she had trouble with the European-style writing presented in her schooling.

“It’s coming from a different voice, and it’s coming from a different perspective and a different history,” she says. “It didn’t fit with me, it didn’t fit with my voice that I had.”

While living out west, she began to tell stories through video and film, as well as continuing to write, entering the Canadian Council for the Arts Aboriginal Writer’s Residency program at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Wabegijig entered the program to work on short story writing, but credits Metis writer-poet Marilyn Dumont with suggesting that poetry might be a better focus.

Her mentor helped get her started on the work of collecting, editing and revising already-written poems, and Ojibway-French poet David Groulx connected her with Bookland Press, which published “wild rice dreams” two years later.

vera bookThe book divides the poems into four sections : “this native land”; “look around us”; “tending dreams and memories”; and “all in the family,” with a mix of light and more difficult subjects.

Wabegijig says her goal “was always to write so people could understand, especially my people – I thought it was really important for that to happen.”

She says she hopes readers “can see themselves in the poems,” that her stories “give them hope that things can change.”

Her website is verawaabegeeshig.wordpress.com