Orr’s Valumart holds first Indigenous awareness event

Event co-organizer Nina Jane Trudeau joins Anand Anthraper, senior director district for Northern Ontario with Loblaw Companies Limited, Aundeck Omni Kaning Ogimaa-kwe Patsy Corbiere and co-organizer Andrew Orr, owner of Orr’s Valumart in launching the new multi-lingual banner signs that will be placed on the entrance doors to Northern Ontario stores. photo by Michael Erskine

LITTLE CURRENT – In a first for the Loblaws national grocery chain, Orr’s Valumart in Little Current hosted an Indigenous awareness day fundraiser complete with Indigenous vendors plying their wares in the parking lot of the grocery store and hand drumming—and yes, there was scone.

With the pandemic taking its toll on powwow events across Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island) for the second year in a row, there was a brisk business in scone, fish pie and blanketdogs at Gee Dah’s Inspiration booth, one of the vendors taking part.

“This fundraiser is for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) hosted by the University of Manitoba,” said Nina Jane Trudeau, who co-organized the event with grocery store owner Andrew Orr.

Ms. Trudeau explained that the NCTR has continued from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) initiative to collect stories and names of residential school survivors and all of the students who didnot return home. “They are also partnering with government and churchs to release their records to the centre,” said Ms. Jane, “to preserve the truth for future generations.”

The NCTR also provides funding for community programs for memorials which survivors, Indigenous communities and other non-profit orgasnizations across Canada are able to apply. “It benefits all of Canada,” said Ms. Jane.

Anand Anthraper, senior director district Northern Ontario with Loblaw Companies Limited, was on hand for the event, which he noted was the first for any of the company’s locations. “It is something I hope will encourage other stores to follow in its footsteps,” he said.

The occasion also marked the launch of new banner signage that will be placed on the entrance doors to stores across Northern Ontario welcoming customers in Ojibwe, Cree, French and English.

“Today we presented Chief Patsy Corbiere of Aundeck Omni Kaning a copy of the first of its kind ‘welcome and thank you’ signage which will be on the entrance doors in many of our stores in Northern Ontario under the NGR banner, Loblaws, which includes Independent Grocers and Valumart franchisee stores,” said Mr. Anthraper. “The signage will be inclusive of the Ojibwe and Cree languages, along with English and French to welcome and thank our diverse customers in the community for shopping with us.”

“I think this is a very good opportunity to start educating people on the residential schools and what really happened there,” said Aundeck Omni Kaning Ogimaa-kwe Corbiere. “Andrew Orr is a community builder and I am very proud of what he does,” she said. “He helps a lot of people on Manitoulin. People really need to educate themselves on the residential school system and, as we have said before when we were dealing with the residential school system—it is time.”

The NCTR derives its mandate from the TRC to preserve and care for residential school survivors statements and records of the residential school system and legacy for future generations. notes the organization’s website. The NCTR’s mandate flows from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement which mandated the TRC to create a permanent archive for all of the statements, documents and other materials the TRC would gather during its years of operation.

The Orr’s Valumart event raised $2,093, but over the next few weeks the store will be holding more events. Store owner Andrew Orr said he was very pleased with how the event turned out, but that they were not sitting on their laurels. “We are going to hit the food drives hard for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said. “Stay tuned.”