A Conversation with The Right Honourable Paul Martin

On October 21, 2016, the special lunch was hosted by the Rotary Club of Toronto’s Indigenous Service Committee (ISC) and Honouring Indigenous People (HIP) initiative. As part of the program, Carolyn Purden, the Chair of ISC, moderated a conversation with the Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada from 2003 to 2006 and Minister of Finance from 1993 to 2002.

In the audience, there were numerous distinctive guests, whom were introduced by John Andras (Past President of Rotary Club of Toronto), including the Honourable Dr. Carolyn Bennett, the current Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development, the Honourable Bob Rae, the 21st Premiere of Ontario, the Honourable Bill Graham, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and National Defense, and other civic and business leaders from Deloitte, Prince’s Charities Canada, and many more. Over 200 participants eagerly listened to the conversation mainly focused on Indigenous Education.

After the introduction of our guest speaker by Chris Snyder(Chair of HIP), Paul Martin, he, who had polio in his early days, initiated the conversation by commending the Rotary’s commitment in eliminating polio worldwide. Mr. Martin noted that today polio has been restricted to three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, and this would not have been possible without Rotary’s leadership. He put a special emphasis on the Rotary being a non-governmental organization and its capacity to engage in activism worldwide.

After his remarks on polio, he focused on the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI), established to improve elementary and secondary school education outcomes for Aboriginal Canadians through the implementation of specific programs and the application of appropriate research. Mr. Martin described the programs under this initiative. Including the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program, designed to teach Aboriginal youth about business and entrepreneurship, in order to help prepare them to engage in business activities with competence and confidence.

The other program that he mentioned was the First Nations Schools Principals’ Course, developed in collaboration with the University of Toronto and members of a First Nations Expert Panel, including leading Indigenous academics. Mr. Martin noted that this course combines face-to-face and on-line learning and its curriculum includes teaching strategies, assignments, readings, resources, discussions and case studies. The more information about this initiative can be found at http://www.maei-ieam.ca. On this front, Mr. Martin expressed that aboriginal children should have the same access to education as their Canadian counterparts. If this is the case, nothing will prevent them from being successful in realizing their dreams.

Throughout this conversation Mr. Martin also talked about the indigenous worldview and its richness. And the necessity of designing programs and services for indigenous communities that elevates traditional knowledge and indigenous way of knowing. To listen to the full breadth of the conversation with the Right Honourable Paul Martin, please go to:

This conversation was followed by a Q&A session, where most of the participants commented on the necessity of reviving indigenous languages in Canada and increasing awareness about indigenous culture.

Thank you very much to the organizers of this wonderful event, as this conversation brought us closer to understanding contemporary issues in indigenous education and reconciliation.