Miziwe Biik in Toronto connects the Indigenous community with employment
One organization has been connecting Indigenous people in Toronto with employment opportunities for the last 30 years, creating an incredible impact on the community and city at large.
Miziwe Biik was named by Elder Jim Windigo, translating to "water which flows all around us" and associated with the female water spirit.
Formed in 1991 as a response to the employment needs of the urban Indigenous community in the GTA, it was originally known as The Greater Toronto Aboriginal Management Board.
"The board and staff at Miziwe Biik liken our services to a ripple effect," Miziwe Biik marketing and communications officer Savanna Chiblow tells blogTO. "When we impact one community member we reach out and impact others."
Located near Jarvis and Gerrard, Miziwe Biik headquarters are distinguished by an impressive mural commissioned in 2013 to be created by Indigenous artist Joseph Sagaj.
It depicts Oronhyatehka, also known as Peter Martin or Dr. O, a great orator and philanthropist who was one of Canada's first Indigenous doctors, receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1867.
The Miziwe Biik website has a job board, and they offer resume and cover letter writing resources including employment advisors that can help with resume writing, job searches and interview prep.
They also provide other wraparound employment services such as GED and OSSD supports, and training programs.
There are one to two day programs, web development courses and Microsoft Office courses. Once training programs are completed, Miziwe Biik can help with connections with industry contacts and applying to jobs.
Options like a 12-week paid training essential skills program are posted on the site, where trainees learn skills surrounding areas like communication, computers and conflict resolution.
They're federally funded so they can support the creation of opportunities for both employers and individuals, and offer funding for students, employers and individuals. They put out calls for proposals where people can apply for grants as well.
Miziwe Biik can also help with down payments on homes, and provides loans for housing developers. They even offer good old fashioned one-on-one advice and support from a team of trained specialists.
"As an Indigenous-led organization majority of our staff are Indigenous and have lived-experience working with the community," says Chiblow.
In June 2021, Miziwe Biik released a report detailing ways the government can partner with the Indigenous community in the GTA to further inclusive economic growth post-lockdown.
It recommends actions like connecting Indigenous youth to jobs in in-demand areas like skilled trades, health care and technology, as well as supporting transportation to enable employment.
"Inclusive economic recovery means empowering the GTA's Indigenous community with expanded and enhanced skills training and market recognized credentials that are needed to secure good-paying job in the areas where new workers are needed," Miziwe Biik executive director Nancy Martin stated.
Martin also stated that gaining accreditation as an Indigenous institute would help them support an infrastructure that would help the Indigenous urban community participate in economic recovery.
It would be the first off-reserve Indigenous institute in Ontario, meaning the GTA Indigenous community would finally have its own accredited institute where they can earn diplomas, certificates and degrees within a metropolitan cultural environment.
"To address their commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, we are calling on the Government of Ontario and Canada to partner with us to strengthen the training and employment programs and infrastructure available to the GTA's Indigenous people," Martin stated.
Miziwe Biik is actually in the process of opening a second location in the Canary District which will primarily be used for training programs and will double their physical footprint and services.
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